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Why I now suddenly love Halo after 11 years of total, uninterrupted indifference towards the Chief

This might not be news to some of you, but it turns out that Halo is really good. I made this discovery rather rapidly just last weekend. Well I say “rapidly”. You’ll have to discount my previous 11 years of multi-faceted derision from the equation in order for that statement to remain strictly accurate. 

You see I’d never got on with Halo. My attitude towards it over the years has been one of indifference at best, and one all too frequently typified by searing damnation of its generic universe, generic characters, and slow, generic, “my first FPS” gameplay. When I first played Combat Evolved on my uni friend’s Xbox I wasn’t impressed in the slightest. I was feasting upon a diet of Quake and Half-Life at the time, and the lumpen, broad strokes exploits of a faceless jolly green giant space marine in a cartoon sci-fi universe just did not do it for me at all. And as for all of those claims that Halo had changed the face of gaming forever by making FPS work on a console? Pah. Goldeneye had done that four years earlier as far as I was concerned. The N64 just lacked the Xbox’s second analogue stick. 

I tried again with Halo 2, playing a chunk of the campaign in co-op with another friend. But again I couldn’t summon up even one iota of the effort required to care less about it. I had TimeSplitters 2 by that point, which was faster, funnier, more imaginative in its design and storytelling, and looked way better from an art design perspective. And then Half-Life 2 happened. Sorry Halo. Another nice try, but I wasn’t biting.

And so it continued until last weekend. Every new Halo was a bit shinier and brought a couple of new tweaks, but a quick dabble always gave me the unpleasant, sluggish feeling of playing Quake III underwater. It still felt like a training wheels FPS. A competent game that copied the basics of multiple better games, but didn’t execute them with as much finesse or flair.

Whatever Halo did, it never managed to shake my perception that the franchise had just got lucky. That it had gained an artificially high profile by simple virtue of being one of the stronger first-party exclusives in the Xbox’s launch line-up and had coasted along on undeserved circumstantial hype since then. So I kept going back to what I saw as the smarter, more interesting shooters, and left Halo on the shelf time and time again. With Half-Life and Portal and Bioshock and Battlefield multiplayer to occupy me, there was no way that the Chief could possibly grab my attention.

But now he has. I rinsed through about 70% of Halo 4’s campaign in one sitting on Friday night. I finished it off the next day, and I’ve been playing multiplayer during every spare minute ever since. I just really, really like Halo now. Completely and wholeheartedly, and I absolutely cannot and will not stop playing it unless I absolutely have to.

I’ve discovered that I was wrong about it, basically. That’s not something I say about anything very often, because I’m a) usually right about everything and b) always very stubborn. But I was wrong. Despite some flaws in its campaign, Halo 4 has completely won me over.

But how did I get to this point? How did I come to be in possession of my own copy of Halo 4, after so many years unwilling to even use a Spartan-based disc as a novelty beer coaster? The simple explanation is that things have changed a lot in FPS over the last 11 years, and what Halo represents to me now is a very different thing to what it represented in 2001.

You see for me, first-person shooters are about a lot more than simply shooting things from a first-person perspective. Given their viewpoint they’re potentially the most immersive genre of all, but personally that immersion has to come as much from gameplay possibilities as it does from visual fidelity. There’s no point giving me a beautifully rendered world if I don’t feel like my actions within it really matter.

I need to be able to have a meaningful effect on my FPS environments. I need my tactical decisions and the creativity of my thinking to shape or at least strongly influence the way things play out. And I need the game to accommodate my desire for a bespoke, self-authored experience and react to the one I create. To me, FPS guns aren’t weapons. They’re unique, functionally distinct tools with which to cultivate and choreograph eclectic emergent action sequences and mid-fight meta-narratives.  And that sort of thing just doesn’t happen in FPS as much as it used to.

46 comments

  • skull war - November 26, 2012 6:47 a.m.

    halo in general is just crap the master chief character sucks and pretty much has the same level of personality as the guy from doom 1 only thing ive liked about each halo is the multiplayer and thats mainly due to having quite a few friends that play them, i only liked reach and odst campaign the rest i thought were dull and felt more like a chore playing through than fun havnt played 4 yet but if its anything like the rest of the main games then it will sick balls
  • MyCoolWhiteLies - November 24, 2012 9:34 a.m.

    Yeah, the main reason I prefer Halo these days is because you don't die instantly when shot by another player. The skirmishes that come from combat are where I find the most enjoyment. It's something that most FPS games these days barely have.
  • AzumaGames - November 24, 2012 5:09 a.m.

    My problem with this article is that you're speaking about the whole Halo franchise from your experience with one game -- the first two games I played felt incredibly generic and 'safe' in terms of FPS games, and after reading your article it seems that you just like Halo 4 because it 'felt' good rather than citing anything with any real detail. You yourself admit that you had poor experiences with the franchise up until this title. Well-programmed AI and regenerating shields (or health, as the case may be) aren't anything new to FPS games, and if you mean to say that Halo 4 is the apex of such concepts, then I'd have to ask you to explain WHY instead of just stating so... I get that this current batch of Halo games is called the 'redeemer' series, but the idea of absolving the series from all it's sins based on a good experience with ONE of it's games is a bit ridiculous to me. I'm glad you're picking up the older games, because I'd like to see what you think of the series as a whole, rather than stating that Halo is good after playing the most recent entry. So basically what I'm saying is that I am in the same state you were before you played Halo 4, and how I'm hearing this is 'Halo 4 is actually good!' which is the same thing people were telling me when the first game in the series came out; 'Halo is good!' I don't disagree, I'm sure it's a 'good' game, but I don't buy 'good' games. I play games that are innovative and dare to break conventions. It's the same reason I don't consider Bioshock to be especially great in terms of mechanics; the idea of a FPS that utilizes 'powers' is nothing new. It was done in Star Wars: Dark Forces YEARS ago. So does Halo -- as a series -- bring anything new or innovative to it's genre? I'm not asking rhetorically, or trying to upset anyone. It's my actual, genuine question about the series. I tried the first two and felt that they offered nothing new to me, and why I've had my opinion of Halo dangling on the same indifference that you seemed to have had.
  • zombi3grim - November 23, 2012 9:01 p.m.

    I have played every single Halo game ever made. I love the series. I also grew up on Doom, Goldeneye, Quake and Half Life. Tribes and Unreal Tournament as well. Halo fits in with those games extremly well. I find it unfathomable that you could love those games and dismiss Halo. Seems to me you were just afraid to try something new and already hated it before you even tried it. Glad you like it now though. Too bad it couldnt join your sessions of classic FPS gameing like it did mine.
  • Shadow Of Death - November 23, 2012 7:33 p.m.

    I've wanted to get into the Halo games, but unfortunately only the first and second (and I think Reach? Not sure? Possibly 3 might be?) are on PC. I don't want to get into a FPS series if only some of the games are on the PC. It's one thing if the spin-offs aren't on the platform of choice, but if the main series isn't then that's a problem.
  • Person5 - November 24, 2012 12:50 a.m.

    this To be fair, I do have an Xbox and have played Halos 3, ODST, Reach, and 4, but I'd prefer to play them on my computer, It's why I still play CE over and over again. Problem is is that if we all did get our wish and these games were put on PC, they'd be on Games for Windows, not Steam or something good.
  • Fox_Mulder - November 23, 2012 2:12 p.m.

    I'm glad you've "rediscovered" Halo David!
  • gilgamesh310 - November 23, 2012 7:22 a.m.

    My feelings to Halo 4 were not too dissimilar to this.
  • Hig1134 - November 23, 2012 6:10 a.m.

    This was a great article. I actually don't own a 360, but my fiancee has the Halo 4 LE console picked up for me for Xmas. I can't wait for it! I know I've seriously missed out on the Halo series, being primarily a Playstation gamer. I feel blessed that I get to catch up on this legendary series, starting with Halo Aniversary! Sweet!!
  • yonderTheGreat - November 23, 2012 4:21 a.m.

    So... you now like Halo cuz the genre has gotten worse. Sounds about right.
  • zombi3grim - November 23, 2012 8:54 p.m.

    Zooooooooom! The article goes RIGHT over your head!
  • JokerJ0613 - November 24, 2012 8:04 a.m.

    *Hgh Fives zombi3grim*
  • Rhymenocerous - November 23, 2012 2:50 a.m.

    Never played Halo myself, so I won't judge. And come on, enough of this "naming no names" stuff. Just say it; Call.Of.Duty.
  • boondocks50 - November 23, 2012 2:32 a.m.

    Ill probably get hated on for this but I think Halo 4 is my favorite of the series thus far. I really like the focus on the characters rather than the setting and "bad guy". Games that do that have always drawn me in a lil bit more than others. Games that try to convey a story and concept that has you thinking about it after its done. I litterally researched Halo lore for an hour or two after i beat 4; it drew me in that much.
  • Vincent Wolf - November 22, 2012 10:22 p.m.

    I had same kind of thing with James Bond, until I tried "Everything or Nothing", a fantastic videogame back from 2004. Unfortunately my passion with Bond didn't live long, since they recast the best actor who put tuxedo on -- Pierce Brosnan, with this ugly pathetic miserable f**k craig. As for Halo, I fell in love with it from the first time I started to play Halo:CE on PC years back. It actually was like in 2006 or 2007 and I still was hooked up for the game. Universe, covenant, weapons, great AI, well, many things overall. I hate multiplayer though so never even touching it.
  • Evanesco - November 22, 2012 8:50 p.m.

    I wish this would happen to some of my friends who aren't in to Assassin's Creed or GTA games and only play CoD. But that probably won't happen.
  • RebornKusabi - November 22, 2012 8:18 p.m.

    After hating every Halo after the second one (I didn't even really like Halo 1...) and moderately liking Reach (8/10), my opinions on Halo 4 are 100% the exact same as the lovely writer here.
  • ParagonT - November 22, 2012 4:47 p.m.

    Everyone is missing out here unless they have at least read The Fall of Reach book. Please, I implore you all, if your a fan of Halo, bless your eyes with the mystical text of Eric Nylund.
  • AlphaSixInsight - November 23, 2012 2:22 p.m.

    What do you think of Karen Travis' work on the Halo books? I think that she's sloppy, and uncaring. She is no Eric Nylund. Her books have been a catastrophé to Halo cannon, a cancer.

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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