Late to the Party: Halo (Introduction)

To say that the Halo franchise is successful would probably be one of the greatest understatements of the 21st century. Initially released to glowing reviews in 2001, Halo is now a multi-billion dollar franchise, with its games regularly raking in hundreds of millions of dollars on launch day alone. Quickly becoming the principle reason to own an Xbox console, other games began branding themselves as “Halo-killers”, the title becoming so ubiquitous in the world of first person shooters that it still holds a position in the industry akin to that of World of Warcraft: if you beat it, you know you’ve made something special. It is, without exaggeration, one of the most lucrative and popular series of video games ever created.

I have also never played a single one of them.

This is in part due to having been a PS2 owner during the last generation and missing out on the initial surge of popularity that quickly spread among owners of the original Xbox. It is also probably due in part to me being something of a pretentious bastard and not wanting to get too involved in a series that for all intents and purposes looked rather simplistic and over-hyped. I just never had the desire to pick up a copy and play it through, regardless of the rave reviews and the incredibly dedicated fanbase. Glee also has these things, so I’ve always been rather dubious of the “x million people can’t be wrong” ideology. This is not to say that Halo should be put in the same category as Glee, I’m just trying to illustrate my mindset here.

Yet for whatever reason, at some point in the last month I found myself wanting to finally see what all the fuss was about. With Halo 4 having been recently released and effectively opening a new chapter in the narrative of the franchise, I suppose that some part of me finally got curious enough to go back and experience the trilogy of games that started it all. So I borrowed the series from a friend and set out on my journey of discovery. In essence, I wanted this to be an exploration of how the game, now over a decade old, would appeal to the uninitiated; would it grab a new player’s interest the same way it did in 2001? Would it hold up to scrutiny in the face of 10 years of changing game development? Basically, if Halo were released today, technological advancements aside, how would we as an audience respond to it? These are things that really interest me for whatever reason and it’s something that I potentially want to continue exploring through other games with similar reputations. In effect, this is the first entry in what I hope to be a continuing series to be featured here on this blog.

In addition, I tried a bit of an experiment in terms of format with this one. Many of you know that I’m a big fan of Shamus Young’s Blog and visit the site almost daily for entertainment and ideas; the way that I narrate the Nerdwatch Let’s Plays is largely based on his Spoiler Warning format, I borrowed his idea of doing a campaign log for my own somewhat recently, and my own writing style and method of critique are very much influenced by those of Shamus and others that he hosts on the blog. So already being in for a penny (or several) I decided to go in for a pound and borrow a review format that he tried back in 2009 for Dragon Age: Origins. The basic premise is simple: instead of writing up a lengthy review after the fact, Shamus used Twitter to post small blurbs and thoughts about the game as they occurred to him during play, and then went back and aggregated all those posts on the blog in order to address them more thoroughly. While he only seems to have tried this once, I thought it was a pretty interesting idea that would be incredibly applicable for what I’m trying to do with this new category. Live-Tweeting my immediate thoughts and opinions on the game ensured that I would stick to my initial impressions of the title and express thoughts as they came to me moment-to-moment instead of getting bogged down in a longer critical piece several hours or even days after the fact. Remember that my objective is to showcase how a new player would feel about the game entering into it right now; it’s very much an unfiltered look at how a player’s thought process about a title might unfold and while I can’t claim to be the voice of every player (indeed, I might have gone into this a bit too harsh based on my own prejudices), I still believe there’s some value to be gleaned from this format.

Now, while the initial tweets obviously are less than 140 characters, I’ll be elaborating on the points made therein in rather more detailed terms as we go along. Some of these elaborations will be quick, one sentence thoughts or clarifications. Others will almost certainly be multi-paragraph affairs that outline a high or low point, and some will very probably venture into territory that doesn’t necessarily pertain directly to Halo but to the industry that has grown a lot in the years since the game’s release. Because this is essentially a step-by-step commentary throughout the whole game, this will likely be broken into multiple parts so as to avoid posts that sink well into the multiple-thousands of words territory.

And since we’re drawing dangerously close to that point already in just this initial post, I think that’s all the introduction we need. I’m taking screenshots of the Twitter posts themselves right now so you all don’t have to keep navigating back to my Twitter page over and over again to see what I’m talking about, and with that out of the way I’ll start posting the actual review tomorrow soon. Hoping to get some feedback on how this system works out so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below each post as we go along.

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