How can one describe, emulate, and accurately portray a gaming series such as Halo? Over the course of 10 years, the franchise has received critical acclaim from the gaming community, set sales records worldwide, and accumulated over $3 billion in gross revenue. Halo is more than just a game. The series has catalyzed a culture that reaches beyond the video game realm, branching out into cinema, literature, and mainstream culture.
American writer Brian Michael Bendis even compared Halo’s cultural impact to that of Star Wars. Devout fans of Master Chief and his quest to save Earth call themselves the Halo Nation. Though this collective has no physical territory, laws, or officials, its influence is grand; uniting men, women and children from every walk of life under one flag. This extreme display of admiration is the driving force behind the success of what many would consider one of the greatest gaming franchises of all time.
In preparation for the new installment, Halo 4, and to fully appreciate a series boasting such critical acclaim, I’ve decided to travel back to the beginning of the Halo saga with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. What is now a multifaceted gaming giant was once an obscure shooter on the original Xbox. Reliving the cherished moments from the original Halo in fully fledged HD and re-mastered sound introduced much more than a pleasant wave of nostalgia.
From the beginning of the narrative aboard the Pillar of Autumn to the explosive conclusion maneuvering a Warthog off of the Halo ring, playing Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary has truly been a glorious blast to the past. While essentially the same as its 2001 counterpart, Anniversary showcases beautifully redesigned visuals that easily elevate the game into the current generation. With the click of the select button, players can switch toggle between the original Xbox graphics and the upgraded HD effects which makes comparing the two a definite must. With the aid of graphical clarity and a completionist mindset, I’ve attempted to experience Halo 1 as deeply and entirely as possible.
During my achievement-hunting, skull-collecting journey throughout the world of Halo, I’ve come across a mix of unlikely discoveries and satisfying recollections. The first time controlling John-117, his departure from the cryogenic tube and arrival into the role of humanity’s savior was just as rewarding as I had remembered. What I didn’t recall was the petite stature of Master Chief’s hands. The admired protagonist’s baby fingers were not a minute detail that I happened to notice, they were more of a hilarious facet that I couldn’t help but notice. I guess when they say high definition they really mean it. His ability to kill anything Covanent or Flood, drive any vehicle tank or alien hover car, and save the world over and over again, more than makes up for it I suppose.
While his fists may be tiny, Master Chief possesses the patience of a saint. Apparently my 11-year-old mind didn’t quite grasp the repetitiveness and the cyclicality of the level design and narrative course. Out of 10 levels spanning the landscape of the Halo ring, many of them are visited more than once along the way. While this usually wouldn’t be a problem, the Halo campaign isn’t known for its longevity. For example, the area traversed within the third level Truth and Reconciliation is the same location navigated in the ninth level Keyes; the only difference being the second visit included both Covanent and the Flood. Same goes for the stages Two Betrayals and Assault on the Control Room.
Despite the negatives, revisiting the origins of the series has allowed me to reconfirm several points: the level Library is still hell, the pistol still rocks my world, and the key to Halo on practically any difficulty is to shoot nonstop and melee the crap out of anything in range. In the course of a week I’ve collected 100% of the achievements associated with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and have re-memorized practically every inch of the game. The next step in my version of Halo appreciation month is to tackle the remnants of the trilogy, Halo 2 and Halo 3 before the new trilogy is released November 6th, 2012. Take a look at the latest campaign gameplay trailer for Halo 4:
343 Industries and Microsoft Studios are introducing a new world, enemies, and plotline in Halo 4 with more of an emphasis on mystery, exploration and discovery rather than the traditional linearity associated with the first-person-shooter genre. Are you happy to hear that Master Chief won’t be retiring anytime soon or do you think the franchise should come to an end? Also, do you plan on playing any of the old Halo games prior to the release of Halo 4?