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Halo wasn't the first shooter. Halo wasn't the first to introduce online multiplayer. Halo wasn't even the first Bungie game to feature an armored peacekeeper and sexy female AI battling aliens in outer space. Halo, in many ways, is unoriginal.
Yet no other series – with the possible exception of Grand Theft Auto – has had such a clear, obvious and indisputable impact on the videogame industry over the past decade. To welcome the release of Halo: Reach tomorrow, which also marks the end of Bungie's involvement with their best-selling creation, here are seven of the franchise's biggest influences.
What Halo did: Master Chief? Not the first hero to wear a mask. However, because of his clever costume design, sparse yet strangely magnetic voice performance and tantalizingly incomplete origin story, Master Chief was the character that made facelessness so fashionable in recent gaming.
What the industry has done since: Realizing that a cool, shiny helmet is a hell of a lot easier to render than realistically animated eyes, mouths and hair – and that the lack of these can make personalities optional as well – dozens of developers have copied Halo's "blank slate" formula. Isaac in the original Dead Space is one high-profile example. The cliché's even gone meta now, with jokes (Carmine in Gears of War) and philosophical statements (Big Daddy in BioShock) on the matter.
What Halo did: The fifteen skulls in Halo 2 and thirteen skulls in Halo 3 are no ordinary collectibles. Tucked away in nearly impossible-to-reach corners of each campaign mission, and often requiring a very specific, very special action to appear, they are so well hidden that most players weren't aware of their existence until searching weeks later on the internet. More importantly, the skulls actually did something – such as increase the difficulty or change the dialogue – making all the trouble worthwhile.
What the industry has done since: Collectibles have replaced cheats. Putting them in your game is as necessary as remembering to add graphics – players simply expect to find them, and are disappointed when they don't. Some titles only reward you with Trophies or Achievements, but the most popular have learned from Halo… if the collectible hunt is elaborate enough, people will play and talk about your game for much, much longer. Example? The Riddler Challenges in Batman: Arkham Asylum.