In November this year Halo: Combat Evolved will celebrate ten years since its release and to commemorate this developer 343 Industries, an offshoot of Microsoft, are remaking this groundbreaking title. But what makes Halo worthy of such treatment?
Well for starters it created features of gameplay that have now become standard issue for any first person shooter; a limited weapon inventory, regenerating health and sophisticated enemy artificial intelligence (AI). All this in your face revolutionary gubbins is only part of what made this game great, as they say the devil’s in the detail, and the pure joy of the original Halo game is found in the quiet moments between the bullet play. The first time you notice that the game allows light to dapple when walking through forest or that the trees sway in the breeze borders on the profound.
In Halo the bad guys came to hunt you.
The new Xbox platform allowed greater background detail than was previously seen in console games and the smart enemy AI meant that the point and shoot combat strategy went out the window. Your enemies, who formed an alien alliance called The Covenant, each had distinct personalities which required different methods of attack to defeat and when they worked together they became a force to be reckoned with. Far from being a duck shoot in combat enemies became tough opponents capable of outsmarting even hardened players. In Halo the bad guys came to hunt you.
The game however wasn’t perfect. The friendly AI wasn’t as developed and more often than not your comrades would die leaving you facepalming at the precarious situation you now found yourself in. The incidental dialogue from your Marine mates did go someway to making up for this and once you and an AI gunner commandeered a Warthog (like a Land Rover, with a Minigun) the fun that could be had was endless. You began to bond with your computerised companions no matter how dumb they could be.
…multiplayer meant up to 16 players could unleash all kinds of mayhem on their friends…
A two weapon limit, as opposed to a limitless arsenal, gave the game added depth with the player having to plan ahead lest they be outnumbered and even worse outgunned later in the level. Having an empty rocket launcher you’ve been holding on to wasn’t much help when faced with 30 unhappy aliens. The cooperative mode allowed you and a friend to take on the Covenant together and the multiplayer meant up to 16 players could unleash all kinds of mayhem on their friends in some superbly designed levels.
This level of thought and attention to detail made Halo tower above its contemporary competitors and the record breaking early sales ensured a sequel. Ten years on and Halo is now more of a cultural phenomenon than a video game with a huge fan base, merchandise range and persistent rumours of a possible movie adaptation. The game set a standard which all games in the First Person Shooter genre are judged and so a new revamped version of it will hopefully introduce a new audience to the Halo universe and maybe let them in on what they’ve been missing.
Image courtesy of EA Games