Full of doubts What a difference a single game can make. I have to believe that even Bungie could not have predicted the success that Halo would become or the impact it would have on the industry. For me, the game holds a special place in my gaming heart. Prior to the launch of the original Xbox, I'd heard about Halo. I had even played it in person at E3 - I left unimpressed. When the Xbox was finally released, I picked it up along with Halo and Dead or Alive 3; it was a bundle deal from Toys 'R Us.
Oh, what you will become...
I played through Halo in its entirety and felt the game was decent, but certainly not fantastic. I put it away without even trying the multiplayer. Then, months down the road, I was flipping through the pages of OXM and they had a small posting about Halo and sending Ghosts flying all the way across the Sidewinder map. For whatever reason, I thought it looked amusing, so I tried it myself. At that point everything changed. I fell in love with the physics that allowed vehicles to flip stupidly high and for ludicrous distances.
A gateway to awesome
Revelations I convinced one of my buddies to buy an Xbox and Halo so that we could try out the system link multiplayer. Afterall, my friends and I loved GoldenEye and Perfect Dark multiplayer on the N64, but our one gripe was "screen watching." With the Xbox and system link, that was no longer an issue. Well, he ended up going for it and myself and three friends stayed up literally all night playing 2v2. What a blast! This was unlike anything I'd ever played before! I can still vividly remember being crouched behind a hill in Blood Gulch when a warthog suddenly soared overhead, engine roaring, .50 cal blazing; what a rush!
Needless to say, Halo became our game of choice. We spread the word around school and before long "Halo nights" became our weekend plan...every weekend. It went from just the four of us to sixteen plus every time. We had guys hauling large, CRT televisions from their parents living rooms in the middle of the night. The constant wear and tear even started to show on the sets; weird coloring started to appear in the corners, bits of plastic casing were chipped off as we tried to shove the televisions into the backs of compact cars and one or two may have been completely busted after being dropped.
The televisions weren't the only thing to take a beating. We once had a guy that ended up in the hospital because of a kidney stone. He was complaining about how bad his side hurt, but somehow managed to finish up a two hour game of Sidewinder CTF before being brought to the emergency room. All this in the name of Halo.
Further down the rabbit hole Our love for the game only grew with time and before long we were competing in tournaments. We started with a small tournament in a nearby town. The guys there opened the doors to a whole new community of Halo players and competition. They told us about the AGP (Associates of Gaming Professionals) and that there was a huge, nationwide tournament coming up in Nashville, TN. We didn't even have to think about it. A month later the original four of us were driving 500 miles to Nashville to compete. This was only the first of several big tournaments we would attend, and it was eye-opening. Here were some of the best Halo players in the world. Anyone remember Darkman? Mr. Shizz? The Psycho Soldiers? All those guys were there and they played the game in ways we hadn't even thought of. I still remember the gasps in the audience when TDT, The Dream Team, displayed their BattleCreek CTF tactics. They were extremely efficient and could cap multiple flags in the blink of an eye.
Meet The Dream Team
The highest we ever ranked in a national tournament was 18, but out of 50+ teams, I was ok with that. After competing at that level, it was pretty easy to come home and sweep the local tournaments. When I came down to Florida for school, I was able to convince Full Sail University to sponsor our team for a national tournament. We continued to play in Florida, though without as much success as there is an abundance of Halo talent down here.
Evolving combat Halo did a lot of things right; I don't know how I managed to not see it at first. The game is incredibly well balanced. The pistol, while a lot of people complain about it being overpowered, was actually the great equalizer in the game. As long as you had your sidearm, you were on equal footing with anyone else in the game. Halo also had amazing level design. I have yet to encounter another shooter that has as many memorable maps for multiplayer combat.
Damnation: one of the greats
The addition of the recharging shield system, love it or hate it, has completely revolutionized the FPS genre. Nearly every single FPS released since Halo has copied this feature. Halo also made strategy a bigger part of gameplay. By slowing down the pace and limiting you to just two weapons, the game makes you think about your situation and what tools would be best for the job at hand. Most FPS games prior to Halo did not have this strategic element.
The grenades in Halo also added to the strategic play. In most games, grenades blow up and only affect other players. In Halo, they can be used to knock power ups or weapons into safer locations so that you don't need to stick your neck out to grab that sniper rifle.
Even the bugs in Halo made it a better game. Most of the bugs were totally awesome and knowing how to utilize them proved to be an invaluable asset in competitive play. Any time you saw someone actually run out onto the catwalk to grab rockets in Hang 'em High, you knew you had a noob on your hands. Grabbing weapons and flags through walls and floors actually added to the game as opposed to taking away from it.
The Silent Cartographer: epic name, epic action
After being so engulfed in the multiplayer portion of the game, I revisited the single player campaign and loved it. I couldn't believe I had simply glossed over the storyline the first time through; here was this amazing sci-fi story and I hadn't even paid attention to it before. But more importantly, I finally understood how to play Halo. This is something I didn't get the first time I played it. Most FPS games are just about killing your enemies. Halo isn't. Halo is about killing your enemies with style! The Master Chief is a badass, so play like one! Once I got it, I couldn't go back to other shooters.
Stay classy, San Diego To this day Halo remains my favorite shooter, possibly my favorite game, of all time. It isn't just the great gameplay mechanics; it's the experiences I've had with the game over the past ten years, the friends I've made while playing and the memories that were created. Those things are irreplaceable; perhaps you have a different game that impacted your life the way Halo impacted mine. If so, I'd love to hear about it!
And yes, I do still revisit the game every once in a while. Running around the old maps such as Damnation, Chill Out and Blood Gulch is like returning to my old stomping grounds; places I hung out with some of my best friends.
I thought Reach was a great game; especially toward the end. Knowing how Cortana makes it aboard the Pillar of Autumn and seeing Captain Keyes again made the hairs on my arm stand up. I knew the epic saga that was about to begin, and as good as Reach is, the original is still the king.