Wednesday, October 13, 2010

halo: a prelude to a review

halo: part 2
halo: part 1
halo: prelude

I want to begin a new series of "reviews". I'm either going to call it Picking Bones or Doing it Anal, or a .... third thing. The main goal will be to take things that were critically or commercially successful that I disliked or was merely baffled by their popularity, and then offer my own brand of whiny criticism. The first in the series is going to be on Halo.  I'm writing this prelude article to first introduce you to my feelings about Halo if you don't know me in real life. Halo was the first first person shooter on a console to really get people to pay widespread attention to it, as well as the first console video game to really get people to participate in online gaming. Before XBOX Live and Halo, only a few people with consoles played online, and where you did find online gaming, it sucked. Online gaming on consoles would not be what it is today without Halo, and for all the griping I do, I at least owe Halo that. That said, I also am kind of rubbed the wrong way by what Halo has done to console gaming, all gaming, and specifically the FPS genre.

You can own this

I have a small theory about the people that Halo has attracted to gaming. At some point in the mid '00s, Madden lost its charm or whatever made it popular among people who didn't play games but still owned gaming consoles. I believe that the sheer name recognition of Microsoft made it the go-to console provider for a lot of uninformed consumers, and when they asked the guy at the counter what game to get, Halo was the answer simply because it was the best game for XBOX. I'm being a little harsh, sure. Halo as a game for the most part stands on its own legs, but so far based on what I've played of the demo, it is nothing special. There are and were legitimate hobby-gamers that recognized the good parts of Halo and bought it for that reason, but what pisses me off is that now Microsoft has a huge lead in the console race over Sony, and while now the XBOX360 is a worthwhile purchase, that system came around because of the success  of Halo on XBOX. Honestly, the first XBOX sucked. It didn't sell well either, but it had Halo and the XBOX360 had the promise of Halo 3, which caused people to buy it. That's what I don't get. Halo is not a bad game, but the current monster success of Microsoft is entirely based on it. As a borderline Sony fanboy, it's a little frustrating seeing as how the PS2, XBOX's competitor at the time, had one of the best software lineups of all time but nobody stuck around for PS3. Even with my Sony fanboyism taken out of the equation, the sheer success of Halo is freaking baffling. Just to give you an example, Half-Life 2 by Valve Software has sold 13 million copies since it came out (2004). Halo 2, which came out the same year, has sold 8.5 million copies. Halo, however, is way more recognizable to the average consumer. Ask any person on the street to name an XBOX game and they will at least say "I think my son plays a game called Halo". It doesn't work that way with Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid, or Final Fantasy, and these are the big blockbuster games that often sell more than Halo. Games like Mario and Zelda are recognizable in the same way as Halo, but have been around FOREVER. Halo isn't just a game that has sold a few million copies despite being not that great. It has become the game that pretty much represents gaming to the rest of the world. Not a problem in and of itself, but the semi-gamer crowd that it has attracted is full of people that suck to play with.

Let's play a sick game of Halo, bro!

Honestly, that picture doesn't work if you say Mario. The problem of the jerks on servers has been around forever, but Halo has brought it to a whole. nuvva. level. When I asked "who does the word gamer apply to?" in my article on G4, the answer is those guys. So, in a nutshell, I blame Halo for the current condition of the average gaming audience, as well as the way gamers look to non-gamers and what kinds of games are now produced to cater to that crowd. Good games do come out still, but as long as these guys are the largest demographic, we're going to see a lot more of the "Pump *clap* you up" kinds of protagonists against gunmetal gray backgrounds. So now that I've gone off on the damn game, it's time to tell you why I did that. Despite all my ranting and legitimate reasons to dislike it, it continues to be a critically well-off game. People whose opinions I respect say that Halo is pretty dang good. For all of my complaining about what it has done to the gaming scene, I have never actually played it for very long. Out of curiosity, I've downloaded the demo of Halo for PC. I've played through it several times, and honestly it's never compelled me to buy the game even though it can be purchased. I've decided that if I'm going to continue to complain, I need to play it and give it a fair chance. As I write this, my eBay auction on a used copy is almost over and I'm the high bidder. Matt brought it to my attention that being fair to it might be difficult because it came out in 2003, but Half-Life 2 came out in 2004 and honestly I never really stopped playing it. It's a wonderful game that I enjoy, and I don't expect Halo to really have any of those kinds of limitations. Lots of times age can ruin a once great game just because of the number of changes that gaming in general has made for the better. Take save points for instance. Few games use them now because they're kind of annoying, opting for a constant-save system. I tried System Shock and while it was probably a tour de force in its day, it was just unplayable on a mechanical level to me. Halo has most of the modern conveniences we have now, and save for its graphics, it shouldn't give me anything to gripe on. So stay tuned, see if my prejudices against this game remain intact, or if (SHAME!) I was wrong.

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