This will probably be the only blog post I make, but I have yet to see anyone try to examine what made Halo what it is now. Be warned, this may take awhile, So here we go.
I will use my experience from when I first started playing the game until now, to try to explain this beast's inner workings. I should note that this mainly applies to console shooters, as computer games are always a step up, but not nearly as readily avalible to play. Lets start with Halo 1.
When the X Box first came out, one of my rich spoiled friends picked one up with Halo and a few other games. At the time, nothing was being pushed hard by Microsoft, so there was no un-godly hype to go with it. Since my spoiled friend got this crap just so other people would come over, me and another buddy went and played Halo all night long in co-op.
This, I will have to say, was one of the best nights ever.
There were just several things about the game compared to other shooters that made it really fun. And today, these things are almost standard for shooters.
Regenerative Health - The personal shield, that after a few seconds of not getting hit would come back, dramatically changed how one would fight. Gone were the days of charging at an enemy while shooting because you had more health, and magic cure all med-packs around every corner (still there, just not everywere). Now cover had so much more importance. And being skilled meant that you could continue fighting constantly without having to run around looking for said med-packs. I could go on, but the main idea is that it made you *think differently* about how you played compared to other games. And now, most of the more hyped shooters have some kind of regenerative health.
More weapon options with less weapons - For some, this was a turn off, but for me, I found it as a refreshing change of pace. Just two guns, and some grenades. The map, your style of play, who you are fighting, where you are on the map, where the said weapon is, etc, all this had to be thought about when you were debating if you were gona ditch that shotgun for a sniper rifle. By doing this, you got several different styles of play, and more options and combos, with less guns than most other shooters. And again, you had to think about it, and again, you see it more often in shooters these days.
The Pistol - Many Halo 2 players never understood (or wanted to understand) why many Halo 1 players hated the loss of the pistol (as it was in Halo 1 at least). The pistol was a all ranged, 3 shot kill weapon. Seems kinda like it would be a good thing to get rid of right? But the thing is, *everyone* had one, and it took *skill* to use. Look back, how many times when you first started playing Halo, did you ditch the pistol for another weapon without a second thought? I'm willing to bet alot of you did, until you got better. And when you got better, you could headshot people for the 3 shot kill. Well, some of you could, more on that later. Point is, everyone had at least some chance at winning a fight because everyone had a pistol. If the guy with the rocket launcher misses the direct shot and only *almost* kills you, you could 3 shot him and *take* his rocket launcher. If a sniper is shooting you from afar, squeeze off a few shots in his direction to take him outa scope mode to buy that precious few seconds to find cover. In the right hands, no one was too powerful by having a powerup or a certain weapon because of the balancing effect of the mighty Pistol.
The Feel - This is hard to explain. But to me, I just felt like I was really in that armor. I felt kinda slow and clunky, like I could never run fast enough, and only jumped a little bit in the air. This forced me to focus less on jumping around like a damn lunatic when somone started shooting, and more on shooting accurately, and putting myself in better positions to make up for my lack of manuverability. More skill & thinking here too.
The Vehicles - Up to this point, even now, I can not think of a shooter, besides maybe C&C Renegade (no laughing, I love that terrible game) that has funner stuff to drive. You *know* you are all gona get killed when that tank spots you, but you *all* pile into the Warthog anyways, gatling gun on the back blazing, tearing ass through the landscape. And I think this was just a good balance job by Bungie. Every vehicle has a drawback and can be defeated by infantry with various different types of weapons. Even though shooting the back of someones tank and hurting them makes no sense at all, it balanced it out.
The Maps- Huge wide open maps. Now the sniper rifle is more than a gun with 1 or 2 shots that does alot of damage,you have a place to actually *use* the scope. And more terrain to cover with those said vehicles. Also small close combat maps, for those that like to get up close and personal. And the weapon placement on these maps was also well done, often puting things of value in high trafic areas making gameplay even more tense. And these maps worked well with the different types of gameplay modes you can do. A little bit of everything for everyone done well.
The Melee - Now you dont have to switch weapons to use a melee attack, just hit a button and bam, a considerable amount of damage done by a cybernetically enhanced tank fliping fist. With the addition of this crude movement, players have to think twice about getting too close to their enemy. A tie in with this is the sneak attack. If you put yourself (a throwback to above) in the right position, you can melee somone in the back and instantly kill them. Forcing everyone to watch their backs at all times. This is another thing seen more often in games now.
The Grenades - Most other shooters use a whole different weapon for grenades, making the process of pulling them out, and using them to the best effect, alot harder and more risky. By adding a button that just throws them instantly, one can use grenades to far greater extents. More things to consider before you run in shooting to try and capture the enemy flag.
The Parties - Now finally, I think, this is the first console game to support up to 16 players playing at the same time for LAN parties, this helped to spread the virus. Players, wanting more after the campaign, eventually start looking at the multiplayer. As word spreads, more people buy the game, and more people start playing it. Now everyone has Halo, an X Box, and a burning desire to see their friends limp bodies at their feet (in game of course...). If you have not been to a full blown Halo party, get one together. Like any LAN party, they are some of the best times you will ever have, without the anoying problems that come with computer LAN parties. And everyone gets competitive, everyone wants to be at the top of that post carnage report.
But, this competitive desire, the mighty pistol, the fun vehicles, among other things, may have caused the later games decline in popularity with the older players, and rise with the newer ones. This is to you late Halo 1/Halo 2 players. It was not fun to be killed over & over by that guy with the pistol, was it? No, it never is, he has had alot more practice, and no matter what weapon you have, he *always* seems to kill you.
Now how did you feel when you first sank the sword into him in Halo 2, and then again, and again? It felt good, real good I bet. And there was not a damn thing he could do to stop you.
I'm that guy, suddenly if I was not the first one to get to the sword, or the rocket launcher, etc, I'm on the losing end of the game. Pair that with the Highlander Rule (There can be only one!), and one guy, with *no* skill, is owning everyone. This is not the only weapon balancing issue, just one of the most anoying. I also hate how suddenly Master Cheif can jump 10 feet in the air with his 1/2 ton armor, the look of the game compared to the last, how you can't fucking hold a small SMG still but can flip vehicles, and a ton of other crap I think just stems from M$ wanting to rush the release. Honeslty, I think thats why it had such a shitty ending.
So now, it becomes more of a generalised game, everyone has a fair chance of doing well with or without skill, pair that with many people looking forward to it because of how many played Halo 1, with the advent of X Box Live support, and everything falls into place. Now that fucking 12 year old can own you by pure luck of where you spawned compared to him, and talk shit about it over live without you pounding his face in.
Halo 3 is just an extension of that same formula. Many who liked Halo 1 just don't care for 3. But all the people that had a good time on 2 will buy it, and as with any purchase, they will defend that transaction, even if they got that gut feeling it really is not as good as they want it to be.
Feel free add anything I missed or argue a counter point. But if you go Rabid Halo Boy on me I'll just call you a dumbass and ignore you.