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.

  1. Matthew Mitchell says:

    Hey Patrick,

    This was an awesome read and I was with you on those feelings through the entire article. I too feel as if Halo: CE was and still is the best Halo game out there. ODST was decent and is now starting to head back into the right direction. Reach plays amazingly and in my opinion is going to bring back everyone who loved CE.

    To be honest with you though, I think they should just remake CE and have Xbox LIVE support. That game would rule all and Bungie will have succeeded on taking over the world.

    Love the Pistol!

    • Hey Matt,

      I totally agree, “true” Halo fans have been asking for a remake of CE with live for awhile now but sadly I doubt we’ll ever see one. I really did enjoy reach, I like the simplicity of it and I like the fact that dual wielding is gone. I’m still iffy about the jet packs and the armor abilities though. I realize Bungie is trying to change up the formula a little and that thats what I want I’m just not sure they are making the correct changes.

  2. Fearbefore23 says:

    You sound exactly like me with the fanboy status. But maybe you forgot this aspect, which is something that I had to come to realization with: We’re growing up. Halo isn’t wowing us as much as it used to because it never was our priority. I would come home from high school and I would be in a world of halo, and so would my friends- that’s why it was so immersive and fun. Now, yes, I still play halo- and love it dearly- but we’re older, and we’ve got so much more on our minds now and the series just lost it’s wow because we’re maturing. That’s what I think, at least.

    • You probably are right, although everyone I used to game with are still Halo fans we don’t get on and play as much a we used to.

      My expectations for Reach are high, what I want from it will be very difficult for Bungie to accomplish. How do you return a series to it’s roots but also keep it fresh? I personally have no idea but I’m hopig Bungie delivers.

  3. Izzy says:

    I find myself in the same shoes as you Patrick. Me and my best friend used to get together and play Combat Evolved split-screen multiplayer on his Xbox. When Halo 2 came out, we both got the game and did the same thing since we couldn’t afford to pay for internet. Then Halo 3 came out, we lined up for it, and we played online. I thought it was the most badass game ever. I thought the graphics were great and the multiplayer was beyond awesomesauce. I actually played that game online for a little over a year. It sure was something, specially playing online for the first time.
    Then I got to play the Reach Beta recently. At first I wasn’t enjoying the game, it felt way different from the Halo I knew. After a few days of playing it off and on, I started to enjoy it a bit more. I was getting used to the new and improved gameplay. When the beta was over, I was really starting to miss it. I didn’t play it much but when it was over, I wanted to play it.
    I think Reach is the Halo that will revive the series. The graphics alone are sizzling. Watching the campaign gameplay from E3 was orgasmic. I can’t wait for it to come out.

  4. Dude says:

    Mr. O’Rourke, what you’ve just wrote is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever seen. At no point in your rambling, incoherent article were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this web-page is now dumber for having looked at it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    • Thanks for calling me Mr. O’Rourke, I feel old now. I’m also glad to kill your brain cells with my awesomeness.

      It was your choice good sir, no one forced you to read my editorial. Although a little confusing it still has a point. I’m a conflicted long time Halo fan, I want the series to return to it’s roots but I also want to see something new.

      Kudos to your googling skills, here is the original quote he copies if anyone is interested http://www.collegehumor.com/picture:1729825

  5. Your Brother :) says:

    You’re not the only confused fan. I am extremely confused as well. But after having recently read all of the Halo novels, I am not as confused as before. If you have not gotten a chance to read the books, please take the time to do so. They greatly expand on the Halo universe and bring much more unique detail that would surely make for some KICK-ASS games.

    I get how Bungie wants to stick with the “silent but deadly” protagonist, but I think its a concept worth forgetting. When I read books, I don’t read about bland character who doesn’t talk, I have to get to know these character and start to understand how they feel. We get this on some small level with John in the Halo novels, which I really enjoyed, but you never get anything like that with the Halo games. Its an experience many Halo fans are missing out on. I hope Bungie won’t stick with the same character design with their next IP. I, also, hope that 343 Industries can grab a hold of the colorful protagonist approach. Ask yourself what makes games like Uncharted and God of War so epic? Their protagonists actually have feelings(Kratos has more hateful feelings, but feelings none-the-less!) that you have to learn to relate to. Only once you can fully immerse yourself in the games Universe does it really start to shine. I don’t get that as much with Halo games that I did when Combat Evolved first came out.

    Anyway, I’ve been babbling on for a while now. Just venting my thoughts lol.

    P.S. I hope 343 Industries will keep the same Halo feelings and make a Halo 4 that deals with the big Master Chief finally arriving on Onyx. *SPOILER ALERT* That looked like the planet that shone in the background and the very ending of Halo 3(after the credits). If you want to know more about Onyx, read the Halo novels. Trust me, they’re worth your time.

  6. Derrick says:

    Great read! It seems like this was written straight from the heart with a professional touch and this is something that is missing today in game journalism. Your sentiments are probably more resounding than you know as millions of us who will of course buy HALO REACH are hoping for a revolutionary experience that was only experienced from Halo: Combat Evolved while all the other titles seemed like shells of what might have been.

  7. SimianFriday says:

    Honestly, it sounds like you are just getting bored with the franchise in general.

    I think Bungie has done a very good job keeping it fresh while also keeping it distinctly “Halo”. If they change too much it won’t be “Halo” anymore but something else entirely. If they change too little, it stagnates and gets boring quickly. I understand that much of your argument.

    I plan to pick up Reach when it is available, I expect to enjoy it a whole lot, but what I’m REALLY looking forward to is Bungie’s next project that is not Halo related. It’s about time they spread their wings and show people what else they’re capable of producing.

    • Thanks for the feedback guys, it’s great to hear some constructive critisism for once. I realize my argument is rather confusing and sort of flawed. I think that’s because I’m not quite sure what direction I want the series to take. I’m a confused fan.

      I love the fact that Reach is taking things back to the series roots but I’d also like to see some originality mixed into that forumla. I’d like to see something more than new weapons and duel wielding I think, those are the main changes in Halo 2 and 3. The space combat is definately a step in the right direction.

      I also disagree that ODST was Bungie’s first attempt at A return to what made Halo: Combat Evolved so great. I wasn’t a fan of the open world gameplay or the story line. I thought that the multiplayer additions were cool but not enough to warrant a stand alone game. I liked that Bungie nixed the dual wielding though, I was definately a fan of that change.

      To me ODST seemed like Halo Wars, it was more of a spin off than a core Halo title.

  8. SimianFriday says:

    In fact, let me add another comment… you mention ODST being unimpressive, both the campaign and multiplayer.

    I find this very interesting because ODST is the one Halo game that most closely resembles Combat Evolved and, it could be argued, returned to the series’ roots. They did away with the dual-wielding introduced in Halo 2. They did away with the equipment introduced in Halo 3. They brought back the health packs that were in Combat Evolved. Heck, they even brought back the original pistol.

    So after saying Bungie needs to bring Halo back to its roots, you say you were uninterested in the one Halo game that did go back to its roots.

    Again, your argument confuses me.

  9. SimianFriday says:

    Now, I’m not going to say the Halo franchise is not overrated or even ripe for criticism, but your critiques confuse me.

    First, you argue that Halo 2 and 3 stray from what made Halo 1 so great. You imply that they’ve changed too much and need to “return to the series’ roots”.

    Then, you say Bungie needs to “wow” people with Reach, that they need to “take some risks and shake things up a little” because “the series has been basically the same for almost 10 years now”.

    This does not compute. On one hand, they’re changing too much and it’s “just not the same anymore” – on the other hand, they’re not doing enough to “keep it fresh and interesting”. You cannot have both.

    Now, I’m not saying you’re wrong, these are all valid critiques if you’re able to back them up coherently, I just don’t feel you did that.

    • Thanks for the comment SimianFriday

      I understand what your saying, I do seem a little confused. That is also how I feel though, confused, I want the series to return to its roots but I also want it to shake things up at the same time. I know this doesn’t make a great deal of sense but I feel like Bungie can maintain a balance with Reach if they create it properly. They have the opportunity to bring the series back to its roots to appease the core fans like my self but they also can change things around slightly. I honestly don’t know what they can change and that was one of my many problems I ran into writing this. I realize this is near impossible, retaining what makes the original game so special yet changing things up and making them feel fresh.

      Perhaps I’m asking to much, I do expect a lot from Bungie’s final game though.

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