All right, let’s get this out of the way: Halo is, for some reason or another, one of the most controversial video games ever made. It boils down to the fact that, at its core, it’s a first-person shooter. The only reason people love it/hate it is because they’re either in love with the Xbox, or they own Macintoshes and PS2s and want everybody involved with it to burn in hell. I love the shit out of it, and if you’re a Microsoft-hating Sony, Nintendo, or PC fanboy, consider this: Grow up. Just because your precious Bungie left Mac development behind to switch to PC and then to Xbox, that doesn’t make them the devil. It makes them not poor.
I’ll tell you, there’s one defining reason that I know this game is spectacular. My friend Braden used to hate first-person shooters. HATE them. I tried everything on the planet to get him to like or even consider them, but nope. No dice. So, cut to 2001. His stepfather buys an Xbox and Halo, and Braden goes over to their house to play it. I call him on his cell sometime later. The transcript goes as follows:
Travis: Hey man, I—did you just say “hello” or “halo”?
Braden: I said “halo” because I’m playing Halo.
Travis: You’re a liar. You’re not playing Halo.
Braden: Yes I am. Steve bought an Xbox and now I’m playing Halo. As a matter of fact, I’m on my second run through right now.
Travis: But…but you didn’t even seem excited about the Xbox! I’m the one who was excited! It’s the Dreamcast all over again!
Braden: Yeah. I remember that. I called you just so you could hear me playing Sonic Adventure over the phone. Remember that? Remember how you started sobbing? Because I had Sonic? Huh? Remember that? Do you? About how I didn’t even want a Dreamcast and I did it just to piss you off?
Halo… Ahhh, Halo. Where to begin? I love this game to death. I ditched work and went over there and we sat in the back room playing Halo, stopping only (and I mean ONLY) to smoke. We didn’t break to eat, to leave, or to piss on each other if we caught fire.
Now, Halo‘s gotten some slack from crybaby bitches in the past. I’m obviously not a system hater, as I own a GameCube and an Xbox, but Jesus H. Christ just SHUT THE FUCK UP IF YOU DON’T LIKE A GAME! Guess what? I hate Splinter Cell, but it’s won awards all over the place and a lot of people seem to like it. Goody for them. You don’t see me in forums going, “Dude! Halo rules and Hitman 2 sucks because I’m terrible at it!” That’s basically the gist of their rants. I firmly believe a number of these jackasses haven’t ever played the game, because really, if you hate Halo that much, are you going to go buy an Xbox? Didn’t think so.
Anyway, for a launch game, Halo is absolutely amazing. The graphics are killer, the game is quick, with great multiplayer, and most importantly, it’s fucking fun as hell to play. I love FPS games anyway, and this one just blows the lid off of everything before or after it. What was it about Halo? I mean, we’d all seen FPSs before, but there was something about it that just rang sweet. For once, we could look some PC gamers in the face and say, “You know, mouse/keyboard combinations are pretty cool, but consider this: The PC gaming scene still sucks balls.” Unless you love Railroad Tycoon Ticket-Taker 16, Warcraft 7, or Civilization 54, you’re just not going to have enough options. PC gamers can be good people. I know; I’ve met some. But there’s also smug, arrogant shitfucks that think the only good game is one that requires a dozen patches just to play the damn thing in the first place. I admit I felt a little evil happiness when their beloved Marathon developers were bought up by “the man” and thus were apparently ruined forever.
Yet I digress. I’m certainly not here to pick on PC gamers. It’s just that, for once, everything that seemed to be going wrong with a game (see: Apocalypse or Daikatana) ending up working nearly perfectly in the end. Everything clicked. From a strategy game through however many more builds came along, Halo did two things perfectly: one, it saved Microsoft’s motherfucking ass with the Xbox by delivering a killer app, and two, it really, truly brought first-person shooting to the mainstream (yeah, yeah, all you GoldenEye freaks can put your hands down now, we know that one was one of the firsts).
With Halo, we have to look at the bigger picture. It gave us intelligent soldiers to fight alongside. It gave us enemies that learned, communicated, reacted. It gave us this beautiful world to play in, vehicles, and little touches such as a dead body twitching and firing off one last shot into the ground in their death throes. It gave us co-op play (four times through and counting!), but most of all, it convinced my first-person-shooter-hating friend that first-person shooters don’t, in fact, have to suck. Just wait until I get to Halo 2. It’s even better. This, along with Eternal Darkness, comes as close to a perfect score as I’ve ever given. It’s just that good. Oh, and good goddamn luck on the legendary setting.