Halo 101: Halo: Combat Evolved

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Since this is the 15-year anniversary of Halo: Combat Evolved, I decided to do this Halo101 a bit different. Instead of the usual format, I will use this Halo101 to talk about how Halo: CE was created, how the Halo Universe was created.

So, first off:

Dancing master chief Happy Birthday Halo: Combat Evolved!!!Dancing master chief

The very beginning of what would become Halo: Combat Evolved

You may be familiar with the E3 2000 trailer, showing a crude but expansive story about what the Halo Universe would continue and grow into. But what you may not know (bonus points if you do) is that Halo: Combat Evolved was never supposed to be released exclusively on the Xbox! Back when Bungie Studios was an independent game developer, they had been in contact with Apple who wanted to host the upcoming game on their MacBooks. At this point in time, the design for many of the characters and objects hadn't been finalised, and looked quite different from what was eventually released. After reaching Alpha stage, Bungie felt confident enough to show an in-engine trailer during MacWorld 1999. This event, hosted by Steve Jobs, showcased of all the upcoming things for Apple and its products.

At this point Halo was intended to be a third-person action game for the Mac developed by Bungie, but Microsoft showed interest in the product. Not wanting to lose their flagship product for the Mac, Apple put up an offer to buy Bungie, knowing that Microsoft had done the same. This was too late for Apple, as Microsoft had made Bungie an offer they could not refuse, and Bungie Studios became a part of Microsoft. How would things have turned out of Apple had bought Bungie?

Halo Combat Evolved MacWorld 1999 Trailer03:39

Halo Combat Evolved MacWorld 1999 Trailer

But now Bungie was a part of Microsoft, and would be for many years to come. This meant that Microsoft influenced the rest of the Halo Franchise, for better or for worse. One of the changes that was made at this time was the change from third-person shooter to a first-person shooter. Together with many ecstatic changes, a lot of mechanics were also changed. In the MacWorld trailer you get the epic Halo music, but you see the character that would become John-117 perform moves you did not see in the finished game (like waving). In the next trailer, which was released during E3 2000 you see a lot of changes, but also differences with the released game. For one, the voice cast is very different, with John having some computerised voice and the Sangheili speaking a language what would become the Sangheili we have become familiar with.

Besides that, the focus of the trailer seems more towards the Marines than John. The trailer does show the conflict between the humans and the (at that time) unidentified aliens, as well as showing Forerunner architecture. The trailer shows a superior human force, with Marines relatively easily defeat a small Legion. The Covenant aliens appear simply to loot what they can with the humans forced to resort to guerrilla warfare.

Halo Combat Evolved E3 2000 Trailer09:41

Halo Combat Evolved E3 2000 Trailer

Halo: Combat Evolved, revolutionary?

Nowadays we look back at a very aged game, we still love it because of nostalgia, but we can definitely see its age. But for the time, how revolutionary was Halo: Combat Evolved? The answer to this is, very. To really map this out, I will mark the differences between Halo: CE and the most popular FPS of the time, GoldenEye 007 from 1997. It was the first console FPS that really worked, and was hugely successful. But there are some really noticeable improvements Halo: CE made to the console FPS genre.

One of the most noticeable changes is that Halo: CE uses 2 analogue sticks, one for movement and the other for aiming. This provided the player with much more accuracy, and opened the door to pretty much every FPS after it to follow the formula. This accuracy was also helped with the introduction of auto-aim, a clever little tool that greatly increased the accuracy of the player. This looks very benign of a function, but just imaging the amount of calculations need to be done per second for the game to figure out if 1. The person you're aiming at is a foe, 2. The person is not too far away, 3. How strong is the pull for auto-aim. With computers that are able to do millions of calculations per second nowadays it does not seem difficult, but we are now 15 years in the past. Halo: CE also introduced smart enemy-AI, of course there were other FPS' that had AI, but they rarely used any sort of strategy. Meanwhile, in Halo: CE enemies take cover, throw grenades and/or snipe for a secure hiding spot. Combine that with the much-improved mechanics of throwing said grenades, and you have a formula for success.

But those are all mechanics of the game, there are two other things that greatly improved with Halo: CE, lore and backdrops. With that I mean that Halo: CE was one of the first FPS' (or games in general) with an extensive backstory, a real reason to fight the enemy. Beautifully captured in the opening lines of the game, you already realise that this alien enemy is formidable and has destroyed a huge human settlement (Reach). Halo: CE starts out with a very recognisable level, basically a hall-way shooting. This was/is used a lot in games, especially those with very limited computing power (e.g. Doom, Wolfenstein 3D or Duke Nukem 3D) But after you make it off the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, you explore one beautiful, wide-open, location after the other.


Our introduction into the Halo Franchise

Even the staff of Halo Nation are human, and we got into Halo one way or another. Here below there are the stories of some of the admins and how they got into the Franchise. Not only does this contain their initial reaction, there may also be a bit about how they view the Halo Franchise as a whole. Each Admin has given their time to write this out, so it would be greatly appreciated if you would read through them, and leave a comment with your own story below in the comments. Please be civil, each of us is entitled to their own opinion and may choose if (s)he defends this.

Halo: Combat Evolved (or, more accurately, its PC port) was my introduction to the Halo franchise as well as to gaming itself. I first played it at a LAN party hosted by a friend of mine when I was only nine or ten, in which we played several BTB matches. Although it was brief, I still have many fond memories from it, ranging from when a someone hopped out of their Banshee in mid-air, allowing it to splatter me when it landed, only to then steal the Banshee I was about to get in myself, to the time I found a Scorpion, on Ice Fields and used it to get my first ever killing spree.

Needless to say, I loved every moment and after the party, my friend lent me his copy of the game, and I played through its campaign, having lots of fun while also catching my first glimpse at a fictional universe I would come to love. I next played Halo 3, at my neighbours' house, with whom I played through the campaign in Co-op. While I loved the game, I remember it being frustrating since he insisted all the Marines must survive, or he'd revert to the last checkpoint. Finally, in Christmas 2010, I got my own Xbox 360 and Halo: Reach with it. At that point, I loved Halo so much that by November of the following year, I had every game in the series and had pre-ordered Halo: CEA. Thanks to their role in introducing me to not only Halo but to gaming itself, Halo 3 and Halo: CE will always have a special place in my heart. Even to this day, I think that they're two of the best games ever made.

My introduction to the Halo Franchise was from Halo: Combat Evolved. My early experiences were in 2003 when I played it over a relative's household. I was just 5 years old so I obviously didn't know what I was doing half the time. I would be loading up a mission on easy and then soon after, get lost or die in the most trivial of matters. I remember creating new profile every time I get on, making me confused on how missions I previously finished now needs to be done again. I would be having profiles with several missions unlocked and not even in the right order; Like PoA, Silent Cartographer, and then The Maw.

I remember loading up The Silent Cartographer, get the warthog, and then drive it into the ocean; only to be blinded by the water and still manage to get lost. Eventually, I would leave from my relative's house and return to my own; with a PlayStation 2 or GameCube that didn't have much games. At this time, I was careless about taking care of CDs so when games like Grand Theft Auto San Andreas or Super Smash Bros. Melee stop working on me, I would remember me goofing off in Halo: CE.

Eventually, more of my family at the time would be picking up Halo games like Halo: CE and Halo 2. I remember my uncle playing Halo 2 High Charity level and my Dad doing 4-player slayer on Zanzibar with his friends in the living room. Around 2005, I got my own XBOX and was thrilled to have it with not just only Halo, but an abundance of games. Though unknown to me, a new XBOX console would be releasing and an announcement on Halo 3 will come as well. I would first notice Halo 3 when I stayed over my cousin's house and he was playing a multiplayer game on Guardian. He was facing other people online but I never really knew nothing about XBOX Live besides the fact it never worked for me (since my XBOX was never hooked up to the internet) so I though he was playing the campaign. I just aimlessly stared at the screen, watching him play, wanting to play another new Halo.

I would get my wish the Christmas of 2007 when my mom bought me this really cool green XBOX with Halo marking on it. That night, my mom and I played Sierra 117 and I would continue to play Halo 3, more Halo tiles, and many other games on the 360 all the way up to 2011; when my 360 got its red ring of death (I did get another 360 but that was a lot later).

It was such an unreal childhood I had in terms of the Halo exposure I had. A lot of Mature-rated games were shown to me without any real restrictions, like GTA, so I had full right to play whatever I wanted. Family members would be playing Halo, my activation to XBOX Live in March 28, 2008 to play Halo 3 multiplayer, and the amount of times my cousins and neighbours would come to my house to play such an awesome game.

I first saw and played Halo at a classmate's house who lived near me. We'd play both Halo 1 and Halo 2 on his Xbox and I was amazed by the quality of the world, and the sheer fun you could have in the game. The graphics on older game systems such as the N64 bugged me as a kid, but Halo looked like an actual world. The Elites, the Jackals, the Grunts, the Hunters, they all had distinct and instantly recognizable looks to them. Their AI actually worked, they weren't running into walls aimlessly. Once we started playing, none of us wanted to stop. Whether it was driving a Warthog around on Halo, spamming dual-wield Needlers at each other in Halo 2 MP, or just trying to do silly stunts and tricks, it was incredible, engaging, and fun. Even the simple things were outstanding and memorable.

I remember throwing a plasma grenade at an Elite, but missing, so the Elite rolled off the platform he was on... only for my grenade to bounce off a nearby wall and stick to him from behind. The fact that something like that could happen was just so fun and awesome. As soon as I got the chance, I got Halo 1 for the PC and played through it so much and so many times that my parents were sick of hearing the dialogue in the game. The fun I had with Halo PC, and the immeasurable fun I had with several other people in Halo 1 and 2 split screen on their Xboxes convinced me to buy an Xbox 360 for the sole purpose of playing Halo 3.

Halo: Combat Evolved represents a significant milestone in my history as a gamer. It was the game that introduced me to the wonders of console gaming and the intricate storylines developed by the Bungie team. A skill built in their early work with Marathon and Myth, and taken well into their next work with Destiny. It’s unique single player and multiplayer modes also helped guide me from a clueless controller mashing 8-year-old into the slightly less clueless 23-year-old I am today, who can now at least hold his own in solo Legendary missions and PvP matches.

Unlike many of my friends and colleagues on this wiki, I wasn’t lucky enough to own my own copy of Halo: Combat Evolved when it first came out. In fact, I didn’t even have my own console! But that never detracted from the wonders of playing the game. Even now I can remember rushing back from school, bolting upstairs and into my brother’s room, where I would turn on his chunky block of an Xbox and play a few hours of Halo before he came home. The various alien races (from the comical Grunts to the haunting Flood), the enigmatic and unconventional technologies, the deep running story line and the ever-shifting backdrops of the game are what mesmerised me as a youngster. A mesmerisation which would eventually flourish into a deep-set passion for the Halo franchise.

Whether it’s carrying the flag to the enemy base on multiplayer or dropping legions of Covenant, Flood or Forerunner enemies on story mode, I can owe it all to Halo: Combat Evolved which introduced me to this masterpiece of a gaming franchise.

You know, Halo used to be on top of the gaming world. I became a fan when a couple friends invited me over to play Halo 2 on split screen. I became obsessed with Halo even to the point of buying action figures and books. Then when Halo 3 launched it was the most hyped video game ever. Bungie got everything right. The campaign, the music, the gameplay, it was all legendary. The only reason why I even bought an Xbox 360 is because of Halo 3. Now the series is in the hands of an incompetent developer who doesn't know how to treat this beloved series right. Halo 5 was somehow worse than Halo 4. There is no split screen. The campaign was pathetic. The requisition system is a disgrace. Fans are leaving the series. When I first played Halo, I was enthralled but now I am appalled. In the end, though, I still love this series.

I got an Xbox for Christmas in 2001, and Halo: CE was bundled with it. My brother and I played and beat the co-op campaign over the course of three days. I remember that, coming from the Nintendo 64, it was difficult to adjust to the dual-stick method of moving and aiming. Halo: CE then became the go-to game for multiplayer with friends. Going to each other's houses and playing Halo split screen became a weekly ritual for us. We must have spent thousands of hours playing 2v2 Blood Gulch CTF, eventually inventing a game type that involved mutual agreement of attack/defence roles depending on who had control of the Warthog. We played the game so much that we bought a second Xbox and TV for the sole purpose of LAN Halo and increasing 2v2 to 3v3. This weekly tradition continued through Halo 2 and even Halo 3.

This couldn't have happened with just any game. The special combination of multiplayer features (including co-op) and skilful yet casual gameplay allows the original Halo games to shine even by today's standards. Still, I was there to enjoy the games as they were new and fresh, and I'm very glad for that.

My first experience with Halo was through my cousin, who bought Halo 2 for his Xbox. Not thinking much of it at the time, it wasn't until a friend from school bought Halo 3 that I really played it. As I did not have an Xbox (360) to play Halo on, I bought an Xbox 360/Halo 3 Bundle edition. After having played a few multiplayer matched I tried out the campaign, and realised I didn't understand a thing. This is when I borrowed Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 from my friend, which I ended up keeping. After having played all the campaigns, I was hooked. I still have fond memories of experiencing the campaign for the first time, and was mad I had to wait so long for the story to continue.

After completing the Halo 3 campaign many times over, helping friends I made in Matchmaking get the collectibles and just the general awesomeness, I heard that there was a new Halo game planned; nothing like what came before, a real-time strategy game that would be called Halo Wars. At first sceptical, as my experience with the RTS genre was very limited, it turned out to become one of my favourite Xbox 360 games. Halo is the only genre where I want to have each release as soon as possible, and I have since collected all games (yes, even the Halo: Spartan games) and have read most of the earlier books. My favourite Halo games were always Halo 3, Halo Wars and Halo 3: ODST (in that order), but this has since changed. My favourite Halo game now is Halo 5: Guardians, with Halo 3 and Halo Wars following suit.