what is a reverse improvement

[HITStory] Hallo! My Brief History with the Halo Franchise


Halo is a bit of an odd property for me.

I came into the first, Halo: Combat Evolved, sometime around a year after it's release (which is when I got my first XBOX). I liked the game, thought the character design and overall aesthetic were pretty cool, but I don't remember it taking hold of me or making me want to play it 24/7.

Halo 2 upped the ante for me and I remain one of the staunch supporters of how that story played out. Unlike the original, which was strictly a Master Chief affair, Halo 2 offered a new perspective in the form of the enemy. Well, kind of. The Covenant has played a substantial role in the Halo universe and Halo 2 allowed players to take control of the Covenant's Arbiter. The gameplay itself was split 50/50 as you flipped perspectives on the story between the Arbiter and the Chief. 

The decision to not wholly focus on the Chief was a pretty bold one, especially after the build up from Halo: Combat Evolved and the still-new XBOX Live platform. Personally, I loved how it played out, getting the chance to see into the Covenant's backstory and planet from a new point of view. But the split-character gameplay wasn't the only concern players had. Due to the need for multiplayer and various other time constraints, Bungie was forced to cut a lot of content including story beats (sound familiar?) and scope. This forced the game to be smaller than originally intended AND forced Bungie to end the game on a cliffhanger. All of this being said, I definitely got sucked into the Halo hype for this game. I played with friends, neighbors, in garages, everywhere. It was a blast.

Commonly found in the Halo series, a low-level enemy called a Grunt sings a song as he wonders what happened to his friend "Birthday Party Skull". Video pulled from Halo 5: Guardians

For whatever reason, that excitement and hype didn't quite carry over to the release of Halo 3 for me. I certainly picked up the game, played the hell out of it but it never grabbed me. In fact, along with ODST, it's the game I remember the least about. I have some vague recollection of how the story progressed and ultimately concluded that chapter of the Master Chief tales. 

When Halo: Reach was released, the hype returned. The fact that the game was a prequel AND introduced new gameplay elements were terribly exciting to me. Playing a Halo game that didn't start Master Chief (you may have noticed the lack of O.D.S.T discussion. I suppose it's a Halo game but it wasn't an entry that fit for me so I ignored it) as a new Spartan with a whole TEAM of AI or human controlled partners was insanity!  I started reading The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund. I was watching anything I could that had to do with Halo, reading anything I could find, it became a minor obsession. Nothing too big but it happened. 

When the game released, a friend and I played it over and over again. Beating every difficulty, finding every skull, looking for every little easter egg. It was bliss. Bungie had, for me, perfected how a Halo game should look and feel. Plus, they had awesome armor effects and riding glorious into battle on the back of a Warthog while hearts flew off my body was tremendous. I got totally sucked into the daily challenges and I generally enjoyed playing the multiplayer. Even when I wasn't in a party with friends (which is usually how I prefer to play), I was having more fun in MP than I had in any previous Halo game. Even Halo 2.

Then Halo 4 was given to me for XMas the year of it's release. It took me well over 6 months to finally put the game into my XBOX. I didn't feel like I had burned myself out on the property but absolutely nothing about Halo 4 excited me. I played a very small amount of the game was immediately beset by boredom. I kept thinking to myself "Hey self, just keep playing. It's a slog now but it'll clear up" but it wasn't working. Halo had finally run it's course.

I was done.

When Halo 5: Guardians was announced, I had nothing for it. No excitement, no twinge of "Oh man, Halo is BACK!", nothing. It simply was. I watched some of the initial multiplayer videos which caused a little bit of attention perking. It looked smooth. It looked like Halo multiplayer but in the way that made me feel like I might be able to get back into it. I saw gameplay videos for the Warzone mode and figured "Well, I might as well try the beta" but that wasn't happening. No. 

"Always Dyin'" Ryan meets the business end of a Warthog in Halo 5's Warzone mode

As the weeks began to pass, I'd see more and more on Halo 5: Guardians which caused me to become more and more invested in how this game was turning out. 2 weeks ago, 1 week prior to the release of Halo 5, the excitement hit me like a ton of bricks.

It's a funny thing when for days/weeks/months/years you have absolutely no interest in something and then, like the flash from a bolt of lightning, a switch is flipped and you're sold. I don't know what it was exactly but I knew I'd pick up Halo 5: Guardians on day 1 and I did. But prior to that, I immersed myself in Halo again. I downloaded the Halo Channel  app on my iPhone and watched a bunch of a videos there. I logged into 343's site to see what was there. I spent hours at night re-watching gameplay videos, checking out dev diaries and commentaries, anything I could get my hands on. 

This franchise has had it's ups and downs. It's run the gamut from having a deep impact on my psyche to being barely a blip on my radar and everything in between. Halo 5: Guardians has been a pretty big up for me. While the story does settle on some bizarre footing and has a few beats I didn't care for, overall, it kind of fits with the previous titles. The gameplay feels fantastic and the multiplayer is a consistent reminder that I am not good at video games but I enjoy playing them so take that, teabaggers. 

Halo is not a franchise that I can immediately jump on and say "I'm day 1 for part 6" but it's definitely a series I can say I'll never count out because at some point, I'll have to suck it all up and actually Finish the Fight.