May 1, 2007 - If you have never experienced the phenomenon that is Halo, you truly do not know what you have been missing. At least that is how I have felt over the last few weeks. I will admit it - I have never been a huge supporter of the Microsoft Xbox system until recently when I purchased my own Xbox 360. Along with a few noteworthy games, I also picked up what some view as the best multiplayer shooter - ever. There are also those that would go as far as to say that the Halo series was the only game worth buying the Xbox for. Whether either of those beliefs is true or false, there is no denying the effects the industry felt once Bungie Studios released Halo Combat Evolved. Join us now as we prepare for the most anticipated FPS title to arrive this year on any system.
In order to understand the hype, anticipation, and the sheer bated breath most gamers are experiencing right now, it is important to understand where it started. That, of course, is the birth the Microsoft Xbox, a brand new system that threatened the dominating presence of Sony. Only there was a problem. Either many of the games arriving on the Xbox already appeared on the PlayStation 2 or they were coming out on both systems. So, there really wasn't anything that was daring consumers to take that leap towards a console with an unproven track record. All of that disappeared with the arrival of Halo.
Halo was the equivalent of what games like Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil, and Metal Gear Solid were for the PSOne when Nintendo had a stranglehold on the market. The truly surprising thing was that the game, traditionally speaking, was nothing revolutionary. Please allow me to flesh out what I'm saying before you utter several nasty comments. For the casual gamer, Halo was just another first person shooter and with third person perspective flooding the market, it was hard for a few to dive back into a genre that usually excelled on the PC. Yet, here was a game that nobody could turn away from once they started playing.
The story was your typical run of the mill Sci-Fi horror film. You know the ones that litter the SCI-FI channel now. The game is set in future X, where humanity is on the final frontier and at war with an alien race. Furthermore, that alien race is on the brink of destroying the human race with a certain weapon. As these events are unfolding, you meet and start to get a better understanding for the hero, one of the last Spartan-117's - Master Chief. It just so happens that the ship that is transporting him is under attack and, in accordance with protocol, he awakened from a cryogenic slumber to aid in rescuing the one thing that could be detrimental to mankind if it falls into the wrong hands, a ship mainframe named Cortana. The Construct A.I. unit actually comes in handy more often than not. At first your mission is simple: get off the ship under attack and make sure that Cortana does not come into enemy hands. Simple enough, right?
Fortunately, the game is not that short. Once you have escaped the Pillar of Autumn, which is the name of the ship, you discover the weapon, the Covenant, the opposing alien race, has. The weapon is so massive that you can land on it. This is actually a good thing since your escape pod is crashing. Of the attendees on the escape pod with you, you are the only survivor, another Sci-Fi movie device. However, you were not the only ship to make it off the Autumn. Now, in addition to saving Cortana, you must save the surviving Marines that have landed on the weapon. From here, you find out that the weapon is called Halo. Once that is discovered, your ride through a well outlined and beautifully executed piece of science fiction. Betrayals, miscommunication, and unquestioning soldiers flood the game.
Still, all of these things have been done in other games. What made Halo so different? After all, the graphics, though better in a few regards, where somewhat comparable to the PS2. Then again, maybe it was the gameplay. Yes, there had been FPS games one the market, but the ease of the controls, even if the controller was as big as a hamburger, were nice and fluid. One of the biggest complaints console gamers had in the past with FPS is that the controls didn't capture the heart of realism for them. With Halo, your controls are laid out in a way that it quickly becomes second nature to the player.
So, maybe it was the gameplay, but that doesn't exactly capture the reasoning behind Halo becoming the game of the year. Was it the fact that your buddy could hook up his Xbox to yours and the two of you could challenge one another in a no holds barred brawl that rivaled the console multiplayer action of GoldenEye for the N64? Maybe, but not really cost effective. Whatever the case might have been, whether it was the story, the graphics, the gameplay, the multiplayer, the interchangeable weapons ranging from the standard issue assault rifle to the Covenants very own Plasma Pistol, or the vehicles you use to plow through your enemies, like the Warthog, Banshee, or the speeder bike inspired Ghost, there's no denying the magic behind the game. In fact, Master Chief's rescue mission of the entire human race quickly cemented him as one of the toughest characters of a game. Therefore, it should have been no surprise when a sequel was announced for the game of the year.