Come here often? Then, you know that we’ve been mentioning Halo in a somewhat negative context, lately. And why wouldn’t we? Halo was probably the first… uh first person shooter that became cool to hate and we are cool (right g… errr bros?). At around the stretch between Halo 2 and Halo 3 inclusive, it was the ‘CoD’ of the industry, in terms of fame and success, to the point that it earned itself that remarkably, unbelievably clever nickname from the hardcore crowd–“Failo”.
On top of being completely not old school (and thus uncool), it also had a rather shitty influence on the entire genre. Every developer wanted a Halo so they mindlessly copied it in the most retarded fucking waypossible (hail to the king). But does it all make Halo itself bad? Is any of that actually its’ fault? If I’m honest, I’d say not. After returning to the series with some Halo 4 time, well, I’m still not the biggest fan but I came to understand just how fucking brilliant it is and why. See, at the core of Halo is a very simple realization that so many developers seem to miss–it is a console action series. Let me explain:
Let’s think about the concept of a console FPS, in general. You play by moving your character’s upper body, with outstretched arms. What sounds more natural: doing so by moving your arm or by thumbing a knob? Unless you are Stephen Hawking (or really love knobs), I bet it’s the former so why the fuck would you ever do that other thing willingly?
Halo answers that question. How? Well, first, consider the fact that the series is about as action packed as an ADHD support meeting. Now, note how the games assign grenades to the second trigger and supply you with so much of them that the hoarder in you simply can’t help but make it rain. Also note how it takes awhile to kill stuff in Halo, enough time to approach and punch said stuff in the face, which makes shoot-run-melee the most common kill technique. And finally…
Typing “Halo screenshot” into Google Images, produces this, in the very first row…
… nobody can keep their feet on the ground in Halo. Even before jetpacks were introduced, the amount of aerial combat rivaled Top Gun. Spartans jump high and throwing a grenade at someone, shooting them and punching them all in midair is both fun and the answer to Halo success. It’s not just pointing the right way and squeezing the trigger; every fight is like a fucking combo.
See where I’m going with all this? Halo fully and constantly engages your fingers with that gamepad. Try it out and then try playing one with a keyboard and a mouse the same way. That’s moving, reloading, punching, jumping, crouching, activating, picking up weapons (constantly, remember) with one hand; and shooting, throwing grenades, scratching your nuts, switching weapons and looking around with the other. To do all that at the pace and frequency the games require (to remain fun), you need to be one of those squiggly-fingered rappers.
Didn’t end well for this particular fan.
And I have not even gotten to the most gamepad friendly part–vehicles, which you spend more time controlling in Halo than in some Need for Speed games. Probably. This is possibly the only case, where instead of adapting their FPS to a console controller (successfully or not), the developer took advantage of the format, instead. The result is that playing Halo with that gamepad doesn’t feel like a compromise, it feels completely natural.
Without reading any of the books, all I got out of Halo games was that some guy got his head stuck in a motorcycle helmet, which led him to fighting aliens on a planet that was actually a circle that was actually a weapon. Or something. I’m sure that I’d get all the rich lore (and it is quite rich) that Halo has to offer if I paid attention but that’s really not the point here. It’s the type of story that makes Halo a perfect console title.
Whenever you play as a character of some special significance (which is always), in a quest to save the world (again…), most games tell a rather intimate story. Even FPS with massive set pieces, like Half-Life 2, was about an unlikely hero, doing very immediate things that he has to do because he has little choice. And I love that. Really. There is nothing more enjoyable to me than getting a drink, hitting those lights and getting immersed like the Lawnmower Man, in some intricate, personal tale.
Looking like so.
I pulled countless all-nighters, in front of my PC and loved every second of it. When I sit in front of a TV though, especially with the arrival of HD gaming and all the junk we pretentiously like to call “home theater system”, I could usually go for something a little less thinky and a little more looky. I could go for a story about a dude who goes “there is an inter-fucking-galactic war out there and I’m going to go ahead and handle that shit” while he is both actually capable and fully intent on doing so.
I have heard Halo described as “the Star Wars of video games” and that’s precisely it. It’s a story of a perfect, pure hero, doing massive hero shit in space. There is usually a clear cut case of good versus evil and it all generally concerns the fates of stars and galaxies and all that other cosmic mumbo jumbo. Does it sound familiar? Almost like something that should have two four-letter words in the title, with “Wars” being the second one?
Hmm… I think I know who brought up that comparison now.
Halo delivers that sci fi drama on an epic scale. It brings a space opera in a rich world that offers the escapism of a fantasy adventure, that world that makes you want to sit back and have a blast in, rather than lean toward and squint at.
Microsoft doesn’t have too many exclusives for its’ Xbox. I can think of exactly three that matter anymore, which sucks for Xbox-only owners but is good for Halo. Because of this, it gets a ton of attention and a very handsome budget, and it shows. The general quality of the games is usually insanely high–the first three earned 235 awards between them and you know what’s most impressive? That I couldn’t even guess what the fuck for because, hell, you name it and most Halo games have probably nailed it.
Not to sound like a drooling fanboy here (I don’t even really like FPS!) but it’s pretty much expected for a Halo game to have the best enemy AI in the business, excellent physics, water effects, lighting, voice acting… umm, what else do games have… cloud shapes or… you get the point. Oh, the music will certainly be absolutely epic:
Pretty sure his theme qualifies as a steroid in the Olympics.
Halo 3 was probably the worst looking Halo and even that one had fantastic presentation: it was very far from ugly visually, won countless awards for its’ audio and featured more lines of dialogue than 20 feature films combined. This is the stuff that matters when you are sinking into your couch, in front of your HDTV.