For many years, Halo has provided the bedrock upon which I walk into battle. It is a domain that I am perfectly comfortable in, and yet feel both isolated and overwhelmed simultaneously. Because, for me, Halo provides many things that other titles – despite presenting a more realistic angle on combat or claiming to present superior graphics – are simply not able to deliver. They are vanilla to me, in terms of what a package should offer to a gamer. It is all things to all gamers.
With Halo I am presented with stunning vistas of galactic proportions that provide an artistic backdrop to a situation that is equally inviting, but also threatening. Being an imaginative individual, I am lured into an alien world filled with ancient constructions and dire consequences should those constructions become active, or shaped into a tool by those too eager to destroy or too ignorant to explore. For me, it is the fiction of Halo that captivates me the most. The breadth and depth of it is truly astounding. In my journey I have been one of those six-year olds that were taken away from their family. And I have been through the very same gruelling training regime as the Spartan-II recruits. I have fought the Covenant, in all their guises and variations, on worlds and environments that I could barely imagine beforehand. I have fought to defend Earth and I have died on her colonies. And I have set foot on the surface of colossal, ancient constructs of unspeakable power. I have become the last bastion of defence for humanity. I have become Hero.
But I have also become a shell, a husk of a human desperately clinging on to everything that defines him as a human being. I have become the Master Chief. I am the Master Chief. But Halo doesn’t just provide me with fictional gratification. It provides so much more.
Graphically, Halo is a canvas for the best and the brightest in the gaming industry. I’ve always marvelled at the views, the intricate details and the threat charging towards me, teeth bared, weapons ready, cursing my existence, threatening my downfall. Beyond that, the sound effects and the music pull me in, putting me there, in the middle of the fight, or providing the reassuringly familiar roar of the Warthog or the explosive might of the Scorpion. And it has also set the tone for what lies in the deepest, darkest corner of my imagination, surrounded by tendrils and a need to feed on the living. It has provided both joy and fear in every environment that I have walked in or driven through. And when I am ready, I can take the fight to the millions of other Halo fans, either as a dreadfully unprepared Lone Wolf, or with the company of friends, in environments gifted by the designers or skilfully re-imagined by the community through the superbly useful and addictive Forge. Bart’s Manor springs to mind. Or I can sit back in the theatre, enjoying victory and defeat in equal measure.
For me, Halo provides the complete package. I am wowed by its visual identity, stunned by its audio presence, captivated by its storytelling and history, and nurtured by a committed community. I play Halo, not just because of this. I play it because we are the last, best hope for mankind.