The Halo Effect

It may be hard for me to fully explain just how much Halo has impacted me as both a gamer and a person but it is worth trying. I’m sure to be not the only person who wants to share such memories.

With the impending launch of Halo 4 on the 6th of November, the excitement comes out again for everyone who owns an Xbox.

Why might you say that? Simply because the attach rate of this series almost ensures that each person has played at least one Halo game. The only game series that would do better would be Call of Duty.

As for me, I remember it for a number of reasons:

1. It helped drag me into console gaming.

By 2000 I was a dedicated PC gamer, happy to be a part of the endless upgrade cycles so I could play the latest and greatest games on my computer. All the computers I went through were little Frankensteins; each made up of different parts just to get that little extra bit of performance out.

A couple of years earlier I had suggested to my brother that to alleviate his occasional boredom he could try a Playstation. Though I thought it was neat, I only suggested it as a cheaper and easier alternative to PCs. A couple of years later he upgraded to a Playstation 2 and showed me Grand Theft Auto 3 which blew my fragile little mind.

Seeing a game that complex, requiring a huge amount of time to play and being able to do so from the comfort of a couch very quickly made me have second thoughts about my PC obsession. Being a hell of a lot cheaper contributed too.

Wanting to try out some different games and being fascinated with reviews online, I took the plunge and picked up an Xbox with Halo: Combat Evolved, Dead or Alive 3 and Rallisport Challenge. While the latter two were great games, it was the sci-fi shooter that got me hooked. So much that I quickly upgraded to a better TV and surround sound stereo just to get the best out of the game.

The controls did take me time to learn as I was new to using a dual analog stick controller but once I picked it up I become so comfortable that going back to mouse and keyboard now seems to be the compromise. Sitting on a bean bag in front of the TV was the way to play games now.

Where once I happily spent hours hunched over a desk in front of my PC are now replaced with me sitting back on a couch in front of a big TV. Maybe not THAT different but at least my posture has improved somewhat!

2. It had a universe that drew me in.

It’s not entirely original (space marines… again?) but the fiction is fairly cohesive and starts off with some clear ideas of good guys and bad guys. That’s what drew me to Star Wars as a child too. That and the cool guns and spaceships. 😉

Having a series of novels extending the universe helped a lot. The first novel The Fall of Reach not only provided a lead into the first game but also an insight into the series main protagonist, the Master Chief, which is something which the games have not tried until the upcoming Halo 4.

That fiction was backed up by an art style that is still very unique for games of the genre. Marines and UNSC vehicles and spacecraft do bear a resemblance to the James Cameron film Aliens (the developers from Bungie even admit to it) but from the first Covenant encounters and that crash landing on Halo, it forges a path all its own. It became an irony then when Cameron’s Avatar was released to the cinemas and here he was being accused of lifting ideas from Halo.

And then there’s the music – it surely has to rank among the best video game soundtracks of all time. The main theme is an amazing, iconic piece that can evoke a recognition in gamers that rivals the Star Wars theme… I kid you not. And it probably has caused many a composer to think twice when it comes to using chanting in their music.

3. It made online multiplayer something worth doing.

Until Halo, the only other game I really spent hours playing online was Starsiege: Tribes; a first person shooter with huge, open areas and a design that helped to encourage team play. I was even able to play it on a 56K modem which was perfect for me during my University years.

Now, Halo: Combat Evolved only supported LAN based multiplayer which I never tried and though Halo 2 brought Xbox Live gaming with it, I still wasn’t convinced it was something to try out. But then that changed with the arrival of the Xbox 360 which was the first games console that pushed online as being an integral part of the experience. The day I picked up my new console, I had also just upgraded to broadband Internet so jumped in headfirst.

Thanks to a mate who had also upgraded at the time I was able to try out some online gaming. My first game was Forza Motorsport but I soon got into Halo 2 and never turned back. That it worked so simply and quickly was a great encouragement to play and that I could also join friends for games cemented my interest. I’ve made a lot of friends that way too… being able to find a familiar name online when I want to play a game at night is a fantastic feeling.

A now, my brother also has a 360 and we often get the chance to chat and play together online while sharing fun times despite being a couple of states apart. So that marketing spiel of technology bringing people together really can come true.

And now the next game is about to arrive… and once again my excitement builds as I know that it will bring me countless more hours at a controller, exploring new worlds with mates and family. And it all started with one game ten years ago.

Categories: Gaming

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