The Genius of Halo

Halo will leave its mark in history, despite being such a young franchise. Its list of accomplishments are staggering: successfully supporting a new console into the market; cranking out revenue numbers which topple the movie industry; heck, Master Chief even managed to snag a Burger King deal.

Without the Halo franchise, the videogame industry would be a much different place. Xbox Live, Marketplace, and even XNA would have been pipe dreams sitting somewhere within the Microsoft fortress. Sony would be considered the pioneer of online console videogames, and Nintendo may have never built the Wii. For a game like Halo to have had such industry-wide effect, one would expect it to stack up to be a very good — if not genius — level of game design. While not all aspects of Halo can be touted, there are several which can stand tall.



Seamless Integration of Vehicular Combat

Vehicular combat and the first-person shooter genre don’t mix well, if at all. Transitioning from combat on foot to piloting a vehicle without making either side too powerful or too weak was always a constant challenge. Traditionally, FPS games would devote entire levels to an on-rails experience where players dealt with the weaponry of some vehicle while an AI pilot followed a predetermined route, thus not straying too far from the core FPS experience.

Until Halo, no title had seamlessly merged vehicles into the FPS experience to a point where they became a powerful and useful alternative when dealing with threats. Jumping into a Warthog and mowing down the Covenant was fun, not frustrating. Whether it was the powerful Scorpion, agile Ghost, or quick ATV, the vehicular combat in Halo has cobbled together more memorable moments then most FPSs combined. Many titles have tried to capture the Halo vehicle magic, but the genius of the Warthog and his brethren remain solely with Halo.



Limited Arsenal

FPS games don’t lend themselves well to reality. The necessary design of having a single character wade through waves of enemies is both a curse and a blessing. In addition to this, before Halo, the player could stockpile an entire arsenal without breaking a sweat. Carrying dual pistols, shotguns, a rocket launcher, energy pulse rifle, gravity warping cannon, a bow and arrow, and saw blades was the standard. Yes, the backpack is that big. Players took the idea for what it was and enjoyed games regardless.

Halo smartly tossed this design choice out the window in favor of being able to only hold two weapons at any given time. Suddenly, choices by the player directly affected how a fight would play out based on the weapons they had. Improvisation, adaptation, and creativity on the player’s end created endless tactics, encounters, and unique moments thanks to the limited arsenal Halo stuck players with. The trend has continued throughout other titles, proving the design choice has its merits. Sometimes less, indeed, is more.


Xbox Live

The Integral Live Experience

Online play is all about communities; a group of people, focused on one interactive experience and exploring all the options and nuances of the world. Websites, forums, online profiles, and even status updates were at one time solely enjoyed by the PC gaming community. With the release of Xbox Live a year after the original Xbox, the foundation of an online community had been established. While several titles tried to the best of their ability to create the integral Xbox Live experience, it wasn’t until Halo 2 landed in stores that Bungie showed the world how it shold be done. All the joys PC gamers swooned over now sat firmly in the hands of Xbox owners.

For several years no one came close to the Halo 2 online experience, and it wasn’t until Halo 3 that another title matched the genius and evolution of online console play that Halo 2 introduced. Halo 3 came stocked with options like in-game recording, screenshot sharing, custom maps, and an extensive internet backbone thanks to Other console titles have tried to match the Halo community, and some may surpass Halo in what options players had, but when it comes to creating the first fully-integrated console online gaming experience, the honor lies with Halo.



Play With a Friend

Until the last console generation, gaming was a lonely pastime on the console front. With no online play, or the ability to join up together, it was clear why the general public considered the average gamer to have little to no social life. While several Xbox games came equipped initially with a multiplayer component, none of them allowed for the seamless integration of two players to take on the single-player challenge together. Co-op was one of the best features of the original Halo. It created countless water cooler moments we could talk about with our friends, and added in an incentive to teamwork as opposed to fragging your buddy.

Each iteration of Halo has included co-op, with the third increasing the player count to four, and adding in the ability to play with friends from around the globe. Where other games may have perfected the co-op experience and expanded on the core idea, Gears of War and Army of Two being two poster children for this, it is clear that Halo was at the forefront for of the co-op console idea.


Love it or hate it, Halo has had some industry-wide influence. Try to imagine a world where FPS still dominate solely on PCs, where Sony and Nintendo are the two gaming companies, and where Microsoft deals only with Vista. The Xbox could have been a major flop, but thanks to a tall, genetically enhanced space marine the Xbox franchise is one of the strongest in the world. Mario did it for Nintendo and Metal Gear did it for the PlayStation. The gaming world would not be the same if Halo never made it past its intial RTS design roots. Our hats go off to Bungie and Master Chief.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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