The Escapist Game Circle: Halo

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The Escapist Game Circle: Halo

In honor of the most awe-inspiring media spectacle of all time, the game for October is Halo: Combat Evolved, the game about a cyborg with a hologram in his head that started it all back in 2001. Was the story really inspiring enough to justify two sequels? Does it make any sense at all that this game and its spawn have sold millions of copies and defined "shooter" for the last two console generations? You tell me.

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I ain't doin' it.

Way to let him down gently, Malygris.

I haven't actually played Halo, and seeing what all the fuss is about seems like a good idea, but I've already got my mind set on Hotel Dusk, and I'm one of those poor souls plugging away at Deus Ex, so it'll have to wait.

Maybe in a couple of weeks.

I just want to say, I love this site. I love the critical attitude, it is SO refreshing, and I love the focus on discussion and questioning. I wish there were more sites like this one. Maybe I'll pick up HALO and try it out (again) (I tried it for PC and was like THIS SUCKS, uninstalled.)

-Keith

I played through the first Halo just a couple weeks ago with my wife, and we had a great time. Here's some notes:
* We both felt it was pretty average as far as first person shooters go, but that basically any game is great if you can play it co-op.
* The Library level was pretty miserable, and sort of soured us to the last couple of levels. We spent a lot of time after that basically trying to skip as many encounters as we could.
* The game has a lot of identical corridors and a fair amount of back tracking, but I didn't really mind it that much.
* Knowing that people go ga-ga over the Halo story, we were a little disappointed to find that there basically isn't any this game. You crash on a planet, and pretty much spend the whole game just trying to get your shit together.
* That being said, the "story" such as it is (i.e. Cortanna telling you what to do) does a good job keeping the levels and encounters tied together. I often didn't really know when one level was over and the next one had started, at least in the first part of the game. The pacing is really good until... Hmm... I think the part when you grav lift into the Covenant ship is where things became a little disjointed for me. It could have just been fatigue, though - We played through the whole game in basically a day and a half - so maybe I'd have liked it better if I'd taken things a little slower.

It's sort of not quite fair to Halo to discuss it without discuss what made it an enduring "classic" in the yes of many gamers--the multiplayer. I played the splitscreen multiplayer with good friends for a few years before I ever got around to beating the actual game myself (I had a difficult time finding my way around the first level where you meet the Flood, and the Library level that Dyselon mentions is yes, the worst level in the game).

So in addition to beating Bungie's first title in this massively profitable series, grab a few friends and a case of beer and blow each other to kingdom come in splitscreen.

My personal favorite level is Hang Em' High.

Halo gets unfairly bashed because of its popularity in the mainstream. It's not the most innovative game - in fact, it's often extraordinarily derivative. But it feels right. It's simply one of the most smooth, intuitive games ever made.

The mix of tactical action and fast-paced shoot-em-up, the weight and feel of the weapons, the sense that the levels aren't completely scripted (ahem, Half-Life), and an above-average story in execution, if not content.

I don't mean to simply fawn over it. It's got its fair share of major flaws, namely repetitive level design and bland interior graphics.

But as far as its position as console gaming royalty, I think it's well-deserved. We can't honestly expect a game like Deus Ex to appeal to everyone, even though it may excel in the areas we (as quote "intelligent" gamers) find more important. Halo finds a way to appeal to just about everyone in some way or another.

Plus, it has co-op. And just about any game (except Brute Force) with co-op immediately shoots to very good, if not right to great.

One has to remember that Halo is basically the first console FPS that did everything right- or at least right enough that even PC gamers were sitting down and taking a look at it. Goldeneye and Perfect Dark were ok games, sporting some good design features that I'm glad that live on in most FPS games (Quick setup, large number of gameplay modes, high customization) but between the spotty controls, the awful framerate, poor hit detection, and limited view, I can't see anyone who had access to a PC and Quake/Quake II actually giving those titles a second glimpse come time to actually stop fiddling with the options and start the blasted game. (I didn't.)

That said, Halo still holds up pretty well today, even against it's sequel (I haven't played H3 yet, so I can't comment about that) and Half-Life 2. It's campaign is a pretty entertaining affair on it's own, but with full two-player support for co-op, as well as linked-system multiplay, there was little excuse not to be playing it with other people when the chance arose. That said, the game occasionally fell victim to "I'm a generic sci-fi universe syndrome" where all the areas look like they were ripped straight from Babylon 5 concept art, but the enemies managed to (mostly) buck that trend. The levels got a little repetitive (apparently, Bungie forgot some of the lessons learned with Marathon and decided that every level was going to play out exactly the same, just with Flood instead sometimes) but it was repetitive of what is probably the best-balanced FPS experience of the time- so it's not entirely a bad thing.

Still one of most recommended titles for someone looking to get into FPS games from the console standpoint, especially if they got a buddy to play it with 'em.

Halo doesn't get bashed because of its popularity, it gets bashed because it's a half-assed shooter. It may have been the best FPS to ever land on a console, but compared to shooter titles for the PC it was sheer mediocrity. I can't speak about Halo 2 or 3, Bungie may have upped the ante considerably with those efforts, but the original Halo was a massive hit primarily because there wasn't much else out there to compete with it.

I picked it up awhile after it came out and muscled my way to the end of the Library or whatever the hell it was, a tedious slog through one of the worst examples of cut-and-paste level design I've ever seen, only to find out I had to turn around and do it all again, backwards. That's when I became of common mind with Keith, THIS SUCKS, uninstalled.

I can be pretty masochistic with my games. It takes a lot to bring me to ground before I reach the end of a game; I could probably count the total number of games I've failed to finish over the past ten years on one hand. But Halo is one of them. The weapons were boring, the enemies were repetitive and dull and the aforementioned level design was painful. I feel kind of bad putting the boots to this thing so enthusiastically on its first day, but I honestly can't see why it's regarded as a good game, much less the unprecedented hit it became.

And I still ain't doin' it.

(That above said, I'd still suggest that anyone with a half-decent PC forget that Halo exists and grab the Half-Life games first for single-player, and a Team Fortress and Unreal Tournament title for multiplayer- Halo's the big fish of the small pond, and it's still second banana at best once put against it's PC brethren.)

Malygris, I feel your pain about the single player. Might you try my suggestion for friends + splitscreen + beer = multiplayer fun? The multiplayer game is arguably as important to the Halo games (if not more) than the singleplayer, and it's worth a shot.

Yes, PC FPS' have great multiplayer too, but a good console FPS offers an experience difficult to replicate on PC--being with your friends together in a room, slaughtering each other in virtual form on the screen, and just having a blast in general.

I think that Halo succeeded because it broke open FPS for the console players. I can't really say that it was better or worse at being an FPS than any random PC FPS, mostly because that's a really subjective statement that I'm not sure can really be made. That said, it went to the top of my list within a week or two of being released.

My favorite levels are probably Assault on the Control Room and Two Betrayals. Both take place on the same map, one going in, the other coming out. Each experience is also completely different. One way, you're busting Covenant heads and engaging in traditional warfare. The other, you're dealing with the Flood. I cannot count the number of times I replayed both of those levels, both single player and co-op.

So, anyone else find the Flood a really really creepy version of zombies?

CantFaketheFunk:
Malygris, I feel your pain about the single player. Might you try my suggestion for friends + splitscreen + beer = multiplayer fun? The multiplayer game is arguably as important to the Halo games (if not more) than the singleplayer, and it's worth a shot.

The sad part is that doesn't have to be the case. Take a look at Goldeneye. The single-player was damn fun, if based on the movie, and the multiplayer was better than Halo's.

That's why I like this Game Circle idea, actually. It gives us all a chance to go back to the beginning and take a second look at what we really like (or don't like) about the Halo series.

I played Halo through and all I can remember is the Library. Few things in gaming have burned my brain to the point of inspiring a cringe every time I recall the game. I thought perhaps that it was a problem with being on the console so when I happened across it for the PC I gave it another shot. 15 minutes into the Library I quit and uninstalled the game all together. I was shocked that despite the huge gap between the xbox and PC release nothing had been done to correct that.

I liked the multiplayer aspect of Halo, but only after we had derived games that essentially took the FPS completely out of that particular FPS. We ended up creating a game we jokingly refer to as Jeepy. You get you and 3 of your friends in Blood Gulch with warthogs and invisibility and try to run eachother down. The only weapon you can use is the grenade to get people out of their jeeps and kills with grenades don't count. If you're wondering, we managed to get Warthogs EVERYWHERE in that level trying to get to people. On top of bases, through caves, in bases, it was good times.

I guess if you want to rely on the players to make abstract rules to make your game fun then it did well, as an off the shelf shooter with standard multiplayer elements it wasn't anything to brag about.

i'm a bit of a mark for the halo series, i wasn't into fps's alot before halo was released.
It wasn't the storyline, or the balance in multiplayer, or anything that was mentioned that hooked me like a retarded cod, it was the simple fact of vehicles. Vehicles in an fps that didn't suck, it looked like the starship troopers cg show, it had a tank, who needs anything else. looking back from halo 2 the game wasn't very smooth or balanced, the storyline kinda bites but i still like it, and yes, the campaign sucks, but the countless hours of multiplayer is what made me love this game so much, which i hardly play anymore, halo 2 is my current lover, and as soon as i get a chance i'll dump that ho for halo 3, it looks amazing ( because I don't speak latin) it is as close as i can get to my ideal video game, and it wins) that game is a cross between oblivion and halo, and warcraft, and world of warcraft, with great graphics and AI and specific customization, maybe in ten years or so

People that don't understand the fuss about Halo are missing the point. As a big fan, I don't give a crap about the campaigns, they're good to play through once or twice but they aren't what makes halo great.

It's all about the multiplayer.

Back in the N64 days, GoldenEye came out and was the first console FPS that you could play for hours with your friends and have lots of fun.

Then Halo came along years later and upped the ante.

System link and great gameplay was what made Halo so loved by so many people.
I remember so many fun nights linking up xboxes and battling it out.
4 people in one room with one xbox and 4 people in another room with another xbox. One room housing the blue team, the other, red.
3 hour capture the flag sessions on sidewinder and blood gulch were the most fun multiplayer you could have.
The excitement of a good kill or a flag capture can result in yelling to the other room, and the system link games generally were very spirited, lively, and a total blast.

The console equivalent of a LAN party, I guess.

Halo 2 was the first truly great online FPS for consoles.

Fun as hell gameplay.
A great matchmaking tool to get right into the action.
A great community of custom games; Zombies, Tremors, and other honor-based fanmade gametypes were always a blast.
And the ability to track stats over the internet was cool to play with.

Halo 2 had a replay value of literally years and I still popped it in on occasion up to the release of halo 3.

Now Halo 3 is here.

I finished the campaign, had no idea what the hell was going on most of the time. Couldn't understand what cortana was saying 3/4 of the time. The plot was a joke and the ending made no sense, neither did the rest of it for that matter. But it was a fun playthrough.

The multiplayer is great. It's just really fun to mix it up with other people, win or lose.

The halo series offers above average single player campaigns which are fun and challenging but do not make halo what it is.

The Halo series in each iteration has been the best, most fun, and longest-lasting, multiplayer experience of its time on any available console. That is why it sells like crack and millions of people love it so much. Because it is the most fun way for console gamers to play together.

I still have a borrowed copy of Halo for PC lying around somewhere at home, so if I can find time over the next month in between the glut of better games coming out, like the Orange Box and Quake Wars, not to mention Crysis and UT3 next month, I will chuck it back on and have another bash at it.

I'm not sure how far I got through the game percentage-wise last time. I believe I was just escaping from the Covenant ship after rescuing Captain Whatshisname, so I dunno, halfway maybe. I found it... okay. I didn't like the chunky console-port feel that the controls had, but I suppose that's unavoidable. The combat and general gameplay was alright, but I didn't feel like it was anything to write home about. It felt like a fairly generic shooting gallery in a series of pretty-looking environs. The AI was fairly uninspiring, with "Check it out, we can hide behind rocks and jump out" about the smartest move they ever pulled on me, but at least the friendlies seemed pretty smart. The story was derivative and largely unoriginal, but no more so than most any tough-space-dude-shooting-aliens film or game you could care to name.

So my general feeling on the game really seems to be "I can't name anything expressly bad about it." Apart from the endless shooting gallery feeling and the checkpoint-based save system, nothing was particularly annoying about it when I was playing it, and I was finding it perfectly enjoyable. I stopped playing it because something more interesting came along. The fact that I can't actually remember what that game was might be telling, or it might not be, I don't really know. Halo, to me, is inoffensive fun that's nothing to write home about. I'm not particularly interested in the multiplayer because I have my own tastes in that arena, most of which tend more towards games like Battlefield and Quake Wars. I get the impression that Halo multi doesn't really translate too well to PC, kind of getting lost in the sea of other, better games. And honestly, that sums up the single player too, doesn't it? I'm a keen FPS player, and there are just so many PC shooters I can name that are better and more to my tastes than Halo, both in single and multiplayer. Perhaps the earlier poster who called it a "big fish in a small pond" was completely right: it's the single best shooter you can get on a console, but FPS has always been the PC's bread and butter and when yanked out of the pond and tossed into the ocean, Halo resurfaces bobbing around the area of "above average", looking enviously at the horizon where the more unique and exceptional games are.

I guess what I'm saying here is that I'm not really the best person to judge Halo's appeal. I'm not its target audience, in a number of ways. Its success is phenomenal, and it's sure done a great deal to push videogaming further into the mainstream, but that's about the limit of my thoughts and opinions on it. It's mass-market pap, I guess, but there's nothing expressly wrong with mass-market pap. Just like film as a genre needs to have dumb-fun blockbusters as well as highbrow, intelligent movies, so does gaming.

So yeah, Halo. I'm not a lover, and I'm not a hater. I'm basically completely indifferent to it, but do certainly understand the appeal. Hooray.

Man, I'm almost afraid to post anything here about why I liked Halo, but here goes... My first experience with an FPS was Medal Of Honor: Frontline on the PS2. I had a friend who thought all things Sony and Sony related were pure evil, that they were out to take over the world, to use his words, with crappy hardware and games. Unlike MS, whose motives are completely altruistic, I said, but I digress. I was going over to his place and watching him play Halo constantly, praising it to the heavens. Interestingly enough, I only ever saw him play the Library level over and over, which is the one everybody here seems to hate the most. I'm thinking to myself, 'Well hell, this doesn't look any better or different than MOH. I don't know what the big deal is here', but he kept badgering me to try it for myself. I refused, stating that I was content to simply watch, though in reality I didn't feel like embarassing myself in front of him and his friends (I suck at FPSs). A few weeks later I bought my first X-Box, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (yikes, another friend's recommendation) and Halo. By this time, everybody was saying Halo was the greatest thing since sliced bread; I felt I had to give it a fair shake. After playing for several hours, I decided that this was one of the best games I had ever played. It felt smoother and more focused than MOH. I know this is gonna sound stupid, but I really got off on the reload animation for the AR; in the middle of a firefight, even more so. The multiplayer aspect was a really good time as well, when I was able to 1) get my friends to come over and play, and 2) not suck so much.

To my discredit, I've never played an FPS on a PC, and at the rate I'm going, I probably never will (new Mac owner, don't'cha know...). All this talk about deeper storylines and tighter controls on PC FPSs is going right over my head. I simply believe that Halo is a damned fun game to play.

As someone who loves story in video games, I've always had a hard time with FPSs. They rarely deliver the kind of story content that actually leaves me satisfied. Halo was different. When I sat down to play Halo, I was well and truly satisfied. I'm not a big fan of eating take out, so I'd compare it to finally getting a home cooked meal when all I've been eating is fast food. It told a story, and told it decently, and in so doing offered me much more than I'd experienced before.

Just before it was released, I looked into the Marathon story. I'd never played Marathon single-player, just multi-player at a few cons, so I was kinda sad I'd missed out on the awesome that was that game. That is, until I learned more about Halo, and knew I'd get something approaching that old Marathon experience. Halo ended up being fairly light, compared to the multi-game crazy that was the Marathon storyline, but it did a damn fine job with what it had.

My one regret is Halo's ending. While they hit some good emotional peaks, it didn't pop like I'd wanted. That's probably the reason I now consider the last few levels to be the most important in terms of game design, as I believe a game story has to have a good conclusion. Anything else just won't satisfy the same.

Everytime Halo comes up in conversation and I call bullshit, inevitably one of the first things I hear is ...BUT THE MULTIPLAYER IS AWESOME! So, bearing in mind that I am absolutely not going to try it, someone tell me what was so amazing about it that it would be better to fire up at a LAN than Quake, Half-Life, UT (in any of their iterations) or a mod for any of the three? I'm serious about this; as a PC gamer I have FPS titles up the wazoo, plus access to infinity+1 mods for them, so what makes Halo stand out?

Well, Console FPS multiplayer is a different beast then PC FPS multiplayer, barring a LAN party scenario (Which is somewhat inconvenient even at the best of times for most of us.) It's more social, more directly interactive. For some people, that's one of the most important thing of all.

As a person who does most of his gaming on a console, I can see that. However, FPS is one of those genres where the PC is still light years ahead of their console kin. Not even because of any specific platform advantages anymore (Call of Duty 2 was just as fun for me on the 360 then on a friend's PC) but simply because the PCs GETS BETTER TITLES. Recent/near future events might swing the tide of that (CoD4, UT3, Bioshock, Orange Box), but the fact of the matter is that Halo lives in a relative vacuum- it's the king of the hill in it's own world, but put it up against the big boys who haven't come to play on consoles yet (Or, at least, not terribly well- see Unreal Tournament, Half-Life) it starts to show exactly how pedestrian of an experience Halo is.

LordLocke:
One has to remember that Halo is basically the first console FPS that did everything right.

I have 2 words for you Perfect Dark.

Sorry that my post doesn't really contribute to the Halo theme but this was one wrong i just had to right.

Lightsabers of Paradise:

LordLocke:
One has to remember that Halo is basically the first console FPS that did everything right.

I have 2 words for you Perfect Dark.

Sorry that my post doesn't really contribute to the Halo theme but this was one wrong i just had to right.

Unfortunately, still wrong- mostly because PD suffered from all the problems Goldeneye did. Some of them even more then the game that came before it. (PD's framerate drops into visible, countable single digits with four players on many of the maps, with the Memory Pack and everything.) While I'm not a graphics whore, there's a fine line between 'not pretty' and 'barely playable', and between the motion blur effects, the mucky textures that made telling friend, foe, and stage apart overly-difficult, and the awful framerate, PD was frequently in the latter. Additionally, the single player game was pretty good... if you liked FPS games where the challenge came more from enemies placed in 'blind' areas then anything else, but I consider opponents with lame-duck AI, perfect aim, and ambush points barely in your LoS in my FPS something akin to giving the first Goomba in Super Mario Brothers hammers and making him pace back and forth under that first row of power-up blocks- it makes the game harder, but not in any way that actually feels satisfying to contend against. The game is flatline-easy on the lowest setting and varying degrees of frustrating on the higher ones as they suddenly go from particularly poor-sighted Stormtroopers to an army of Agent Smiths.

At the time, for console gamers, all that might have been excusable. However, by the time Perfect Dark hit, Quake II, Half-Life, and Unreal Tournament were becoming old news on the PC. There was, literally, no reason to go through the often-painful experience of playing Perfect Dark with those games available- not to mention it's superior predecessor, Goldeneye. If Perfect Dark was considered to be the future of the console FPS- and the first Timesplitters was any indication, it was looking like it- then it's for the best of all involved that Halo stepped forward and upped the ante in a big way.

(There's also the fact that a lot of PD's multiplayer maps were rubbish, and most of the weapons fell either as total junk or were total gamebreakers, with very few falling in-between. I give Goldeneye the props it deserves, being basically the first real honest stab at Console FPS, with some great ideas but occasionally poor implementation- Perfect Dark deserves little more then scorn for repeating most of the same mistakes, creating a whole mess of new ones, with the only merit being that it'd be the last time Rare would waste our time and money on a Nintendo home console.)

(I forget, did Conker come after PD? Then again, I kinda liked Conker, so the 'waste' part wouldn't apply)

Halo = easy access, fairly easy to learn.

To me it's very average, and I only have fond memories of playing it coop on legendary with a friend. It's lack of support for higher resolutions killed it for me because you aren't able to make out anything on screen at standard tv resolution. It's the struggle of seeing what's on screen more than anything else which killed this game for me. All halo is to me is the lowest common denominator, and therefor is able to be played by the largest group of people.

My experience has been that those of us with access to regular gaming groups who had the hardware / equipment needed to play better first person shooters all chose to do so and think halo is at best, a good way to cross a barrier to people you couldn't ordinarily play games with at all. If you came into halo from no games or like one poster above, from other console FPS games, being able to play with your friends and not see anything didn't seem like a limitation.

Let's try and keep the conversation on focus, folks, i.e. on the strengths and/or weaknesses of Halo the game. The PC vs. Console battle will not be won or lost here.

image

Why did I enjoy Halo? It was fun.

As I've said elsewhere, I'm not making this comment out of ignorance. I've played shooters since Wolfenstein; I know the alternatives. And after Halo they don't interest me that much. Why? I wish I could boil it down to a bullet form, but it's rather nebulous for me.

Partly it's because of the multilayered story presentation; there's the "guns-guts-glory" first face, and then there's the back story, and then there's the backdrop to the backstory... people complaining about Halo's overly-simplistic story do so (with some justice) because they're looking only at the cutscenes. The story really shines in the anciliary material.

Partly it's because it is on a console, and I can get out of the insane arms race required to stay even remotely current on PC games. Also, it gets rid of all the hassle of PC set-up for multiplayer; you plug the consoles together, you turn them on, you drop the disc in, and it just works. (To steal a phrase.)

Partly it's because of the innovations the game introduced back in 2001; limiting the arsenal to two weapons, to make weapon selection another tactical choice instead of a no-brainer dip into the "bag of holding", and the regenerating shield mechanism, to cut out tedious "find the healthpack" hunts and get you back into the game. Those were new back then, and now widely emulated.

Partly it's the pace; I'm not young enough to compete on a "twitch" level anymore, so Unreal and its ilk are beyond me, but I don't enjoy the usual tactical shooter's long periods of waiting. The middle ground that Halo and its sequels strike is just right for my tastes.

Partly it's the graphics; they're not photoreal, admittedly, but the saturated colours and the use of lighting work to bring out the mood of the piece without interfering with gameplay.

Partly it's the sound; 5.1 Surround, but also that it's not just the explosions that got attention... listen to the sussurus of the snowfall, the whisper of the wind, the crackle of the electro-cables... and the music is beautiful.

Partly it's the AI; both friendly and enemy characters react somewhat reasonably. (Yes, Marines can't drive worth a damn and sometimes they get hung up on geometry. Then again, they also do more than Doom-rush.) The context-sensitive dialog between them really helps with the illusion that you're in the action, and there are enough dialog lines that they're not endlessly repetitive automatons. (Unlike the otherwise-stellar BioShock, where NPCs seemed to have about six lines apiece heard ad inifinitum.)

I guess a big part is the community I fell in with after playing the game. (They're not all aggroing 12 year olds, y'know.)

I could go on, but it all boils down to, "It's fun."

-- Steve

Halo made me an ardent fan of console FPS titles, when before I had only enjoyed them on the PC. I played a few on consoles, but I didn't enjoy them. That said, I am sad in that I missed out on the era of Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, an Timesplitters.

To answer Malygris's question, I think the reason I enjoyed Halo's multiplayer so much was the polish put on the game. Before it, I hadn't played a game where each and every weapon was as fun to play around with. At the time, I think that UT and Counterstrike were my favorite FPS options, and they present a totally different experience, both from one another and from Halo itself. I wish I could say it better, but Halo's mulitplayer rocked because it was just so fun. Customizable and packed with variety. Basically, it played like a game that a design team really really cared about, enough so to polish it until it came off perfectly.

I love videogames as much as the next person, but I just couldnt get into it. Everything just looked plain to me. Im not saying give it a anime like look to it, but mix things up a bit people. Use your imagination and the sci-fi genre can be seriously cool again. Also Master chief looked to plain as well. He's no Samus

I personally had a lot of fun with Halo, and when I talk to other people that didn't, their main argument doesn't make much sense to me. "But it does nothing original", they'll say. And I say, so what? If a game is fun, it doesn't have to have originality in spades. Look at Resident Evil 4. That doesn't do much new, and yet it doesn't come in for nearly as much criticism as Halo does. Maybe that's because RE4 doesn't have any similar games available for the PC gaming crowd, who are, it seems to me, the only ones to take any real issue with Halo.

Another argument I hear against the series is that such and such an aspect is done better in some other game. Whilst this is true, I can't think of any example that does everything to the level that Halo does it.

I think another thing is that the game is a complete package, in that it has both good single player and multiplayer components. If you look at PC FPS's from the last 7 to 8 years, most of them focus on one or the other (Quake III Arena, Battlefield and Half Life 2 to name a few), with the other aspect paling in comparison to what is offered elsewhere. Halo, however, offers both, with the added bonus that the single player campaign can be done co-operatively.

I will say, however, that there are better FPS games out there (Timesplitters 2 being my favourite), but it's not exactly hard to see why the franchise is so popular.

Joe:

CantFaketheFunk:
Malygris, I feel your pain about the single player. Might you try my suggestion for friends + splitscreen + beer = multiplayer fun? The multiplayer game is arguably as important to the Halo games (if not more) than the singleplayer, and it's worth a shot.

The sad part is that doesn't have to be the case. Take a look at Goldeneye. The single-player was damn fun, if based on the movie, and the multiplayer was better than Halo's.

That's why I like this Game Circle idea, actually. It gives us all a chance to go back to the beginning and take a second look at what we really like (or don't like) about the Halo series.

Oh, Joe, Joe JOE.

I'm sorry, but Goldeneye is outclassed by Perfect Dark and Halo in every way possible.

Sorry. Easily distracted here. But IMO, the PC vs Console argument is relevant here, largely BECAUSE of how much softer Halo's impact is for anyone who'd been playing PC FPS beforehand. Goldeneye and Halo are both console classics that a lot of PC gamers took a look at (ESPECIALLY in Halo's case when it got it's PC port) and basically wondered what all the hubbub was about on their way back to booting Team Fortress Classic back up- see Mal's posts for a somewhat more cynical take on it.

Anywho, yeah, the real strength of Halo is it's multiplayer. It's fast (Make a profile, select said profile, select a game mode, a map, then go), it's fun, and it's rather well-balanced. I generally liked the weapons in it more then it's sequel (Largely because all of them, besides possibly the Needler, were effective in combat- something a lot of Halo 2's weapons lacked) Even the Pistol was a tool of joy, with it's powerful headshots and short scope. Quick access to a second weapon (in this case, grenades) are also something most Console FPS hadn't had at the time, and it was nice to finally see that feature get added.

I might be the only person who hadn't been enamored with the Warthog and it's kin, but I mostly felt that they were clumsy, boring vehicles that only added to larger games (because otherwise it was too easy to avoid engagement with the clunkers until they got bored and got out) Single player they weren't the most fun either- mostly because the Warthog's only cool when it's a three man roaming mount of death, not a one-man show.

Heck, that might be part of the reason why I had so much more fun with a co-op campaign- you can count on things the AI would NEVER do from your partner, and it made elements of the game that didn't work while alone suddenly come into their own. It hurt the sense of isolation the game occasionally worked towards building when suddenly Master Chief 2 would throw down cover fire while you moved for the next barricade- this one close enough to chuck a grenade over into the mess of baddies- but I'll take improved gameplay over reduced atmosphere any day.

I am saddened this game of all things came up, after what, 3 games? We are having a game circle about this? Ouch. Topical perhaps, but it screams of "why"...sigh.

I played it ages ago (a mates Xbox) - I enjoyed it most of the time, up to the...zombies. Bloody zombies. I died quite a few times going through the maze of corridors with respawning bad guys and no ammo to be found. It basically fell off from there. Stuck out a bit that part.

The annoying plot (I want to know more during the game, not from reading wikipedia!) didn't contribute to my enjoyment, sadly.

However, it was polished in its way, and some combat was fun (or sometimes tedious). The zombies were not my thing though. More extreme then Ravenholm!

Halo 2 was more fun but I only played it Co-op, and luckily was fun mainly because of the extra respawning, the short gameplay and terrible graphics in cutscenes really didn't do it any favours.

And multiplayer? I never played either on it, and it should never be used as an excuse for the average singleplayer, especially if that is oversold quite often, ahh well.

I would play Halo 3 to see what it is like. I've heard it is very bright, short and schizophrenic though, so I'm not exactly thinking it'll be the bee's knee's.

I presume since this is now going to change at the start of every month (leaving Dues Ex with a mere half-month) we'll get a new one in November? :)

I've enjoyed Halo's various incarnations at LAN parties a few times, and although I sucked at it, I saw the appeal. It's got quite a few unique and tactically interesting elements, and the design of every element seems to have been constructed with the slower pace of consoles in mind. Rather than trying to shoehorn the heavily twitch-based elements of PC shooters into a console input format, it made the speed of every element in the game more appropriate to the act of fighting against an analog stick to aim where you want to. For one example, the tactical elements of play are by necessity played up to compensate for the diminution of twitch elements. It produces a tangibly different experience from a PC FPS, and that's the point: the appeal is that it's not just Unreal Tournament all over again.

I haven't played enough of it to more fully enumerate these differences or provide examples, and I can't see myself playing it enough to justify paying for it, so I'm gonna have to sit this one out.

I played Halo: Combat Evolved on PC for about a year 3 or so years back. I think I did the single player through once, and then ignored it for multiplayer after that. The thing that got me was the unique style for a shooter. While Quake and UT were trying for insanely fast combat, Halo is deceptively slow. For an avid PC gamer at the time, it was refreshing. And since I had friends to play with, we could have some truly impressive moments. Halo, or any game, need not be revolutionary. Halo iterates on several already present concepts, sharpening them and adding it's own unique style. They made just the right tweaks to make the game fascinating for me - at least for a time.

Prior to Halo on XBox, I played dozens of PC FPS, things like Kingpin, Soldier Of Fortune, Shogo, Elite Force, Blood, Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Half Life, Jedi Knight and Gunman: Chronicles (A much overlooked game I must say). I'd briefly played GoldenEye on my brothers N64 but not really enough to remember it that well.

I remembered Halo from when it was a third person PC title, and having just got into console gaming via Soul Calibur I picked up Halo along with an XBox a few days after it was released.

Over the next few months I completed Halo no less than six times, once on Co-Op, and I barely touched multiplayer. Even though I own both sequels I've still rarely played multiplayer.

It took me a while, but I've come to realise the reason why Halo was such a big deal for me, and it's precisely why it is considered dull and repeatitive by a lot of people, especially predominantly PC gamers. In most FPS games you progressively get better weapons, and enemies get progressively harder, those games constantly push you to do new things and show you new sights and new challenges until the big confrontation at the end and then it's over.

Halo showed you most of the weapons and enemies within the first three levels, and with three levels left you have seen everything there is. Instead of relying on a constant stream of new weapons or harder enemies Halo limits both to only those that are strongly differentitated from each other. It lets you learn the strengths and weaknesses of the weapons and enemies and then builds on that, once you start to understand how best to deal with a particular enemy it doesn't remove it and replace it with another like a lot of FPS games, but it asks you to fight that enemy you understand as well as some new ones you don't. By the end of the game you can be fighting eight different types of enemies at once (4 types of Covenant, 3 types of Flood, and Sentinals), and you have to really understand how all those elements interaction in order to get through combat effectively.

Of course if you never really learn the differences between the weapons or the strengths and weaknesses of the enemies it just seems repeatitive as you're always fighting Elites and Grunts right through the game and until you get to the Flood nothing really different happens. If you do learn the deeper interactions you don't see it as fighting Elites again but as fighting Elites but this time with Jackels in support, and Hunters. Or Elites in a close environment, or Elites on vehicles. They are still Elites and everything you're learn about their behaviour and weakness still applies but the specifics have changed.

Precision aiming is never the priority in Halo, understanding the interactions of weapons and enemies is, but because of that the PC translation of Halo just feels wrong as it's nowhere near as precise as a straight PC FPS, but the game was nevered design for that to be the case.

Halo 2 suffered because it tried to be more like a PC FPS, it added elements like Boss Battles to make progression feel like you got something new and different. The problem was those Boss Battles never gave you a chance to learn how best to deal with them and subsequently apply that knowledge which is what Halo 1 had been all about. Fortunately Halo 3 limits those type of encounters and returns to the Halo 1 style of being all about mastery of the gameplay systems.

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