Classic Video Game Analysis: The Legacy of Halo
by Matthew Durham

November 15, 2001 was a milestone in Video Game history, it was the release of Halo: Combat Evolved. I wanted to talk less about the video games themselves and more about what makes them a “Legacy.” Personally, I probably would’ve never bought an Xbox back then if it wasn’t for Halo: Combat Evolved. The game was addicting and fun.

But let’s talk about legacy. What makes a legacy is how one artistic creation impacts the medium. Safe to say films like Gone with the Wind and Psycho were legacies for film and Star Trek would be one for television. The Halo franchise left a beautiful mark on Video Games and helped inspire some of the greatest video games today such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

How did these games do that? Let’s start from the beginning

Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo: Combat Evolved was developed by Bungie, Gearbox and Westlake Interactive and published by Microsoft Game Studios along with MacSoft. The video game was released on November 15, 2001 for Xbox, Windows and Mac.

The game received universal praise, Gamespot is quoted saying: “Numerous subtle innovations have been borrowed by countless other games since.” Many other gaming websites have sited the video game as being the reason for Xbox’s success.

Xbox was new to the console game, from being Sega vs. Nintendo vs. PlayStation to Nintendo vs. Playstation to Nintendo vs. PlayStation vs. Xbox. Going in the market against two juggernaut console publishers, the Xbox with it’s monster-size controllers didn’t look promising.

Halo: Combat Evolved became the 2nd highest revenue generating 21st century console video game in the US behing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It was a big factor in the success of MLG (Major League Gaming) where the competitive spirit of the game was unlike any other. Red vs. Blue became a machinima webseries inspired from the video game as well.

The storyline was incredible following the hero Master Chief through intricately layered levels and alien creatures.

The game won Best Console and Overall Game of the Year at the 5th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards and won the 2000 Game Critics Award for Best Action Game.

Later on the game was re-released with updated graphics for the XBOX 360 ten years later in 2011 as Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

Halo 2

There was a lot of hype surrounding the sequel of Halo: Combat Evolved. So came the release of the simply titled Halo 2. The campaign took the story further with an epic cliff-hanging conclusion. This time around the Developers were Bungie, Microsoft Game Studios and Pi Studios. Microsoft being the sole publisher.

THE MULTIPLAYER. This is what really inspired me to write this article and it is where the real legacy of the series takes place. Several publications listed Halo 2’s matchmaking online technology as one of the turning points in gaming history and it was. Never had I been so encompassed to a game series. You could play with your friends who had the same game console miles away or with random people, either way it was incredible fun.

G4’s Sterling McGarvey states “Bungie’s sequel was a shot in the arm for Xbox Live subscriptions and previewed many of the feature that would set the standard for Microsoft’s online service on the next machine.” I was always strictly Nintendo my whole life, but at this point I owend two consoles: the GameCube and the Xbox, I had Live and there was simply nothing like it.

Popular Mechanics editors listed Halo 2 in the top 15 best games of the decade. The Province’s Paul Chapman wrote “Games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 would not be as enjoyable to play if not for the ground Halo 2 broke.” The game received universal appraise including Electronic Gaming Monthly’s perfect score ‘Platinum Award.’ GameSpot gave it an Editor’s Choice Award with a review of 9.4/10 and IGN listed it #2 in the Top 25 best Xbox Games of all time.

Other awards it won included the Game Critics Award for Best Console Game and an Interactive Achievement Award for best Console Game as well for the year.

Halo 3 

At this point Bungie became the sole developer with Microsoft as the sole Publisher. On September 25, 2007 Halo 3 was released for the Xbox 360 to univeral praise and a sigh of relief.

One of the biggest complaints was that the game didn’t live up to the all-star narrative as its predecessors. The game still received perfect review scores from Edge, EuroGamer, and Xbox Magazine.

Halo 3 was nominated for seven SpikeTV Awards and won Best Multiplayer Game along with most addictive game. It was stated as Game of the Year in TIME magazine. IGN chose it as Best Xbox 360 online Multiplayer and Innovative Design of 2007. It was also declared the Xbox 360 Game of the Year by GameTrailers.

Halo Wars

Not Bungie this time. The developer was Ensemble Studios, but considering this game was a not a First-Person Shooter like the rest and instead at Real Time Strategy it makes since.

I don’t have much to say about this game, it received mostly positive reviews with scores around 4/5 and 8/10. No legacy really here, just a successful strategy spin-off.

Halo: ODST

Back together it is developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft. Halo: ODST was released the same year as Halo Wars on September 22, 2009.

Just like Halo Wars the game received mostly positive reviews, usually one away from a perfect score like 4/5 and 9/10. G4 however gave it a perfect 5/5 score. In this narrative you are no longer seeing the story through the eyes of Master Chief.

Was ranked eighth best game of the year by TIME magazine and won Best Original Score at the SpikeTV Video Game Awards.

Halo: Reach

After the slump of Halo Wars and Halo: ODST it was a breath of fresh air to play this impressive prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved.The video game has the most impressive storyline since Halo 2 and received universal praise scoring mostly 9.5/10’s from various publications including Xbox Magazine, IGN, Gamespot ect.

DrunkTank Podcast gave the game the title of Game of the Year, the team of Bungie and Microsoft came back together and took elements from the original game and really improved upon them. It was release September of 2010 winning Best Multiplayer at the Spike TV Awards and Best Shooter from GameSpy.

Still not as impressive as Halo: Combat Evolved or Halo 2 but the game is equally entertaining and the matchmaking multiplayer has never been more fun.

Halo 4

The most anticipated game of 2012 will finally hit the market next month, are we ready? Will it live up to the hype? The team of Bungie and Microsoft has been broken and 343 Industries is now the developers of this title.

Many videos have showed us impressive things, some things have been questionable to long term fans but ultimately we will have to judge for ourselves.

Halo 4 comes out November 6, 2012 and I suggest pre-ordering it now.