Halo is this weird kind of dividing line within the gaming community. On one hand, it’s overrated by the throngs of people who go crazy over it and swear that it could perhaps be the greatest FPS on any platform, PC or otherwise, EVER. On the other hand, there are people that just don’t seem to “get” Halo and what makes it fun, and in fact, would rather hate the game just to hate it, regardless.
For some reason, there are many hardcore gamers that have never been able to embrace the franchise or its signature character, Master Chief. Either they are blinded by the fanboy ravings, their own fanboy prejudices, or they’ve never give the game the time of day. So I thought I’d put together a little list to take a look at what makes Halo unique.
5. Robust Multiplayer
I know this is a duh, but you have to acknowledge the raw staying power that is packed within each Halo’s game disc. I mean, people were playing Halo: CE for almost 3 years locally before Halo 2 arrived, and Halo 3 is a year old and still tops the charts each week on XBL. From 4 player co-op to Forge to the insane amount of options available for custom games, you don’t even have to play the game the right way anymore and there’s still stuff to do.
4. Vehicular Awesomeness
Let’s get real. I have yet to play an FPS that does vehicle physics in a way that’s even remotely as fun as Halo: Combat Evolved, and that game came out in 2001. Sure, you’ve got your Battlefields and such, but nothing compares to using the handbrake on a warthog and power sliding around the bend of one of Halo’s mountainous paths, while enemies hurl grenades at you or chase you down in a ghost. That is pure, unadulterated bliss.
3. The Golden Triangle of Combat
The thing that makes Halo so accessible yet rewarding and deep is a set of three ridiculously honed but simple features: melee, grenades and weapons. Each of these three pegs of the triangle function so seamlessly together it makes combat both shallow on the surface but also something incredibly complex to balance. While some PC gamers would argue that it takes away from aiming, I think it’s awesome that players must juggle 3 aspects appropriately to be an effective killing machine. It creates an experience entirely unique to Halo, and it just feels right for a console shooter.
2. Easter Eggs
I know, I know, you might be saying “huh?”, but the Halo games feature some of the most entertaining easter eggs out of any series of games, ever. Heck, searching for them could be its own mini-game. If you don’t know what I’m talking about beyond just finding skulls, check out the hidden Red Vs Blue dialogue in Halo 3, or learn more about the mystery of Ling-Ling’s Head, or beat Halo:CE on Legendary.
You may wonder why this matters at all, but I think it’s so cool that a developer would pack its game full of all of these hidden surprises just for their fans to find and tell each other about. Some could even consider the scenery an easter egg, since Bungie designs these games with a distinct, clean art style that helps them look timeless yet gorgeous. Check this video out if you don’t believe me.
1. Rich Mythology
I’ve heard a lot of people complain that Halo has a really convoluted story, but that’s partly because the game has such a rich mythology behind it that orchestrates it.
Did you know that Master Chief is a Spartan II, part of a top-secret government program that kidnapped children, flash-cloned them (the clones were sent back to the parents) and then trained them to be efficient killers. Or what about Captain Keyes, who was the first ship commander to take on the Covenant while outgunned 3-to-1 and to come out with a victory. Or how about the Spartan III’s, who battled sentinels in the depths of Onyx and who are now trapped there, waiting for release from a Forerunner microcosm?
Halo has a rich tapestry behind it, and the games are designed to bring this tapestry to life if you know it’s there, but to hide it if you’re unaware of its existence. One could argue that perhaps the games should have included more of this mythology in them to enhance the overall games, but doing so might have instantly lost the game some of its audiences. And besides, it doesn’t make the mythology any less awesome.
Try reading more about the mythology and then playing the games. You’ll be surprised at how much is actually there. Personally, I find this idea of really fleshed out mythologies something that is undervalued in gaming entirely (Mass Effect, anyone?), and Halo’s is about as awesome as they come. Kudos, Bungie.
What are your thoughts on the Halo series? Do you think it’s under/over-rated? Is it possible for the game to be both of those things? I think it might be.