Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Halo Revisit

I'm afraid it must be done: Halo, a game that came out in November of 2001. Recently I decided to co-op campaign the original with a good friend of mine. We still have memories of pulling off the legendary campaign together in one night. This game was my introduction to FPS (First Person Shooters). I had played FPS before, but I never really enjoyed it. I told my friends how much a game with no peripheral vision and no legs and no story pissed me off. I didn't want to be a floating camera in a sea of gunfire and half-heartedly written plotlines and characters. There was a period for me where I had stopped being a gamer. And what brought me back into games were games with great cinematic cutscenes and an engaging story. A wonderful thing happened when Halo came out: an FPS with an engaging story and a boatload of fun.

I suppose I have to address (at risk of sounding like a fanboy) Yahtzee's review of Halo 3. It's somewhat disappointing when a reviewer you really admire says "maybe the problem is I've never played the other games" and "maybe I'm supposed to know the story before this one" and then goes on to try and complain about the plot of the only one he plays thus far before saying he gave up on it. Though this is on Halo 3, there are statements about Halo in general: mostly being that it is an average game and there's nothing spectacular about it. Halo reached absurd popularity and then received angry hipster put downs because it was so popular. The multi-player of these games isn't excusing the campaigns. The campaigns are great stories with some engaging characters. The first Halo does this wonderful thing where it is mostly centered on the story and a few characters. It starts simple. In the second one, we expand on the story and on the characters and begin to see a much larger picture. Finally, in three, everything comes to a head and we see how an epic story with many characters we know and love come to an end. Though I'm sure everyone has forgotten about the Arbiter (being a bunch of whiny fanboys that only want to blow Master Chief), his very existence opens an element to the story that is hardly explored in one and three and elsewhere. This is part of what one may call an epic storyline. This is why Halo 3: ODST was even able to be made.

Aside from Halo's intriguing story with the creepy introduction to the flood, the frustrations of Guilty Spark, and humorous scenes with Sergeant Black Man, the gameplay is simply fantastically fun. One may say the game is the same thing over and over again: shoot shiny aliens. That's a short-sighted input. Yes, like any FPS, it's a lot of shooting. This normally bored me after a while. Why was Halo an exception? Was it the story? No, the story was given to me in cutscenes. The gameplay doesn't suddenly become better thanks to the cutscenes (i.e. MGS4 moments). What Bungie did right was add variables to this basic principle: several vehicles, different types of enemies with different weaknesses and strengths, and easier-to-deal-with weapons. Instead of a game like Bulletstorm (coming out ten years later) with dull gameplay where one must just shoot at different enemies more than other enemies, Halo adds variables. Grunts are simple but with the hats aren't easy to kill from behind. Jackals have shields in front of them. Elites have the built-in shield. Depending on the color of their outfit (their skill) they have better weapons, better dodging ability, and better shields. Where as the CoD (Call of Duty) gameplay gets old fast, Halo knew how to add variables to the formula. The easier weapons can be a complaint for the hardcore FPS gamer, but this is why Halo drew in such a larger audience, it wasn't for hardcore FPS gamers. Instead, it was for everyone.

And this is why Halo is a better and more important game than your average FPS. You have better story, more variables than even what I've mentioned, and a completely new world captured with the best graphics for the time. Unfortunately, Yahtzee reviewed Halo 3 (and included his view of Halo entirely) based on minimal knowledge and arrogance. He is, in part, one of the most intelligent (and most picky) reviewers I hold in such high esteem. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean he's always right. Halo truly changed the FPS game and who needs to play it. Games like CoD and Battlefield change graphics and interactive destruction, but the stories are still predictable and mundane. Halo brought in outside audiences and a story worth watching. Thematically speaking, Halo doesn't stand up to something like Bioshock, but gameplay and storywise, Halo truly is the masterpiece of the FPS.

Finally, I want to mention that just because people like Yahtzee don't like or care about multiplayer, doesn't mean multiplayer isn't important. Many people only care about multiplayer. For someone who never used to care about multiplayer, I found myself enjoying a game for its multiplayer for the first time in Halo. And Halo wasn't even online. This shows something extremely valuable: people had to bother system-linking and have at least two televisions to even have extensive multiplayer still yet engaged in it many times this way. Halo truly did change the way we play games. If we get stuck on those few negative elements of the game, that's fine, but it does not mean the game was mediocre in anyway. Even one on one I've had more fun than I've ever had in any completely single player game. Thank you Halo and I hope the games not made by Bungie end up as good as those that have been.

No comments: