I’ve been a huge Halo fan from the very beginning. I played Halo: Combat Evolved on a rented Xbox at my brother’s apartment when I was 12 years old, way back in 2001. At that point and time the game seemed revolutionary, the control scheme and the dual analog system was something I’d never seen in a console game before. I was used to the “c” button controls in Perfect Dark and Goldeneye. The level of precision that using both joysticks gave you was completely unprecedented, although it did take some getting used to. Lately, I feel like the series is getting stale; Bungie keeps putting out sequels that play identical to the last game.
I gamed online with the original Halo through XBconnect at friend’s houses, I didn’t even have a broadband connection yet, but I used the opportunities I was given and played online as much as possible. Unfortunately Xbconnect didn’t support my parent’s phone line Internet. Sure it was a little laggy but online gaming was completely new to me, the fact that the Spartans I was killing and getting killed by were controlled by actual people was fascinating.
I’ve also lugged my Commodore 64 monitor, yes the old home computer from 1986, to friend’s houses for lan parties all through high school . Fifeteen to 20 of us would get together on half days and play until our eyes hurt, swearing, sweating and pwning each other for hours and hours.
Then came along Halo 2 and Xbox live. Halo 2 changed the way developers approach console gaming, it invented the matchmaking system that pairs you up with players of reasonably equal skill levels to your own. When you look around at other online console games today you can easily see that matchmaking systems have become the standard. The leveling system was also revolutionary; I’d never seen a system like this in a first person shooter. It was like Perfect Dark’s multi-player leveling system, only this time the world and all your friends could see how awesome you were.
I was in line for the Halo 2 midnight launch, the Halo 3 midnight launch and I participated in the Halo 3 beta and the recent Halo: Reach beta. You could say I’m a Halo fan boy I guess but I’m the kind of fan boy that can sit back and try to understand why I enjoy the franchise so much. I realize the Halo series has it’s faults and I acknowledge the fact that in some cases it is really over rated. Halo: Combat Evolved was a great game but I feel like it was its simplicity that made it so great. The small number of weapons forced you to truly master each gun, it was also a situational first person shooter; you needed to know what gun to use under specific circumstances.
When Halo 2 came along, Bungie introduced a lot of new elements to the series, mainly dual wielding and new weapons. I felt like Halo 2 was still a great game but I also felt like Bungie was starting to stray from what made Halo: Combat Evolved so special. The online is what made me stick with Halo 2, it was awesome and an experience I will probably never forget. The community may have been a little juvenile but the trash talk made for some good times.
Then Halo 3 rolled around and Bungie threw power ups and even more weapons into the mix. They were cool for awhile but then I realized once again that Bungie was continuing to stray from what made the series so special; its simplicity. This is why I liked the Halo: Reach beta so much, I felt like it was Bungie’s final hurrah and a return to the series’ roots. I’m not a fan of the class based game play so far, but I really enjoyed the simplicity of the weapons and environments. The entire game has a very Halo: Combat Evolved feel to it and I really enjoyed that. I’m going to try and for get about Halo: ODST, neither the campaign nor the multi-player impressed me, sure the story was a little more engrossing but that was it. It never should have been stand alone game, it was nothing more than a glorified expansion pack.
As I write this staring at the Master Chief action figure on my desk I wonder, is Halo: Reach really going to shake the series up enough to keep my interest? I’ve been playing Halo for as long as I can remember and I’ve been through it all, I remember the rocket teleport glitch, stand-bying and I was around before Bungie started to crackdown on hackers and modders. Lately though, the series is starting to seem stale, I hardly played the beta even though I thought it was great.
I think Bungie really needs to “wow” people with their final Halo game. They need to take some risks and shake things up a little, the series has been basically the same for almost 10 years now. I don’t know what should change and I realize it will be difficult for Bungie to maintain the delicate balance they’re trying to create with Reach, returning to the series roots but also fixing the problems gamers have had with the series since they created it. I don’t feel like jet packs will be enough; sure they are cool but they don’t really change the game all that much. Space combat looks interesting but I don’t see it being in multi-player at all. Bungie needs to focus on the community aspects that made Halo 2 so great. With Halo 2, I’d come home from school and hop onto Xbox Live, there would always be someone to play with. Sometimes my friends would just hang out in a level and mess around for hours.
I’m hoping they’ve added features in Reach to further the level of interaction between the game and the community that plays it. I’d also like to see a return to the expansive maps that made Halo: Combat Evolved’s campaign so unique. The last few titles in the series, although they had some wide open levels, didn’t really seem to have the same sense of scope that the original Halo had.
I don’t really know what Bungie needs to do or change to make the series seem fresh to me, maybe I’m just all Halo’d out. I’ve been a follower of the cult of Master Chief for some time now and perhaps I’m just growing out of the whole space marine thing. I know one thing though, I’ll never forget the great times I’ve spent with the franchise. Halo: Combat Evolved is my Super Mario Bros.
I’ll be buying Reach for sure and the beta truly did impress me, I’m just wondering how long I’ll actually be interested in playing it for if it’s the same old Halo I’ve played over and over again.