Halo: A Tribute

The Halo series is, in my opinion, the best video game series ever.

It’s an epic journey through a brutal war fought to literally save humanity.  Throughout the main storyline, you play as “Master Chief” – an ironically quiet, humble, subdued character that shoulders the heaviest of burdens.  He is one of few remaining super-soldiers called “Spartans” and is genetically enhanced for combat.  I guess I really don’t want to go too far into the storyline or details of the Halo series – but feel free to read a brief summary on wikipedia if interested.

So what makes the Halo series so great?  Well, There are different aspects in different games – and they culminate together to form something that I find to be profound.  I’ll break down some of my opinions before breaking down what I like most in each of the three main games.

The Master Chief
The hero you play is the single most powerful part in the series.  He hardly ever speaks, but his actions speak volumes.  Fighting until any bitter end, this faceless and nearly voiceless character is a perfect personification of a video game hero…  I think the Bungie designers deserve a fair amount of credit here because the player subconsciously projects themselves fully into this character.  It’s impossible to play through the Halo games and not picture yourself behind the helmet.  I think the fact that you never see the face of Master Chief makes it easier for the player to put themselves in his place.  Even his mirrored visor plays a role, it reflects what he sees allowing the player to unknowingly be put just that little bit more into the character.

A fearless guardian that does whatever it takes, Master Chief’s quiet confidence sets the tone for the entire story…

The Music
Maybe a slighter role in the quality of the series to most people is actually quite strong for me.  The majority of the music the Halo games is original composition via Martin O’donnell and Michael Salvatori.  Their unique style fits perfectly alongside the in-game action, and adds an impossibly perfect touch to the cut-scenes and pre-realease teasers and trailers.  Some of my favorite examples are the Halo 3 E3 Trailer, and the Return to Sender cut-scene.  But, even aside from the impressive original works; there are artists contributions that have had perfect fits within the series.  Specifically here I’m referring to this part in Halo 2 where an instrumental version of “Blow me Away” by Breaking Benjamin plays…

The music is just awesome, plain and simple.  It adds a whole dimension on the game, making it feel as though you’re playing through an amazing action movie.  It couldn’t have possibly been done any better.

The Plot/Story
As I said, I don’t want to simply re-tell the entire story of the Halo series…  But it’s important to address what it adds to the mix.  For me, I relate hugely to this type of storyline.  It’s similar in a way to the Matrix trilogy, or the Harry Potter series.  In the Matrix movies, Neo comes to know that his destiny is literally fight for the survival of the human race.  It is only he that can do it, and it is something he faces without fear no matter the outcome.  The subsequent final battle depicts Neo sprinting full speed toward his fate

Many people may laugh at the mention of Harry Potter here, but it’s honestly a genuine comparison.  Harry has to face the same sort of fight, and once again it’s only him that can do it.  “Neither can live while the other survives” – I still remember that quote from the book, and it is just profound.  My point being – a single person fighting against almost unbeatable odds.

The Halo series has a similar element, where the Master Chief willingly faces fate no matter what the outcome.  Not only to face it, but to run full speed directly at it. I’m not exactly sure why, but that sort of notion really appeals to me.  The fight or flight, the will to act, the choice to keep fighting.  These few examples I believe accurately illustrate what I’m trying to get across.

Finally, the Gameplay
The first Halo game was ground-breaking.  The main launch title that defined the Xbox as a console.  There really isn’t anything much more to say about this first game in the series, other than that it set the bar.  And, also, this warthog jumping that the Vanbergs, Vanlandw and I tried to re-create back when I lived in Ramblewood will always be a part of me.

Halo 2 increased the intensity, pushed the bar further, and all the while brought on a ton of criticism for its introduction of the Arbiter.

Halo 2’s battle against the scarab is possibly my favorite part in any video game.  The music fits it perfectly (once again, a perfect example of the music making the experience).  The first time you leap onto the massive scarab  from a bridge above is really without rival as a standalone moment of gaming excellence.

Halo 2 also honed in the multiplayer capabilities to new levels, and really this was the first case I could recall where the multiplayer was almost more sought-after than the single player campaign.  I personally didn’t get into the multiplayer until later, and I wasn’t all that great at it anyway so my loyalties continued to be with the single player storyline mode.

Most people’s primary complaint as mentioned earlier was the fact that Halo 2 had you play as the Arbiter for several levels.  You get to try out cloaking, the plasma sword, etc.  But, many people didn’t approve of surrendering control of Master Chief.  I didn’t mind playing as Arbiter, but definitely I did not love how Halo 2 ended…

Halo 3 brought the same level of multiplayer gameplay, but made use of the better graphics hardware of the Xbox 360 console.  The campaign was maybe a tad short by some accounts – but the plot and storyline out was enough to get me over Halo 2.  Again, some people did not enjoy the plot of the game – but really the expectations had been set so high that it is almost impossible to meet them.  I liked the storyline, and I thought the ending was fitting for the conclusion of this particular trilogy.

ODST and Reach, while still being Halo games, don’t really count in my opinion.  They are parallel storylines that center around characters other than the Master Chief.  I think that’s fine, and I have and will play these games – but for me the meat of the series are the three primary games where you play as Master Chief.

In summary…
Obviously I’ve got Halo on the mind because of the Halo Reach beta.  I’ve been able to balance a solid 3-4 hours of this beta into my life so far, and the multiplayer is amazingly fun.  FINALLY I can run in a Halo game using the scout class.  I could use a little more practice though, as my .70 ish kill/death ratio will attest.

I hope the fun continues as Halo Reach is released, and I’ll be sad to see Bungie’s final Halo game come to fruition.  It’s pretty amazing to look back on these games that I played in different phases of my life – hopefully another video game series comes along that can come close to meeting this level for me.  But if you ask me – I don’t think it’s going to happen.

6 thoughts on “Halo: A Tribute

  1. vanbergs

    how dare you compare two monumental achievements (Halo, Matrix) to a boy wizard. No amount of arguments you provide will make that in any way, shape, or form “justifiable”

  2. Vanberge Post author

    Of course I knew this would be hijacked by that comparison…

    Nobody that hasn’t read the books can criticize the comparison. There are honestly alot of parallels between the Matrix and Harry potter…. Obviously the setting and plot are different, but they both centralize around a “chosen one” that has to save the world.

    The first 2 books suck… I read them only because I was working in layaway at Meijer. But, as Harry grows, so does the storyline. It becomes much darker and much more intense.

    Now that we have cleared that up – are there any comments regarding the actual subject matter of this post? lol. :-*

  3. vanlandw

    Your post brings me back in the day when Kramer was the first of us to have XB1 and he was talking about Halo and how it never meant shit to me. When I finally took the plunge and played Halo 1 I was always impressed how the game could convey a situation that is bigger then one person. As a medium video games have never been good at that. In a movie special effects can in seconds show you a war or struggle where in every frame can seem perilous. In a book just a paragraph can paint a picture of a war torn land and hopeless times.

    In a videogame the medium has limits where in most cases for hours it needs in real time to not break that fantasy. Most games can feel like one encounter after the next rather then a stream of war. Halo 1 and 3 in particular has done a good job of giving you Master Chief but then taking it a step back to show you the damage of a war.

    Regardless Bungie pretty much rules. They have been able for over 10 years continue building off Halo 1 into Halo Reach giving us a series of campaigns that thankfully will always be re-playable in the future. With Microsoft owning the future of the Halo franchise after Reach the impending Halo 4 taking Chief into the Xbox 720 might be shaky but I agree Halo 1-3 will always be a big part of my 20’s.

    I am glad you enjoyed the Harry Potter series as we have discussed at length I couldn’t stomach the first book thus never watched anything else so sadly I will default to disagreeing with you on that notion but everything else is pretty much dead on.

    Don’t sleep on Reach either the campaign I think is going to be really good and from what I’ve heard it should be a strong lead into Halo 1 AKA my belief is Chief will be in it somehow.

  4. vanlandw

    http://halo.xbox.com/en-us//abouthalo/timeline

    I believe in years time the game takes place the same year as Halo 1 so the lead in to Halo 1 I’m sure to a degree will feel weird.

    Prequels always have this problem. How does Chief not have armor abilities where the same Spartans in reach have jetpacks and sprinting? Who knows lol nothing makes sence at all.

    brb

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