Throwback Thursday: Nerd Edition-Halo Combat Evolved

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Matthew Cocozza

welcome to Throwback Thursday: Nerd Edition where we feature games that are at least ten years old, have changed the way we looked at games, and were mainly a ton of fun to play.

This week we are talking about a game that has the perfect blend of game play, storytelling, and multiplayer. This game gripped players of different backgrounds due to its mastery of all three aspects. Halo: Combat Evolved set the tone for what the Xbox was capable of producing and has become its flagship title ever since.

Halo is set in the future where the human race has colonized numerous planets and has also gone to war with a group of aliens called The Covenant. When we enter the story, the commander of a giant space ship called the Pillar of Autumn is seeking to escape from a large Covenant fleet that has just wiped out mankind’s strongest military planet. The Commander, known as Captain Keyes, does this by doing a “blind jump” which causes him to basically jump into hyperspace without having any clue where he is going. He then turns up outside a planet with a giant ring orbiting it called Halo. Keyes, being completely outnumbered and outgunned, orders that the best soldier in the human race be woken up from cryogenic sleep. This is the genetically enhanced, power armor-equipped Master Chief (your character for the game). Keyes then tells Master Chief to take the AI program Cortana and escape the Pillar of Autumn before it is shot down in order to keep the location of earth a secret from the Covenant. Master Chief escapes the spacecraft and crash lands onto Halo and spends the rest of the game engaging covenant enemies in guerrilla tactics in order to escape Halo with his fellow survivors while discovering what mysteries it holds.

This is an in-depth plot for sure, but growing up, I knew many people who would skip through the cut scenes every time. They viewed them simply as a delay to kicking more alien butt. While I don’t agree with this practice, I think it is a testament to the fact that if you completely remove the story from Halo, the game play alone holds up as a full gaming experience. The stunning landscapes presented, the abundance of weaponry and vehicles you are given, and the use of futuristic tech such as energy shields and tractor beams all contribute to a ton of fun in campaign mode. Where Halo’s game play truly shines, though, is in your enemies. Since you are thrown a plethora of opponents in this game, you truly have to be prepared for anything at any time.

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To begin, you are faced with The Covenant, a wide array of alien races all bringing something more deadly to the table than the last. With the alien covenant, you encounter cowardly grunts that will flee if they feel the battle isn’t going their way; annoyingly accurate jackals that will hide behind shields that you have to outflank or destroy; and giant, alien bazooka-toting hunters that take a whole armory worth of ammo to bring down. (That is, unless one of your friends let you know that two pistol shots to the exposed orange tissue on the aliens’ back brings them down). Smart, strong, and fierce battleground commanders called the Elites lead these races to come at you from every angle and in my opinion, propose one of the best enemies in video game history. The Covenant’s strengths of organized formations and smart tactics meet their counterparts in The Flood. These parasitic organisms kill and take over human and alien corpses alike, using them essentially as zombie hosts. These enemies are mindless and simply try to overwhelm you in number and force. They are a huge pain as they absorb all your ammo and just keep coming. With the flood, you find yourself constantly retreating, hoping you will be able to weather the storm before you run out of ammo or your enemies flat out overwhelm you. It is this mix of enemies that causes you to always have your guard up and never be truly ready for what is around the corner.

As if the game play and story mode weren’t enough to cause this game to go down in history, Halo also brought a multiplayer aspect that few had seen before. Much like my above friends, I know numerous people that purchased this game solely for the multiplayer, something that is commonplace in today’s gaming world but was uncommon at the time. Halo offered a system link multiplayer, meaning you could link up to four Xbox consoles together and have a giant 8-on-8 matchup with your friends or just an all out 16 man free-for-all. I can’t tell you how much fun I had with my buddies on random Saturdays; we were fully devoted to everyone pooling their resources together and getting as many TVs and Xboxes to one kid’s house and playing Halo for hours on end.

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In essence, Halo brings the triple threat of story, game play, and multiplayer. It bridged the gap between serious gamer who soaked up every aspect of the game and cafeteria gamers who would buy Halo and pick and choose their own adventure. I would usually object to these gamers and say they are missing out, but in reality, Halo did bring so much to the table that one aspect of the game was worth the full asking price. You could put in 100+ in on the multiplayer alone and still want more. You could sink your teeth into the campaign mode, playing through the game multiple times on different difficulties and challenging yourself more and more. Of course, there were also kids such as myself that did all of the above and barely left the house for a summer.

Who were your favorite enemies to kill in Halo? Which ones gave you the most grief?

Which aspect of the game did you like more, campaign or multiplayer?


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