Remembering the Classics: Halo: Combat Evolved

luke kalamar is the master chief of our hearts …

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Whenever a brand new system comes out, there is an obvious focus on what the launch titles will be. The early success of a system completely depends on whether or not there are engaging and exciting games for people to play. Developers naturally don’t want a game that will get subpar reviews as their launch titles. They want something groundbreaking that will make people flock to the shelves and will garner countless awards. Sometimes the launch titles can even be the beginning of a brand new, multi-billion dollar franchise. There have been a ton of successful launch titles over the years, but very few have reached a legendary status.

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A game that has reached legendary status is Halo: Combat Evolved, better known simply as Halo. This 2001 release was the launch title of the brand new Xbox home gaming console and their individual successes have been intertwined since. Since the Xbox was a brand new system in an already very saturated market, Halo was the original exclusive that helped the Xbox become a front runner of the gaming world. It’s very likely that without Halo, the Xbox would’ve taken much longer to hit its stride. Ever since the original release, the Halo series has had a dominant place in the Xbox franchise. Practically every Xbox or Xbox 360 owner has the games! On June 4th, the ninth game in this multi-billion dollar series was announced. It’s called Halo: Spartan Assault and is set to come to Windows 8 devices this July. I’m not sure if this is Microsoft’s way of entering the mobile game market, but there’s no better series to start that with than a Halo game. With all this buzz, I can’t help but take a look at where this series began and why it has become such a massive success.

Halo first broke into the gaming world on November 15th, 2001. The game is a first person shooter and takes place on a space station/planet named Halo. You control Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, or simply Master Chief, as he travels across this vast world to fight the Covenant and the Flood. Master Chief has a variety of weapons at his disposal to get the job done, including machine guns, plasma grenades, tanks, armored jeeps, and even alien aircraft. Halo also features a robust multiplayer feature. If you have a friend with you, you can play the entire Halo campaign in a split-screen co-op mode. You can also play a variety of customizable multiplayer modes with up to four people on a single Xbox. The Xbox also boasted a “System Link” feature which allowed you to connect up to four different Xbox consoles on a local area network (LAN). This means you can have up to 16 different players playing on the same multiplayer map. This was before online features become customary for home consoles, and having a home console connected on a LAN was almost completely unheard of. This was something usually suited for a PC.

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To put it lightly, there are a TON of reasons why the original Halo became the classic we all regard it now. One of the most common praises of this game was how innovative and different the campaign mode was compared to other first person shooters on the market or even before that. First off, the game took place in a completely fictional and brand new environment that has never been see before. The developers had free reign to do whatever they wanted which clearly worked in the games favor. The levels were fun, beautiful, and extremely memorable. There was also an increased focus on drivable vehicles which was a relatively unheard of concept at the time for first-person shooters. Sure, there have been first-person shooter games with vehicles that you can use, but none could even compare to Halo. The sheer diversity that each vehicle brought gave the game a whole new challenge. Running into a crowded room with countless enemies is a challenge to begin with, but now you have to fight a whole series of tanks too?! Each vehicle had its own strengths and weaknesses, and learning how to exploit those was half the fun. Enemies were extremely clever as well and knew to grab any open vehicle before you could.

Despite how groundbreaking the campaign was, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the true star of the game: multiplayer. On August 23rd, 1997, GoldenEye 007 came out for the Nintendo 64 and set the gold standard (pun intended) for first-person shooter multiplayer. It was the first game to introduce multiplayer deathmatch and that revolutionized the genre in ways no one could possibly imagine. No one ever through there would ever be a game to combat this standing…until Halo. Halo multiplayer contained everything that made GoldenEye 007 so successful, and improved it. The graphics were naturally better, but there were more game modes, more diverse courses, wider variety of guns, and even vehicles. That’s right, the vehicles that made the single-player campaign such a challenge found a dominant home on multiplayer too. The right vehicle and weapon combination can easily turn the tides of battle. The ability to have up to 16 people play at once was unheard of at the time and it made the multiplayer that much more frantic. Even with a whole plethora of titles that feature excellent multiplayer, people still go back to Halo and play a few rounds with their friends.

If you recall my previous Remembering the Classics post, I was a bit hesitant to get the Xbox at first. I already had three amazing systems and didn’t feel like getting a forth. However, there was always a game that had my eye since day one, and that was Halo. I played Halo a lot before I even got my own copy and that game absolutely blew me away. I’ve played a lot of first person shooters in my life, but I will always remember Halo as being one of the best. I could sit down and play this game for hours with either my brothers or my friends and never get tired of it. I took part in a good number of Halo deathmatch tournaments too with a group of my friends, which got embarrassingly competitive. It became one of those games that I would play constantly and would always try to find new ways to either explore the environment or even glitch the game. One of my favorite memories is playing the game on co-op with a friend of mine and using the Ghost, which was an alien hovercraft not unlike a bike without wheels, and would drive it everywhere on a course. I mean EVERYWHERE. I would even take the vehicle and find ways to bring it into small corridors where obviously no vehicle should go. It was a total hassle to accomplish but a lot of fun. The fun would always end on an elevator though because they were not programmed to handle a vehicle of any sort. When you’re finding ways to exploit the basic features of a game, you know you’ve truly stuck gold.

One of the biggest regrets I have to not owning an Xbox 360 is not being able to continue the Halo series while everyone else has been able to. I bought Halo 2 on release day, but since then have only played the game at friend’s houses. I was able to borrow Halo 3 and beat that on my own, but only scratched the surface of the other titles. If there was ever a reason to own any of the Xbox systems, it’s the Halo franchise without a doubt. I’m not sure if Halo: Spartan Assault is Microsoft’s first real attempt into the portable game market, but if it is it’s the best way to start a new trend. The game already looks incredible which only means good things for the gamers and the company. It’s clear that age hasn’t worn this franchise down, which already started off incredibly strong. Halo: Spartan Assault is set to come out in July for Windows 8 mobile devices.

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