Home > Rants, Video Games > It’s 2011; No One Has Killed Halo Yet

It’s 2011; No One Has Killed Halo Yet

Whoa… that’s alot of pitchforks and torches. I do realize that the title of this article is a bit pretentious, however I do have some objective FACTS and EVIDENCE to back up this bold statement. Simmer down any urges to punch me in the face and hear me out for a few moments.

Today’s FPS games are a dime a dozen and first-person shooters are easily the most popular genre of them all. How much can developers really change the experience of looking down the barrel of a gun and blasting away at anything that moves? How did we wind up with all these different games where the core action is the same? Run/Strafe. Move reticle. Aim. Trigger. Reload. Rinse and repeat. Developers have to break up that core action by always giving the player something new to do that supplements the base shooting.

Ever since Halo: Combat Evolved, Bungie always possessed an internal mantra of taking “30 seconds of fun” and stretching it across an entire game. In retrospect, Bungie never relied too heavily on scripted events. They would craft sprawling sandboxes, give the player the tools to have fun, and let the artificial intelligence breathe. Granted, players will navigate through the same environments upon replay like in other games, but the battles unfold differently thanks to the dynamic AI. Most other games are just military-themed shooting galleries with the same terrorist popping out of the same cave and/or bunker.

A screenshot from Call of Honor: Contemporary Conflict 5 Operation: Terrorism Shits It's Pants

You might be thinking, “Whoa this guy has a hard on for Bungie”, but the truth is that first-person shooters (see: Call of duty) are banking the entirety of their excitement on “set-piece” moments. I love my Call of Duty games as much as the next gamer, but recently I’ve discovered (after the release of Black Ops) that replaying the single-player campaign in a Call of Duty title doesn’t maintain the same “wow” factor it did the first time around. These scripted moments are very intense and exciting when they pop your cherry, but coming back to reclaim the White House from Russian soldiers or marching up that hill to kill some more VC is a ride we’ve all been on the first time around. It’s like chewing gum, the flavor is amazing when it’s there but after awhile, you’re just kind of chewing it for the sake of chewing.

This moment was shocking the first time around... but do I really wanna play this part again?

Bungie’s design philosophy allows players to control their experience. Do I want to take this Warhog and tear up this extraterrestrial countryside? Or do I want to nab a Banshee and scope things out from the sky? Or should we take the tank because it’s a fuckin tank? Halo has always given players options to tackle objectives how they see fit and replaying it warrants new experiences. You may state, “Hey Call of Duty has vehicles too” but those moments, may as well be on a rollercoaster. The snowmobile opening in MW2 and the takeover of a Russian Hind in Black Ops will always play out in the same way and the destination will always be the same. At some point the programmer is going to say, “The ride’s over, get off”. A vehicle section in Halo gets me to think, “How long is this vehicle going to last me before the Covenant blows it up with one of theirs?” My point is that If your approach in a Halo game doesn’t work, there’s always another option. In other shooters, you have to act out your role. Why haven’t developers escaped this need to hold my hand to show me something cool? Give me some freedom.

You decide the approach here

When you think about it the Halo formula has never changed since Halo:CE. Bungie gave birth to the then-dreaded, now-lauded two-weapon inventory, dedicated grenade button, and weapon-specific melee. Every installment (with the exception of Halo Wars, duh) never moved away from any of these basics. Halo games have always played like Halo games, you’ll come to an area, unload, circle-strafe, and grenade Covenant (and Flood) to death. This type of gameplay may sound uninteresting to some people, but no one has been able to replicate this to any measure of success. To be objective; how many shooters are you playing now that involve you pulling left trigger to auto-aim somebody and pull right trigger to kill them? Pretty much every major shooter like Battlefiend BC, Borderlands, Call of Duty, Killzone and more recently, Crysis 2 (only to name a few). They may not all be the same type of game but they all PLAY THE SAME. I’m terrified if this control-scheme is going to be the new gold-standard. Yes, the Halo controls and the formula that comes included is about a decade old, but it still works, it’s still fun, and no other game plays quite like it. Who do you think made Y (Triangle) “Switch Weapon”, X (Square) “Reload”, and A (X) “Jump”?

Quick-scoping? No. Just no...

Lets shift our focus over to what is now a strong selling point to most gamers: multiplayer. A proper multiplayer suite was a pipe-dream for most console gamers and developers until Bungie put their foot down. Halo:CE featured co-op play throughout it’s entire campaign via splitscreen, 4-player splitscreen deathmatch, and 16 players via system link. Pretty lackluster by today’s standards undoubtedly, but why are shooters these days still struggling to create a cooperative splitscreen experience? There are too many great games out there where I think to myself, “This would be cool if it had splitscreen.” The Halo franchise was great for getting people to play together.

"I brought some friends... and a few rides.

My heart broke a bit when Battlefield: Bad Company didn’t feature any splitscreen support through it’s campaign. Everyone and their mothers were begging for it in Killzone 2 (we eventually got it in Killzone 3). I don’t want to pass off, let me give another controller to someone else so we can kick some ass together and enjoy the story. Props to the team at Gearbox for giving us splitscreen play in Borderlands, a game that could’ve easily shipped without it, was made more enjoyable when you have someone to loot with. As much as I want to commend Treyarch for implementing a cooperative campaign in World at War, they subsequently removed a splitscreen campaign in Black Ops. It’s like they were thinking, “Boy that was fun, lets get rid of it.” What!? Halo never REMOVED any cooperative elements from their games.You want splitscreen coop throughout the entire campaign? Bank on Halo. Campaign co-op online? H… a… l… o…

It's good to kill together

You want splitscreen competitive? Guess what? Yup. Since Halo 2 (that’s on the first Xbox yuh…) you can jump online with up to 4 buddies on the same couch. It’s a wonder as to why developers can’t implement 4-player splitscreen online. I’m aware that Black Ops has pulled this off, but it’s still limited to just two players on a single console. Although, I’m not completely heartless, splitscreen Black Ops is balling. My wish is that more games/developers follow this model if their goal is to get people to play online more. There is nothing quite like teaming up with people in the same room and coming out on top. It’s a high-five bromance-a-palooza that not too many other multiplayer games can replicate. Halo’s base shooting may not have the depth other shooters possess in the online arena, but the franchise has always presented a wealth of campaign, cooperative, and competitive features that is still unparalleled to this day.

Wanna grab a few beers after this? Better yet, lets grab a few beers now

For those who like to see the stats that match the glory, Bungie has included a wide-array of stat tracking ranging from weapons used/favored, killzones on particular maps, and proficiency in each gametype. All of which can be viewed thoroughly (for free) at Bungie.net. Each individual player’s stats are persistent across all Halo titles that were released on the 360. So if you want to see the mountain of numbers that prove how great you are, Bungie has you covered. It’s also on the house.

Statistical stats and such...

Halo has always been a social shooter. But perhaps what’s more telling is the footprint it still leaves on other games in the same genre. Sure, it’s a game about space marines, pious aliens, and intergalactic undead; but it is THEE game about space marines, pious aliens, and intergalactic undead. Remember, at it’s inception Halo was an RTS that was developed in the mid-90’s on the Mac. Halo put Microsoft in the console race and shaped the brand to what we know it as today. Halo 2’s online features catapulted Xbox Live and made PC gamers blush, right about the same time the first Killzone fell flat on it’s face. Halo 3, ODST, and Reach carried the torch by allowing players blast their way across the sprawling campaigns in splitscreen co-op or in 4 player squads online. Xbox gamers with a thirst for competition can jump online with three other buddies on the same console. There’s nothing more fun than gathering your own rag-tag team of couch potatoes and unleashing a teabagging epidemic upon the next unsuspecting matchmaking party.

Best. Pistol. Evar.

This is not an attempt to say that the Halo series is the best ever. Far from it. It’s just to say that the Halo formula is often imitated, but never perfected. It’s style of gameplay and features from the last generation are still fairly non-existent; even in the current generation. People looking for a sweeping sci-fi saga will find it here. Halo is meant to be enjoyed together. Be it split-screen on the couch or online. Halo is the kind of first-person shooter that other shooters can only hope to be. I’m sick of scripted moments, watching the same explosion, and being funneled into another shooting gallery. I know haters are gonna hate, but if I have to pull left trigger and then right trigger to kill someone in a game one more time, I’m never buying another damn shooter again.

Face it, no one has killed Halo yet.

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  1. June 3, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    To be completely honest, I was never a HUGE fanboy of the Halo series. I mean, I really like it and think it’s a great shooter, but I haven’t been around long enough to truly appreciate them. Still, I completely agree with what you’re saying. Call of Duty is almost becoming a rail shooter, allowing minimal freedoms. Bungie made so many options and features available for Halo from the start and all the other developers are still playing catch-up.

  2. Bryan Tuer
    June 3, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Just my 2 cents:

    FPS games that provide advanced graphics, heavily scripted single player, and also feature a multiplayer (like many of today’s FPS games) will have their shining phase and then be moved along from. It is a long standing trend that games which incorporate more complicated graphics, UI, and gameplay fall to the wayside with time. It’s more of a once and done scenario.

    The only FPS games that show a massive longevity and backing are ones that have promise in the competitive scene. Look at the Halo series – anybody that owns an X-Box can pop the disc in and play online. Halo has been at the forefront of competitive play for years now and I doubt it will be moved on from to anything. As far as PC gaming goes (my bread-and-butter), a game such as Crossfire (that’s right, you haven’t heard of it – http://crossfire.z8games.com/) can make it into the competitive scene at the World ESports Masters and World Cyber Games. Through 5+ years of multiplayer/competitive gaming I feel like I can say that games of more simple style tend to stick around longer. This not only fits the FPS bill, but the bill of almost any genre. Take a quick look at the most competitive games since the beginning of the competitive scene: Quake (Quake Live now), Counterstrike 1.6 (and source),the Halo series, Warcraft 3 (DOTA/League of Legends), Starcraft (and 2), Call of Duty (only VCOD, CoD2, and CoD4 really brought about a massive competitive following), etc. Those games mentioned are some of the ones with the longest longevity of any games out there that are produced in a series.

    To comment on the main point, Halo never was the predominant king in the broad scheme of things when you take a look at the long list of very successful games outside of just the console.

    • C.L. Anderson
      June 4, 2011 at 1:47 am

      I’m on board with you completely Bryan. A highly competitive FPS must have a thriving community to support it. Not necessarily competitive with other titles, but also in the growing realm of esports. I’m not staking that Halo is the best FPS title that money can buy, I’m stating that Halo’s impact (at least on the console side of things) is undeniable and the feature sets that the series has carried with it is rarely duplicated. There are alot of shooters out there that don’t support splitscreen online play nor do they support splitscreen coop. It’s a shame since these features were embedded in the first couple of Halo titles for the original Xbox. It’s my belief that these options allowed Halo’s community to thrive much more successfully. Also, to put it simply, it’s damn fun to play with other. It’s as easy as that.

      But going back to the point you’ve made, I don’t want to sound like a 12 year-old whose first game ever was Halo. I agree that the competitive scene is what creates a lasting brand. “Back in the day” I played CS 1.6 to death along with the original Unreal Tournament. Unfortunately, the style of play that comes with an Unreal Tournament game is a dying breed, but I still love the hyper-fast twitch shooters. Halo may not reach the legendary status of CS or Quake, but the multiplayer options it came with certainly brought a community together (a console community no less). If the philosophy behind Bungie’s multiplayer (and single-player) engineering is left forgotten, we’ll end up with highly scripted single-player shooters that are simply fun houses with targets and a multiplayer suite that is identical to the multiplayer in other shooters.

      You make a valid and fantastic point. Outside the console, shooters are a different breed. However, console shooters are appearing more often than not on PCs and vice-versa. If the console and PC community BOTH end up with multiplayer shooters that play identically, then no one wins.

      I did check out the link that you’ve posted and the game looks interesting enough. It reminds me a bit of Natural Selection. The game may not look like much graphically, but the original gameplay separates it from the rest of the pack. That is often enough to cultivate a competitive scene. I’m just so sick of leveling up, “unlocking” weapons, and equipping “perks”. It was great at first, but it got old fast (for me at least). It seems like every modern shooter follows a “me too” mindset with the Call of Duty titles. I believe multiplayer shooters need to avoid this pitfall to truly elevate itself and this is what Halo (amongst other shooters) does very well.

      I appreciate your input as well as your response.

  3. Bryan Tuer
    June 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I agree that Halo has greatly impacted the console side of things – everything was extremely primitive before Halo “revolutionized” multiplayer gaming on that level. However, I put revolutionized in quotation marks because a lot of the features brought about by Halo were borrowed from PC games that existed before. The reason why Halo (and to an extent, the CoD series) are not dead on console yet is because you cannot really go in any more different directions. With a PC, there is a much greater variety within the shooter genre. You have the CoD games that are following your contemporary graphic-intensive model with all the complicated perks and whatnot. You have CS 1.6 and Source thriving with a more simplistic graphic and gameplay model. You have free FPS games such as Crossfire thriving (a bunch of my friends on a team I started went to China to compete while I was in college this past semester, they’re not going to Dallas or NYC for WCG). And beyond that, you have the twitch shooters like Quake and UT.

    I agree with the statements of a competitive scene creating a lasting brand. And I agree that Halo is not necessarily “legendary” but it definitely made a much needed impact in the console scene in bringing together its premature community. Then again, myself and many of PC gamers still look down upon the communities in console games. Take Halo in MLG for example, I was watching an MLG columbus stream yesterday because one of my longtime PC gamer friends is actually competing and I noticed that many of the best players there are 15-18. I remember competing at LAN events on the PC on Call of Duty and CoD2 as well as 1.6 and being the youngest player (age 14-16) there among mostly 20+ year olds.

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