Halo has become one of the most successful gaming series and a household name, but it was in 2002, developed by Bungie for the Xbox, the first incarnation was born, Halo: Combat Evolved. The game promised to be a blockbuster of epic proportions and it didn’t disappoint, delivering a tight, story driven experience with many innovations that helped to redefine the FPS genre.
Before you read any further, press play to make this the most EPIC article you have ever read:
As if you need to be told, Halo: Combat Evolved (henceforth known as Halo), followed the story of a Spartan, a biologically engineered supersolider, known as Master Chief. When his ship is attacked by an alien force, he crash lands on a strange Halo shaped structure that holds more secrets than it would first seem.Behind enemy lines and with little help, it’s down to Master Chief to find a way home, stop an alien parasite and prevent the inevitable destruction of all life in the universe.
At first glance Halo seems to play out as a normal FPS would, but it’s the subtle changes in the gameplay that make all the difference and have helped Halo ascend to greatness. While not revolutionary the gunplay was some of the best at the time, with each weapon well balanced (apart from that pesky pistol!) and suited to a different task. Before Halo, the majority of all FPS games had you cycling through every gun you had collected on your journey until you reached the one you desired. Cycling through up 10 guns at time in the heat of battle was less than ideal and often led to cheap, unfair deaths. Halo introduced the concept that your hero can only carry a maximum of 2 weapons, however enemies also drop they weapon they were carrying upon death, meaning there was never a shortage. While only carrying 2 guns may sound limiting, it offered up a different type of challenge, deciding which 2 guns would allow you to best carry out the task at hand.
Halo was also the first time that regenerating health was popularised within a game. Conventional FPS games used a health bar or counter to gauge how close your character is to death, when the the bar is empty, your character died. While Halo did carry this over, it also introduced a shield that would deteriorate when shot. Once your shield was depleted any additional damage taken would result in a loss of health. However, if players managed to avoid being shot for a short period of time, the shield would regenerate, meaning the player could quickly return to combat. You all know this mechanic as it’s used in almost every game you play. This simple addition completely changed the dynamics of the battlefield, rendering the all guns blazing approach obsolete and putting a lot more emphasis on cover. Now players had to think about how they approached fire fights and tactical moves, such as flanking, became a lot more effective.
These 2 small changes are taken for granted nowadays and may seem a little trivial, even though almost all FPS games (and even games in other genres) in recent years have adopted them. However back in 2002 it was something the gaming world hadn’t seen before.
The enemies were one of the reasons that the combat in Halo never grew stale. Split into 2 types, you had the Covenant and the Flood. The Covenant, an alien race were brutal tacticians using cover effectively dodging incoming projectiles and returning fire with deadly precision. The Flood on the other hand were a different beast, with no notable tactics, strategy or teamwork, the Flood rushed their targets down in a horde-like fashion, destroying everything in it’s path. The Flood could also infect dead bodies, adding to its ranks. The AI was great for the time and still holds up today, but the difference in enemy tactics required players to employ different strategies to defeat them, and this really paid off.
Due to being released prior to Xbox Live, Halo lacked traditional online play, but it did offer a split-screen (remember that?) co-op campaign. It was also possible to have up to 16 players in competitive multiplayer, however multiple Xbox were required, with a maximum of 4 players per console. Since then, future Halo games have featured some of the best multiplayer suites in gaming and the Halo series has gathered a large following in eSports.
Halo spawned a number of prequels squeals and spin-offs, with Halo 4 being the most recent. The initial game was so successful it spawned a remake, named Anniversary which was the same game, however featured enhanced visuals, online play and many other improvements. The game has spread to other media, including it’s own animated film, comics and books. Halo was often said to be the reason for the Xboxs success, and perhaps it if wasn’t for Halo we wouldn’t have the 360 today. Either way, Halo marked a turning point in the FPS genre, with it’s ideas still being used in many games today. Just remember that the next time you hide behind a continently placed rock in Call of Duty.