Monday, 28 December 2015

Trilogy Retrospective: Halo.

By Sam Coles:

The original Halo trilogy has its own space in the video game hall of history as it set the bar of how a first person shooter should be made for a console like Goldeneye did back in1998. It also set the standard for online multiplayer on consoles as well which Sony didn’t really grasp until the PS3.

Halo Combat Evolved (2001):

Halo was originally announced as a Macintosh exclusive during the late 90’s at an Apple event, but it wasn’t the game that it is now. The game was being developed by Bungie who were known for making Marathon which was the Mac’s answer to Doom which was dominating the Windows platform at the time.

Halo was actually conceptualised as a real time strategy game like their game Myth, but something happened Microsoft bought Bungie to secure for their launch title for the Xbox. Bungie started see what would it be like to take control of a soldier in the first person so they decided to make it an FPS, they wouldn’t revisit the RTS genre until Halo Wars.

Halo was launched with the Xbox in late 2001 and no one expect this game to be hit but it was a smash with its great singleplayer campaign and classic local multiplayer and yes local this was before Xbox Live.

Halo is a science fiction FPS where take control of a super soldier known as a Spartan called Master Chief. Chief has been in cryogenic sleep for a while, then he is awaken as they are boarded by the alien enemy called the Covenant. The Covenant have been at war with the human military called UNSC as they are fleeing from one of their colonies called Reach which has been destroyed. They then crash land on a mysterious ring called Halo which seems like a strange planet, but they find out that it is one of many rings which act as super weapons to wipe life on a galactic scale.
The campaign was interesting with different characters with big and varied environments which you’ll shoot you way through, it does take things from other science fiction sources such as Aliens and Stargate etc.

The gameplay was incredible it blew what Goldeneye did for consoles out of the water and the main reason was the fact the Xbox had a second analogue stick so you could turn and strafe with ease. It kept traditional FPS tropes like health kits which people seem to forget and said Halo CE had regenerating health, but it was the shield that regenerated and not your health. It also included vehicles to help you traverse the more wide open spaces and they controlled well for the time, but they do feel slippery now.

Halo had a great multiplayer and I have so many memories of getting loads of friends together and playing 16 player multiplayer in one room, yes Halo had a great LAN community it was an expensive thing to do at the time but worth it. It had big scale battles for the time with complete chaos with game modes such as Capture the Flag or the classic Slayer with twists such as shotguns only, pistols only which is the most powerful weapon in the game and Rockets. Let’s just say that the multiplayer is still fun to boot up now when you have a group of friends to play with.

It would be another 3 years until we see a sequel for this game, but it did change the front for multiplayer and how games are played with friends today.

Halo 2 (2004):

Halo 2 up the ante in every aspect such as graphics, sound, music and multiplayer it was a huge game for the time and the first in the series to have online multiplayer and was still played online until they closed the servers in 2010.

Halo 2 takes place after the events of the original Halo and this time the game begins a cutscene from the Covenant point of view as you follow an Elite soldier who is in court due to the destruction of the Halo ring. He is then branded a traitor then later on becomes the Arbiter which is a sort of prophet that goes on suicide missions to takedown heretics. Yes for the first time in the series you played as two protagonists so you see the war from both sides which gives you a perspective and how the Covenant start to fight each other and split off. It was an interesting campaign despite its cliff hanger ending which would continue until 2007.

The graphics were the best graphics on the market for the time aspects that were improved was the details on Master Chief because you can see the engraving and blemishes on his armour and it made him look as if he was a battle scared hero. The vehicles and environments were given a much needed boost in details from ancient ruins to the Covenant homeworld.

Multiplayer was a big due to the new Xbox Live service at the time and defines how we play games online today on consoles; it was the most played game on the service for years to come until Halo 3 came out. It had the same game modes from the first one, but it had events some weeks and weekends with altered versions of current game modes something that would become standard in later Halo games.

Halo 2 was one of the best games of 2004 and Bungie were tooling up for a new generation of consoles and we wouldn’t see anything about until 2006.

Halo 3 (2007):

Halo 3 came out on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and like Halo 2 added more content for fans to get stuck into.

Halo 3’s campaign starts from where Halo 2’s campaign ended with Master Chief plummeting to the Earth. It doesn’t look good for Chief as long-time friend Sargent Johnson examines his stiff and battered body from his fall and is ready to give up. Chief fortunately wakes up and everyone rejoices, but what Chief is not made aware of is that the Arbiter is working with them and gets into an altercation with him. Your objective is to takedown the prophet of truth and destroy the Covenant to end the war. This game was meant to be the conclusion for the series, but it cleary isn’t as the series is still going with 343 making the games now while Bungie work on Destiny.

Halo 3’s graphics were beautiful for the time as it was Master Chief’s jump to HD the first level in particular with its lush and vibrant jungle environment were stunning and honestly I would say that the environments still hold up. I can’t say that for the character models as they look very polygonal, but they served their purpose for the time.

Multiplayer was the main reason why many players logged so many hours for years on Xbox Live, with a higher player count and more game modes and events for players to take part. There were new and bigger maps for more chaotic battles my favourite being the map Valhalla with two bases with jump pads to throw you straight into the middle.

Halo 3 was the best game in the series in terms of its gameplay it’s the tightest of the series although they did tone down some of the weapon damage on some of the game’s most iconic weapons one of them being the Magnum which had no scope and the fire rate was slowed down by a lot. Overall the gameplay was fun and tight.

Halo 3 was a great conclusion to a trilogy well until Halo 4 came out, but that wasn’t handled by Bungie.

So where is Halo now? Well Bungie worked on a prequel called Reach which told the story of the events before Halo Combat Evolved which was fantastc. 343 Industries took the reins and started a second trilogy with the latest one being Halo 5 which was good but nothing compared to the original three games. Whatever you think of Halo you know it had an impact with how games are played today.

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