Halo, be mine

Posted by under *like, Video Games |

For the past two months, I’ve been rediscovering my love of the Xbox’s Halo franchise and it would be wrong not to talk about it here. I’ve been on board since Halo: Combat Evolved shipped as a launch title for the original Xbox console and stayed with it through the two sequels that followed (including upgrading to an Xbox360 when Halo 3 shipped in 2007). After that, my interest fell off until the release of Halo: Reach last September. It took a while to set in, but I’ve become consumed.

I initially skipped the Halo 3: ODST and Halo Wars games that were released between Halo 3 and Reach. Interestingly, these games seem to be generally derided by people I’ve encountered. When I purchased them recently, I even had store employees questioning my decision and trying to point me on to other titles. Having played them, I’ve found I really enjoyed both games, but I can see why fans of the first three games might have rejected them.

Halo 3: ODST is the first game in the Halo series where players do not control the Master Chief, the central figure of the first three games. ODST also features a new look to the interface since you’re not playing as a Spartan. It’s still Halo, just different. The game uses nonlinear storytelling to unravel its mysteries and that may have turned fans off as well. It’s actually a really strong game that I think its detractors didn’t give a fair shot. The thing I may have liked most about it was that it was a Firefly reunion of sorts with Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk providing voices of the main characters. Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica’s involvement added even more sci fi credibility and that’s what draws me to Halo rather than something like Call of Duty. I originally borrowed ODST from a friend but ended up buying a copy for myself.

Halo Wars is a different animal entirely. It’s not a shooter, but that was no secret. It’s a real time strategy game in the vein of the original Warcraft and Starcraft games. These were immensely popular at one time for PC’s and Halo Wars was one of the only ports to a console that I’ve seen. I never got into those other games but I honestly enjoyed this. Being set in the Halo universe and using controls I could understand and remember really helped. This was the first Halo game I was able to finish on the Legendary difficulty setting, and it gave me the confidence to go back and try to complete the others. Halo Wars‘ biggest downside is that it’s largely not supported anymore. The developers have shut their doors and the future of online stat tracking for the game is in transition. It’s still totally playable and there’s a dedicated community online. Anyone saying this was not worth playing was never going to like it, but if you like Halo it’s worth giving a shot, especially for $20.

Xbox’s achievement system was a huge part of this return to Halo for me, and the introduction of Halo Waypoint was an even bigger factor. Waypoint is a free application that tracks your career across all of the Xbox 360 Halo games, namely Halo 3, ODST, Halo Wars and Reach. Looking at it showed me how little time I spent on Halo 3 and it bugged me to the point that I’m actively replaying a game from 2007 to make up for it. The fact that Waypoint covered a set of games appealed to the collector in me and was critical in introducing me to games I had truly missed out on in ODST and Halo Wars. It has also given me great replay value not only for Halo 3 but for Reach as well

An action shot captured from a Firefight session on the Outpost.

My return to Halo (and my relative success) has also pushed me to follow Bungie’s daily and weekly challenges for Reach. Each morning, Bungie.net releases 4 daily challenges and a weekly challenge every Monday. Challenges are worth credits in the Reach ranking system (I’m currently a Major) and span gameplay from the campaign, firefights, and online matchmaking with other players. I’m still a little gunshy about venturing into that realm, but most of the achievements I’m missing are for multiplayer gaming so I have been venturing out of my single player comfort zone. Sadly, Bungie.net’s mobile version of their site is easier for me to navigate than the full site to track these challenges and in game commendations. I’ve found myself checking my phone every morning lately to see if there are challenges I can complete that day (I’ve even bookmarked the mobile page on my desktop since it’s easier for me to navigate). I also find myself frequenting a site called reachdailychallenges.com for information. It’s a great site and gives insight on the best strategies for difficult challenges as well as how to most efficiently get the more straightforward ones.

Despite all this dedication, I’m still not all that good, but I enjoy every minute I spend playing. I even went so far as to use Bungie’s built in video capture system to make clips of my successes. It was immensely satisfying being told my accomplishments are “badass” by a player I greatly respect. If you’ve never tried the Halo series I highly recommend it. If you ever want to play online, find me on Xbox Live as “ptb.” I can pretty much promise you an easy victory if you’re good and no judgement if you play like I do.

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