On Monday night, after taking out the rubbish, I considered venturing out to do something I’ve never even thought about doing before: attend a midnight launch for a videogame. I’ve been playing games for as long as I can remember, yet I’ve never done anything like that – on Monday, though, it would have happened were it not for the following long day of work that demanded a full night of sleep. The reason I almost did was simple: Halo.
Halo: Combat Evolved, as well as Final Fantasy X (we’ll get onto how that game ate 400 hours of my life another time), were the two games I played most growing up. The extensive appeal of Bungie’s first-person shooter, both as a piece of sci-fi and a social gaming phenomenon, meant I invested a lot of time in replaying it; usually, I find videogames quite disposable. One playthrough is usually enough, and, barring very few exceptions, they’ve normally found their way out of my possession not too long after I’ve completed them. Halo was different – it was the only game I ever played on my original Xbox, and I probably completed it about 30 times. Whenever me and a friend played anything, it was always Halo. It was the ultimate co-operative and competitive gaming experience for me, and it undoubtedly affected my perception of the medium for years to come.
Then, once again, last night, I found myself doing the exact same thing with the latest title, Halo Reach. The Halo franchise has never quite captured my imagination since that first game with its open, sandbox-style environments, but Reach replicates that and uses more up-to-date technology to increase the scale and detail tenfold. Essentially, it’s the ultimate Halo game, and, since it’s sure to be Bungie’s last for a long time, there’s very much a sense that the series has come full circle with this latest instalment.
Now, I’ve never been a huge supporter of the game’s narrative – I don’t think it’s particularly interesting in subject matter, plus it borrows a lot from movies like Aliens in a none-too-creative way. Despite this, I think the universe itself is a perfectly exciting backdrop to a first-person shooter, and the iconography of the characters and worlds is very strong. Say what you like about Master Chief as a character, but the look of the Halo games’ primary protagonist is one of the most recognisable images to emerge from science fiction in the last ten years.
Halo has had a huge impact, and it isn’t just because there’s a legion of gamers out there with a twitchy trigger finger – the universe remains a delight to be a part of.