The Escapist Game Circle: Halo

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I'd like to give this Game Circle thing a shot, so I'm just going to jump right in, if that's okay.

I first played Halo a few months after it had come out. I didn't buy it, but was just playing it with a friend at his home a bit. While I was fairly impressed with the implementation of a pretty good co-op mode, I didn't think much of the game at the time (I wasn't really thinking about it critically, at that point) and let it become somewhat forgotten.

Fairly recently, I picked up the first two Halo games again, and played through them both (both solo and with a friend). Taking a more critical approach, this time, I noted a few things that made the first game a pretty darn good first-person shooter when it came out. The real over-arching thing to keep in mind is that Halo doesn't really do any one thing particularly amazingly, but it really is a darn-good, full-package game (something Keiths Dad mentioned above).

As you've all probably noticed by now, Halo is a pretty action-centric game. There can be quite a few enemies assaulting the player at any given time, and they can be doing all sorts of different things. A good comparison here is with another well-known console shooter, Goldeneye. Comparing the combat sequences in Halo with those in Goldeneye really demonstrates just how many more combat angles there are in this Xbox behemoth. The sheer number of things going on in a battle can far exceed the scope of many earlier console shooters. Then, you add vehicles into the mix. As if the fairly complex shooter terrain in the game isn't enough, you've got the implementation of fairly well-done vehicle combat. Primarily, this allows for a lot more mobility in a combat situation, both for the player and his opponents. What this all does is give Halo quite a bit of combat depth, particularly in the larger, outdoor environments. Indoor environments in the game, in general, feel a lot more constrained and mundane to me, and I think a lot of it is just contrast with what the outdoor offers.

I also have to say I quite like the exposition. It's not intrusive, as it can be in something like a JRPG (see: Tales of Symphonia), and it tends to happen in running, in-game dialogue, or in fairly brief cutscenes that don't happen overly often. The result is (with a nod to Dyselon who noted this earlier) that the game tends to flow from mission to mission extremely well. I find that the flow and atmosphere tend to be helped along by a darn good supporting soundtrack, which is always nice.

Granted, there are problems in the game. AI problems show up fairly frequently in the more complex battle situations (which really isn't a problem unique to this game). The difficulty settings can make the game damn hard, but the balance sometimes seems out of whack - some battles become head smashingly frustrating when ramped up, while others really aren't much more difficult at all. You can create some framerate issues at times (especially if you're trying a speed run or something, where you're not killing all the enemies before moving on), but they aren't particularly frequent.

Also, the thing about the game not really doing one area brilliantly can make it seem bland or unoriginal, especially if you're a fan of certain types of first person shooters. If you're a PC gamer, you're probably not going to be overly impressed by anything in the game. However, I'd challenge you to put forth another game that wraps as many of those things into a good, cohesive package as Halo does. Even with the fairly notable selection of excellent PC shooters, there aren't many (even now, years after Halo: Combat Evolved's release). On a console, it'd be news to me if there were any that came close.

To be honest, I would have to say I usually would prefer a game that excels in one area to one that does a lot of stuff pretty well (I like to think Plato would approve of this state of mind). That said, Halo: Combat Evolved must have surpassed whatever threshold I have set forth, because I found it to be pretty enjoyable.

Wow, isn't it amazing that by just mentioning halo you can get more posts in a couple days than deus ex got in a month?

Not to mention the 6 pages deep that yahtzee's thread goes.........

Anyway, I played a few hours of halo a couple years back and was enjoying it a lot until I got bored with repetitive hallways and put it down never to pick it up again.
I guess since its the game of the month, then now is as good a time as any to try and get through it.

Like it, don't like it. Complain like a little spoiled 5 year old in a store full of candy. Does not change the fact that the game was well received, and maybe, just maybe, you happen to fall in the minority crowd of people that could not find the same enjoyment many millions of people have found in the game. A decent game has been know to, slip under the radar, so to speak and be a surprise catch for some. Yet these games sill seem to fall into niche great to some, utter rubbish to others. Hmm, let me put this another way, when have you seen a game that was complete crap (generally received as bad, not simply bad in your view) sell even half as many copies as halo has? So maybe, there is something your not getting.

Hell someone out there owns games like BMX XXX and Bloodrayne, and probably thinks those are good games. The difference is in the opinions of people, to each there own. Just maybe it is time to take a steep back, and stop being so defensive of your opinions that you lash out at a group of people millions strong, doing everything short of calling them stupid for not agreeing with you.

goestoeleven:
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.

I wouldn't say that Halo is "unfairly" bashed. The game has "good effort, retard" written all over it, and yet somehow this bastion of mediocrity has managed to retroactively throw the curve for all of the genuinely good shooters that we PC gamers have come to love over the past ten years. Okay, fair enough, the contempt for Halo can get downright aristocratic at times, but we shouldn't let the weaker criticisms overshadow the stronger ones: Halo is a watered-down fauxlex of a shooter that doesn't even have to hold a candle to other games in the genre because as far the gaming media is aware there simply fucking aren't any.

Woozy:
I wouldn't say that Halo is "unfairly" bashed. The game has "good effort, retard" written all over it, and yet somehow this bastion of mediocrity has managed to retroactively throw the curve for all of the genuinely good shooters that we PC gamers have come to love over the past ten years. Okay, fair enough, the contempt for Halo can get downright aristocratic at times, but we shouldn't let the weaker criticisms overshadow the stronger ones: Halo is a watered-down fauxlex of a shooter that doesn't even have to hold a candle to other games in the genre because as far the gaming media is aware there simply fucking aren't any.

How much Halo did you play? What about it did you dislike? What do you mean by mediocre?

Woozy:
Okay, fair enough, the contempt for Halo can get downright aristocratic at times,

That's exactly it. People like to prop themselves up by hating on popular things. Their loss, really.

Sometimes, things can achieve massive popularity and still be great. Like Halo. While millions unashamedly enjoy this awesome game, you can go back to whatever obscure title it is you think is so great and keep thinking you're smarter and better than Halo players.

Also, some of us don't have the resources to maintain a PC gaming rig and update drivers and cards and all that junk every 6 months.

Console gamers have a more fun and social experience. We sit on couches together passing controllers around, laughing and talking, sharing real human connections; meanwhile, PC gamers are sitting in a chair, all by themselves, with their faces inches from the screen wearing headsets to talk.

Goldeneye, Halo and now Halo 3 provide a much more fun and rewarding experience than any PC game is capable of.

What struck me about Halo when it first came out (and still does) was how replayable it was. The game was a natural for multiplayer matches because the physics, the joy of shooting the weapons, the moon gravity feel of playing the stronger than strong Master Chief, the swervy wonderfulness of driving the vehicles and the honestly impressive AI all combined to make an experience that felt just slightly different each time through. Different enough that I committed suicide more than once just to get another go at a particularly demanding section of the game.

Story-wise, it was fun SF romp with just enough "woo" to keep it interesting through the dullest parts of the game (Library), but just as you don't watch anything with 'Bruckheimer"n the credits for deep, satisfying storylines, you don't play Halo for anything but the experience and the awe-inspiring fun.

I've become less enamored of the overarching storyline in the intervening years, but before it became a media sensation, Halo was just a really fun game with a cool story and it didn't feel like any game ever made - on any console. Sorry to the "I hate console games, even halo" crowd, but this really was a step forward, not simply a watering down. I've been playing PC shooters since there were PC shooters, and Halo matched and bested even the best of them at that time, in all but depth of narrative, for which Half-Life still holds the crown.

Halo was not the one thing that convinced me to let my aging PC die of natural causes and jump ship to the couch, but knowing it was there certainly helped. It's arguable that there are still experiences one simply can't get anywhere but on a PC, and that consoles, therefore, are inferior. It's arguable, but irrelevant. The fact is, at this point in time, you can get a comparable experience playing on either platform, and barring fanaticism, there's simply no need for invective on that point.

I don't think anyone has mentioned this so I will. The best part about Halo:CE is that last level. I've never played a more entertaining vehicle level in a FPS. The sole goal of the level is to make it off the Pillar of Autumn before it blows up no unlike the rest of the game it doesn't ask the player to fire a weapon or be the hero. It just ask the player to move their butt before it blows up.

Also Halo didn't have big boss fights and they weren't missed but for some reason they are in Halo 2 and 3 which is disappointing.

For Halo having first been released in 2001 it really wasn't a bad first person shooter.

When I think of all the FPSs I've played there's one thing that really stands out for me with Halo, not the multiplayer other games have done that better, but the vehicles. If it ends up on any "best of" list it should be marked as one of the first FPSs to do vehicle combat right and in a way that was easy to pick up and rewarding of mastery. I think that the vehicle gameplay maybe it's one really contribution to the genre as a whole.

How much Halo did you play? What about it did you dislike? What do you mean by mediocre?

You can't really be a male 20-something living on a college campus without having some exposure to Halo. As of today I've completed all three Halo games on the "Heroic" difficulty (Legendary in the case of CE), and I've competed in the multiplayer mode both over LAN, and over XboxLive. My room mate is, it seems, the world's biggest Halo apologist, and routinely pesters me to play the game with him so I can "see what I'm missing".

"What I'm missing", to answer your next question, is about 30% of the FOV and movement speed I would be getting if I'd been playing Counter-Strike or, more recently, TF2 on my PC. Halo 3 is supposed the on the cutting edge of electronic gaming technology, on a console that from the beginning was designed to appropriate the experience (and, really, the culture) of PC gaming, and it plays like shit because the developers still won't bite the bullet and give me a fucking mouse to shoot with.

Edit:

Zoidbergio:
That's exactly it. People like to prop themselves up by hating on popular things. Their loss, really.

That isn't what I meant. It's possible to think Halo is garbage without impotently railing against the mainstream. The point is that it is possible to spoil Halo for yourself by playing other games in the genre on hardware better suited to its style. Which is fucking absurd, considering how technically advanced Halo was in other areas.

So, any idea what November's Game Circle game will be? Halo, unfortunately, sparked a week of discussion, then died. Now that Orange Box has sucked up the majority of my gaming life, I'm well overdue for an old, but interesting, game to play.

I liked Halo 1. It was fun on the Xbox, but since I'm not a console gamer, I picked up the PC version about a year ago. The cut-and-paste level design is a far cry from, well... Far Cry, as well as other great PC shooters like Half-Life. However, it was quite fun: there was a lot to do, usually, the weapon balance was good, and it didn't do that irritating thing where you can carry 12 guns and all their ammo in your pocket. The melee attack was a nice addition that has been copied in quite a few games since, and although some people didn't like the recharging shields, I didn't mind. I thought it fit the game well. It's an action game that does not pretend to be realistic. The story is not great, but it's passable, and at least it's there, which already puts it above many other shooters. The multiplayer was fun, and actually resulted in some fairly tactical on-on-one battles, which is a very rare feat. Unfortunately, it's really only fun when you're playing with friends, because the online community are all incredible assholes, and no matter which gametype the map is set to, all they want to do is play free-for-all Slayer. Also, half the servers were always set to "Rocket Launchers Only" which completely removed all the tactics, and therefore most of the fun, from multiplayer gaming.

Halo 2, I only played at a friend's house, so I did most of the campaign on co-op. Some of the battles were quite fun, but overall the game was not as tight. The new weapons weren't quite as balanced, and the story made little sense. Environments were pretty, and animations were improved, but I kind of liked Halo's too-fast animations. I guess what I'm saying is Halo 2 had more style, but less charm, and ultimately, less substance.

I haven't played Halo 3, but it's fun, from what I've heard, apart from being really short. I think Bungie probably corrected their mistakes from Halo 2, though I doubt they reached the same heights as Halo 1. I wonder where the Marathon designers went? I heard that a lot of them jumped ship when Bungie was bought by Microsoft...

Woozy:

"What I'm missing", to answer your next question, is about 30% of the FOV and movement speed I would be getting if I'd been playing Counter-Strike or, more recently, TF2 on my PC. Halo 3 is supposed the on the cutting edge of electronic gaming technology, on a console that from the beginning was designed to appropriate the experience (and, really, the culture) of PC gaming, and it plays like shit because the developers still won't bite the bullet and give me a fucking mouse to shoot with.

First off, I think you deserve a little bit of praise for backing up your criticism with real reasons. About the best anyone else does when putting Halo down beyond '12 year olds like it' consists of 'a mouse is just so much better and...did I mention aiming with a mouse yet?'

Which actually gets me thinking--how realistic is it to use a mouse to aim something like a shotgun. Should mouse-like accuracy be restricted to, say, _Star Trek_ games? I mean it kind *is* like using a Phaser.

Anyways, my question is: why do all those things necessarily make the game mediocre, though? Less FOV means it's easier to flank someone. Slower movement speed means you can't run your way out of a bad tactical situation as easily, not to mention it makes grenades/melee weapons more effective. Not having a mouse means the game aims differently--from seeing the shots really good Halo players pull off, it's not like the lack of mouse means there's no way to shoot *well*.

Could it be that PC shooters penalize you for making a mistake, while _Halo_ rewards you for doing something great? I don't think the 'die if you mess up/kill if you do good' is a zero sum issue. I used to catch the WSVG on cable sometimes and they were using PCs, and it seemed like the really good players just ran around as much as they could while taking the other person out from across the screen--and doing so with regularity. On the other hand I sometimes catch _Halo_ on the MLG program and it seems like it's more about moving just a little in an irregular pattern and that while across the screen shots happen, they don't happen nearly as often as was happening in the WSVG making each one a bigger deal.

In fact, to go back to something Malygris asked in comment 20: maybe it's just these things that make the _Halo_ multi-player that much better than the PC games with multi-player. Maybe that loss of some control just makes multi-player more fun, makes for better game flow.

In short, all your criticisms go to 'I don't have as much control'. Well, is that the only measure of a shooter? Maybe the people who like _Halo_ measure differently.

Personally, I've tried _Half-Life_; I've even tried _Thief_ which plays like a shooter, just the levels are set up to make stealth your best approach. Really didn't care for either of them. And I *wanted* to play them: my favorite movies are 'science gone bad' like _The Andromeda Strain_ and I thought the whole idea of _Thief_ was aweome. If I go back to either of them, it'll be for the story and I'll be playing *in spite* of the gameplay. So maybe I'm just weird, but, I'll take _Halo_ over _Half-Life_ despite trying them both, and being as excited for the latter as I was for the former.

I played FPS games on my faithful old PC for years before picking up my XBox, which came with a copy of Halo as well as Dead or Alive 2. I didn't pick up my Xbox until Halo 2 was out, so I was pretty behind the times.
I don't see why hardcore PC fans cling so strongly to the believe that console FPS games can't hold a candle to console shooters. Sure, I don't see System Shock 2 coming to a console any time soon (except for, you know, the whole BioShock thing) but can you really sit there and tell me halo didn't compare to games like Quake 2/3, Unreal tournament, etc.? And I'm about as confused by half Life fans as most people are of my interest in Halo. I played through Half Life and it cemented my belief hat shooters haven't changed one damn bit since the first time I fired up Doom. You point and shoot. with the exception of more interactivity in a 3D environment and prettier visuals, not a thing has changed. This is my belief and you can't change it. The FPS genre is not, will not be, and can not be revolutionary in any way shape or form. You can just evolve it a little bit here and there, so I don't get offended or indignant when Halo-bashers looking to get a rise out of someone say there's no difference between playing Doom or Halo. They're right.
Halo had a solid multiplayer engine and while the story was basic and somewhat derivative, what wasn't by that point? Frankly, Halo was the first game that felt truly epic to me, as in massive in scope. This is one thing people always argue with me on: they feel the idea of a lone hero trekking across vast, largely featureless terrain with little or no companionship is a tired, boring schematic on which to base a franchise. These same people call Shadow of the Colossus a work of art, so fuck them. I liked the feeling the game gave me when playing through it, and when I got to the end I felt a real sense of accomplishment as the Chief sat back and tried unconvincingly to accept Cortana's encouragement. He knew there was still a bigger fight to come, that maybe disabling Halo wasn't the best thing to do. But he'd gone in and done his job and now he wanted to go home. I felt that. I believed in it.

Halo had a basic story, an enigmatic to the point of characterless hero protagonist, and yet it somehow worked. The gameplay elements were elementary at best but it still worked. It was an engaging tale despite its lack of complexity and I think the only thing wrong with Halo was Halo 2 - the poor continuation of the story, the broken yet still impossibly popular multiplayer. This killed a lot of enthusiasm for Halo 3, though the game has still done remarkably well. Did Halo deserve two sequels? No, it could have survived without one and if there WERE going to do one, it should have been a good one. Halo 2 was not the worthy successor it needed to be.
However, it brought online multiplayer on consoles into the limelight, doing all the really hard work in bringing us to where we are today. I think it's a good place, despite the "hooting dickholes" that infest Xbox Live.

Has this been done on purpose to generate a 100 pages long thread, with half of them being sanctionned with some red and yellow?
Need some target practice? :D

Halo and it's subsequent sucessors may have all the right things in place, but you don't really get much experience out of the game. Theres no atmosphere, no clever plot twists, no interesting quirks. It's like the game was designed to be average.

While I believe multiplayer and co-op are a must for games, singleplayer is just as, if not more, important. Besides, Halo's multiplayer isn't even that good. Lackluster matches, poorly designed maps... Even Goldeneye's multiplayer was more fun.

One thing that always confuses me is how people claim the game is epic. You play a faceless cyborg, jumping around lazily designed maps aided by your inept AI comrades. That's not epic. That's not even interesting. There are flash games with a better developed story.

As for the third installment; Team Fortress 2, Quake Wars and Call of Duty 4 are out / coming out soon. Why settle for less?

Of course, this is all my humble opinion. I'm fine with people playing Halo. What I don't like is when they start claiming it's the "game of the year" or "best game ever", because thats giving credit where credit isn't due.

Whoa ho ho, even this thread created many arguments whether Halo is good or mediacore and if it stands against or down upon FPS shooters.

Lol, the arguments just keep on coming. I love the internet.

Halo did not deserve even one sequel, let alone two.

Ace of Spades:
Halo did not deserve even one sequel, let alone two.

YAY another Halo haterz. I should shut up now because I'm necroming another dead thread.

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