*Apologies for the chat audio clipping in this first video.
Two Spartans prepare for battle. One crash-lands on an unfamiliar cosmic installation to discover its secrets for the first time; the other wages a calculated, well-rehearsed assault on Halo’s control room.
Every Halo fan knows few things are as brutally satisfying as hearing a Grunt’s childish squeals while his companions fall before him… and that pistol-whipping him as he flees is one of those things. However, my Spartan ally does not. He’s never played a Halo game before.
That’s right. My buddy, Mike, was a PlayStation fan during Halo’s heyday and a fairly recent first-person shooter convert on top of that. He only got behind the trigger when the Resistance games came out, otherwise passing winter nights in front of PlayStation classics like the Uncharted and Ratchet and Clank series.
I, on the other hand, logged countless hours of alien decimation on Halo’s ring worlds alongside my brother and friends throughout high school and college. Completing every mission in Halo: Combat Evolved on ‘Legendary’ is one of my most accomplished feats in gaming. Yes, even the part with the sword-wielding Elites right after being grav-lifted onto the Covenant cruiser Truth and Reconciliation. I hated that part.
Halo 1 is 14 years old, yet I enjoy it far more than many modern games of the same genre. It was a golden egg, an outlier of its time, and it has cemented its status as one of the greatest console first-person shooters of all time (Sorry Taylor Swift, you’ll get ‘em next time). What makes Halo stand above other shooters with great gameplay is its charm.
The game doesn’t just have characters, it has character. It is believable that the fearful bottom-feeder race of grunts is forced into battle by stronger Covenant. The powerful Elites speak backwards English, prompting loyal fans to decipher their barking orders and sneering taunts. An Elite aggressively crouching, shaking his head and snarling ‘wort wort wort!’ was the mark of a formidable enemy.
The Flood is less interesting but still satisfying to fight. I’ll always remember creating packs ‘flood buds’ by shooting off their arms and heads so they harmlessly chased the Chief through the Library. All in all, Bungie created an alien army that felt like an important cast of characters rather than an endless stock of terrorist whack-a-mole victims.
Even the weapons have character. No one can say the Needler is like a slightly reskinned M4, and it took 15 years until the release of Call of Duty Advanced: Warfare to see a new grenade type with the level of ingenuity of the plasma grenade. (Protip: Combine the two for won-ton explosive mayhem).
The human weapons aren’t boring M4 clones, either. The original Pistol rings out with a definitive punch and the Assault Rifle’s gruff blare tears into Covenant with satisfying results. The Warthog’s infinite propensity to fishtail was so unique it spawned constant bickering over who got to drive. It was difficult to master, but those who were good at it wore it like a badge of honor amongst fellow gamers. Warthog jousting, anyone?
Halo also held secrets that have surfaced over the decades. We learned to press X to remain on the Pelican dropship on the Assault on the Control Room and 343 Guilty Spark missions. We discovered horde mode after killing Captain Keys in the first mission. We laughed as the Elite and Sgt. Johnson shared a tender moment before the explosion of the Pillar of Autumn in the secret legendary ending cut scene. We discovered the Grunt easter eggs. Good thing that food nipple’s waiting back at the starship!
Now let’s let our assault rifles growl and our pistols ring out to Halo’s amazing musical score as we spill colorful blood onto Halo’s aged but not aging soil. Let’s begin this fight and find out if Halo: Combat Evolved is as relevant today as I think it is, or if my mind is clouded with logic-trumping nostalgia. Let Mike be the judge as we make our way through the entire Master Chief Collection. Will he wonder why I’m forcing him to play games as old as the Forerunners themselves, or finally understand why Halo is so close to my heart?
Tune in to see Mike’s inaugural journey through John 117’s epic and stay frosty, Spartans. We’re going to finish this fight.