Like many others, I remember the day I first played Halo. I had gone to a friends house, still in my mind that I wanted a PS2 for my birthday, and just thinking about all the awesome games that came on it. There were a bunch of people playing this shooter that I hadn’t seen before, and it was on a console. (All previous shooters I had seen had been exclusively for the PC). It looked like fun, and everyone was having a laugh, so I joined in. Turns out they were playing Halo, for the Xbox. I didn’t play for very long, but I had a hell of a lot of fun. It even changed my mind completely from that moment. I wanted an Xbox with Halo.

That year, on my birthday, I got what I wished and asked for. I still remember going through that first level, getting enthralled in the story of a game for the very first time. Not only having an extreme amount of fun (even with the Duke controller) but really caring about what was going on around me, and the reasons behind the settings and enemies. Everything about it interested me, not just the fact that it was a fun video game.

It wasn’t just the universe of Halo that I played, however. I played Co-Op and Multiplayer with my friends all the time. Even going to the point of where I hooked up my VCR recorder to record some of the more silly antics I got up to, namely getting every vehicle inside a base on Blood Gulch. Sure, it was a bit ridiculous, but Halo was the first game where I appreciated and spent time in every single mode of play. XBConnect was my first attempt at properly trying to play big games of Multiplayer, and even with the lag I had a laugh at how powerful that Pistol everyone remembers was. I really spent a lot of my time playing it, going through the game on Legendary just for fun and replaying those levels I enjoyed all the more often.

Through all this, I had made an account on a Halo fan site, 343 Guilty Spark, where I met a lot of people and just talked about the game we all played a lot. Speculating and just talking about how excited we were for Halo 2 coming in a few short years. I still talk to some of these people I met oh so long ago, and it was the first internet forum I really  became a part of, but certainly not the last.

I had this as a birthday cake, once.

When Halo 2 was finally being released, I had of course pre-ordered my limited edition. I had gone early for the store opening and waited patiently for along time to get the game with my friend. It turned out, however, that the Limited Editions weren’t in yet. My friend bought his copy and we waited a bit longer, playing the copy they had set up. After a while, we went home, as the staff said they’d call once they knew what was going on. My friend and I sat and played Multiplayer for a while before my Dad came and collected me from his house. Once we got back to the store, the nicest guy there decided to not only give me the LE copy that I had waited so long for, but a T-Shirt as well just because of my persistence. It was a great day, and I played Halo 2 for a long time afterwords.

Although it was not what had been expected, I thoroughly enjoyed Halo 2, though in my eyes it didn’t quite compare to the original game. Though that didn’t matter as I played it on Xbox Live, and all my friends played it often as well. (Including one Gruntfuttock, known now as Chuckbuck) We created crazy game types and played Matchmaking when we weren’t crashing into each other headfirst with the, now destructible, warthogs. I played over 3,000 games online, and it never got old for me. Hours were spent in all modes again, even doing rocket jumps and sword launches across DLC maps the day they were released, just to see where we could explore outside it’s intended boundaries.

Halo 2 certainly sated my craving for a while, but with the Xbox 360 being released it did certainly take a back seat to many of the other great games I played. Halo was in the past, and although it was a good game, it didn’t quite live up to the new standards constantly being set by the newer, more powerful games out there. Though I still stayed active in the community, keeping up on the developments and crazy things people were doing, it wasn’t until Halo 3 came out that I did finally get stuck back in.

Before Halo 3 was released, however, I got a nice little surprise from Bungie themselves. Being a member of their website for a while, I was surprised to find that they had sent me a “Friends and Family” code for the Halo 3 Beta. I played in wonder at the new map designs and how everything felt new, but familar. I liked it so much more than Halo 2, and I could see myself playing for a while, even going as far to having my friend send me saved films and I created my first Montage. (It was bad, and eventually the sound got muted on YouTube because of copyright. Fortunately, the original is long lost and forgotten.)

My anticipating was high, as it was the end of a story I had followed and been invested in for a long time, but once it was over, in my hands (with a Legendary Edition, helmet and all) I loved it all over again. Though the story was over, for the time being, I still played it to death. Again, playing with all my friends online, having a huge amount of fun, with all the different map packs and game modes available, there really was no getting bored of it for the first couple of years. Yet again, I felt that the original captured the story element better, but this was still another fantastically made game.

I bought a Bungie Pro subscription when they launched their new Saved Film Renderer and went crazy making clips of the funniest and coolest things that happened to me when playing Multiplayer. Though I never put them together in montages, I still uploaded them and liked seeing people watching them, even if it was just my friends and myself watching them for laughs and memories. The films came from all moments in my Halo 3 career, early and late. I didn’t care if people wqere doing things better, or funnier, I just liked the sheer amount of hilarity and awesome moments that came about by playing this game. It was unlike any other. You just don’t get that “Wow!” moment as often as you do in a Halo game. I thought it couldn’t be beaten, not in multiplayer at least. (I was wrong about that, in my own opinion.)

Bungie certainly threw a curve ball in my direction when they not only announced Halo 3’s Expansion pack, then called Recon before being renamed ODST, but a prequel focusing on the Fall of Reach. I was extremely excited, having read the first three books released and generally finding what happened on Reach an very interested and integral part to the Halo story. I couldn’t wait to see these two completely new spins on the fiction, and I followed them as closely as Halo 2 and 3 before they were released.

I will say this about Halo 3: ODST. It stands under Halo CE and Halo: Reach as my favorite story and campaign mode in the Halo series so far. I loved everything about it. It felt the closest to the original of all previous games released and it was harder. It was a darker and grittier story, with some of my favorite actors playing main characters. Not only that, but it brought Firefight to Halo, and I had dreamt of a game mode like this since playing the second level of Combat Evolved, just surviving wave after wave of enemies. (This is now being created as a map for Anniversary, which I cannot wait for.) It was a fantastic game, and although it would have been nicer if it wasn’t so expensive, I didn’t feel that I was ripped off in any way. I got more than enough play time out of it.

Of course, there was one game during all this that was developed under a Halo name that wasn’t created by Bungie. Halo Wars was an RTS for the Xbox 360 that, in my eyes, should have been a greater success. Although it wasn’t as good as a PC RTS, Ensemble certainly knew what they were doing and made an interesting and fun game to play, not to mention a story that was completely separate but distinctly Halo (that, and it had Nolan North in it. Who doesn’t like his voice? Really?) It was probably the one Halo game I spent less time with, but that it had so much additions to the lore that I loved. It made the world seem a lot larger than the previous games had made out, and showed that heroes didn’t have to be Spartans, super soldiers or even elite troops. It even let you play as the Covenant properly, which was good fun.

Of course, having owned ODST meant I was in the Halo: Reach Beta. This was my first taste of what is now my all time favorite Halo game. It was clear that they were taking a lot of feedback from all of the games they had released, and focused on making a game for all the Halo fans that they have gathered over the years, and pleased them all (for the most part.)

There really isn’t much more I can say about Halo: Reach that I haven’t already said about the other games. The Forge mode is so much more feature-heavy that I have used to try and create proper maps for it. The Theater mode is where I, again, gather my funny, amusing and awesome looking clips to upload and render online. I play Firefight even more often than I used to, thanks to the Score Attack playlist, and I play it online with a lot of my friends, especially those friends I have made in University.  The campaign really hit me as fantastic story telling, making me care about all the characters and having my own Spartan there in the thick of it all. I play it a few times every week and I still try and complete the Daily and Weekly challenges when I need to scratch my Halo itch. It’s one of my favorite games of today, and it’s there for a good reason.

I have spent the best part of the last 10 years in gaming with Halo. It brought me into a console world, it was there as something to do when I wasn’t at school, or busy doing something else. It evolved and changed, just as I have over the years. I’m not the little kid I was back when I played the first game, and Halo: Reach certainly has a lot of differences from it’s inception back in 2001. I’ll always remember the sheer amount of good times I’ve had playing these games, and I look forward to seeing how the universe will evolve from now on. No matter how it turns out, I know that I’ll find interest somewhere, whether it be the multiplayer, the story that I enjoy so much or just going back to the older games from time to time.

Looking back on these games just shows you how much can change in ten years. I’m not where I thought I’d be, some of that’s good, some of it bad, but I look forward to the future and what it holds not just for me, but for everything and everyone. It’s going to be a bumpy ride and I’m ready for it.

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