Monday, October 5, 2009

Extinguisher: 5 Reasons You Shouldn't Hate Halo (that much)

Each 'Flamebait' article will be followed by one such as this, describing the good things the mainstream or critically acclaimed game I am criticizing has done for the industry or genre it falls into. I'll limit these to 5 reasons, mostly because I doubt I'll be able to think of more than that for the games I've got planned for flamebait.

5. Halo's Music Is Incredible

This is one thing I can absolutely agree that the Halo series did extraordinarily well.
The music in the Halo games always gets me pumped up to play and really pulls me into the game. It is at times epic, tragic, sweeping, melancholy, grandiose, and always enjoyable to listen to. Hell for the most part I could turn off all the dialogue and close my eyes and the music would tell me everything I need to know about the scene. This was something that was missing from most FPS games, and one thing I actually wish more developers would try to emulate in their games.

4. Red Vs. Blue

I don't care who you are, whether you love Halo or you hate it, how can you not love Red Vs. Blue?

Sure, many of the jokes are hit or miss - but every episode I watch I find I'm embarrassing myself with loud laughter at least once, and that's more than I can say for most comedies on TV these days. This show is good enough that you should be thankful Halo exists if only to create a vehicle for the genius of Red Vs. Blue.

3. Halo Gave the Xbox a Mascot and Rallying Point

When you think of "Mascots" for gaming you think Mario for Nintendo, Sonic for Sega (the poor ring addicted bastard), Crash Bandicoot or Lara Croft for Playstation 1-2, and Master Chief for Xbox. System exclusive franchises help drive the sale of the system in question, and Halo is no exception. The series is a veritable money-printing machine for Microsoft Game Studios, and there is no question that sales of the Xbox and Xbox 360 increased as a result of the Halo franchise.

But even if you hate Halo with a burning fiery passion this is a good thing. There's a very good chance that without Halo, we would never have been able to play other great games on the Xbox systems. The 360 is one of my favorite gaming systems of all time, with modern classics like Fallout 3 and Bioshock. Now this is entirely speculation, but if Halo never existed would Microsoft's systems have been as successful? Would they be able to get licensing deals for some of my favorite games of all time? Would those games even exist without Halo, or if they did how different would they be? If you're a fan of console gaming and especially if you enjoy the Xbox andXbox 360, you should give Halo (and maybe even Master Chief) a break.

2. Halo really did revolutionize console FPS games

Look, let's have a little exercise, shall we? Close your eyes and say out loud "Halo games are fun to play with friends. Halo games are fun to play with friends." Now, don't we feel better? You know its true, I know its true, there is no use denying that Halo multiplayer is fun. Playing Halo 2 for the first time with friends I felt like I was back in middle school playing GoldenEye 007. And while us PC gamers had been experiencing awesome multiplayer like this for 2-3 years before Halo released, the console FPS market was honestly pretty terrible. No one got the controls quite right, nobody thought you could make an engaging FPS without using mouse click targeting, and all the ports from PC games were ugly and dumbed down for consoles. This is especially surprising considering how awesome GoldenEye007 and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter were. Their success was just never really duplicated.

But when Halo 1 and the Xbox came around, console FPS games were once again a force to be reckoned with. And the Halo 2's release cemented the series' place in history as it was probably the best game of its generation to be played via Xbox Live multiplayer. Did it have problems? Of course, but without Halo there wouldn't be a renewed interest in Console FPS games and as I said above we may never have gotten the joy of Bioshock, Fallout 3, or Gears of War 2.

1. The Market is Big Enough For the Both of Us

Now that we've hopefully been able to concede that Halo's multiplayer is at least a little fun, we need to accept one more concession. No one game, no matter how popular, can totally dominate the genre. Sure, we may see elements of Halo in almost every FPS that's been released in the last several years, but this kind of thing generally creates the kind of backlash we've been seeing. If people who weren't impressed by the Halo series continue to express their opinions, producers may realize that there is a new niche to fill. Millions of people play console FPS games, and not all of them liked Halo. As I said above, each progressive 'revolution' of FPS games brought new people into the mix. When the market is this big, if enough people dislike a game developers may start to make games specifically to sell to those people.

And PC gamers, stop worrying. Halo is not a threat to PC FPS games. There is a pretty thick line between PC gamers and console gamers, even today. I understand you're upset that people are claiming Halo invented all the things it 'borrowed' from PC games, but the fact is these things were new to most console gamers when Halo did them. I get just as perturbed as anyone when gamers new to the genre make wild claims about all the things they think Halo is responsible for, but I try to respond with a reasonable understanding that the player making these claims probably started FPS games on the console and has like never heard of Tribes or Unreal Tournament. And remember that Console FPS games and PC FPS games are two very different genres, and what was true for one may not be true for another. This is why Halo sucked on PC and Unreal Tournament sucked on the PS2.

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Who The Hell Do I Think I Am?

Austin, Texas, United States
I've played games since my brother got an NES in the late 80s, and I'll play them until I'm a crusty old man. My opinions are based on those 20 years of experiences, and my own ambitions as a game artist and writer.