Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reach Out and Smell It

So, Halo Reach was released kind of yesterday-ish. The last Halo game developed by Bungie (though I have no doubt Microsoft will not release its grubby paws from the series until all monetary value has been flushed from it forever, so, never), it has been released to rave reviews by critics and Halo fans alike. To be honest, it sickens me. I have a deep hatred for the Halo series, not because they're bad games - they're all fun, have shockingly high production values, and are hands-down the best console-exclusive shooters out there. No, I hate Halo because of what it represents - a goldmine, where you, the consumers, are the gold.

Halo: Combat Evolved was great. I'll lay that down there. It took first-person shooters from PCs, and made them work on a consoles. It was unfathomable! Yet Bungie took the swan-dive head-first into the river of concrete, like complete fools, only to find it more profitable than ever. Halo, for over two console generations, has been the benchmark first-person shooters on consoles have been trying to live up to, from the Modern Warfare CoD-branch, to other Halo games.

It also had a pretty good sci-fi story going on, one I think deeper than the Halo fanbase would care to admit. And so, comes Halo 2, possibly the worst cash-cow ever made. Technically only half a game, the development was fraught with problems, technical or otherwise; the cliffhanger ending supposedly "not intended," Microsoft was barking at Bungie's door as they rushed to meet deadlines, they presented faked E3 demos, ones that could "never run on Xbox hardware" - Halo 2 was a doomed beast. However, it did do one thing right. It took the once LAN-only Halo: CE multiplayer, and combined it with the first stable console online network - Xbox LIVE. Today, mere mention of LIVE is mundane. Everyone knows it's a PC/Xbox cross-platform gaming/achievement/stats/multiplayer/matchmaking "thing," that is too pricey yet you'll pay it anyway if it means a month more of Modern Warfare 2. When Halo 2 was released, LIVE was like, new. Online shooters were still very much the domain of the PC, with their Battlefields and Counter-Strikes and StarCrafts. Halo 2 has that, and maybe only that, going for it. A doomed game only needs one redeeming feature, right?

Well, Halo 2 sold 9 million copies. So, Halo 3 came sweeping through Bungie's gates for Microsoft's new console, the Xbox 360. A competent shooter, with wonderful graphics, Halo 2's awesome online ramped up considerably, and sweet 4-player co-op through the whole campaign, Halo 3 became Microsoft's bastion. This, I hate. Halo 3 is a good game, don't get me wrong! But Halo 3 only exists for Bungie, because Halo 2 had a crappy cliffhanger. They needed to finish off the story. As such, Halo 3 feels more like Microsoft's game than Bungie's. Bungie, ground through the Microsoft machine to make Halo 2 for a console that, for all intents and purposes, couldn't actually run it. Microsoft snapped them up. Bungie are great developers, easily up there with Blizzard and Valve in the "listen to your fanbase" awesomeness that most developers ignore completely. But once Microsoft got a hold on the Halo series, Bungie became nothing but a hand puppet, dancing for money.

This is where you, the consumers, come in. Halo is, and always has been, a Microsoft money-maker, designed to sell consoles and LIVE memberships. Yet the majority of Halo fans take them as some kind of holy grail of game design! Well-designed and original! No, Halo is NOT original. It rips off Aliens like a motherfucker, with the main character, the, nay - a "Master Chief," being the faceless, characterless Mario of Microsoft. Halo's backstory sapped up by Microsoft, the evil giants of today's technological, Windows-driven business world. Halo is not a great game, it is all but a cog in a tightly wound machine made by Microsoft, taking away from developers that mean a damn, Bungie included, to make crappy needless sequels like ODST and spin-offs like Halo Wars. An above-average console seller.

And here we come to Reach, Bungie's sigh of relief that they are at the end of their contract. Reach feels a lot like its title - a reach. Bungie is reaching out. They're reaching out to a brighter future. They made Reach with the Halo moniker, but something tells me they wouldn't have done that if they had the choice not to. A prequel, vastly mouldable into something very anti-Master Chief, Reach is not a return to form - it's possibly the first form the series has taken since its conception. Bungie didn't want this. If they could, they'd have finished Halo 2 and released it on Xbox 360, merged with Halo 3! This is a final breath, the end of Bungie's squirming under Microsoft. It shouldn't be greeted with wonderful reviews, or money, it should be greeted with a cheer, as Bungie wrangles free from oppression to a future free of Halo. Five games too long, maybe Bungie can finally work on something innovative and worth a damn, because they can do it - the first two Halo games prove they can make something of nothing (Xbox, or LIVE). Halo fans want Bungie to do well, then stop lapping up Halo, because you're lapping it up right out of Microsoft's lap. You cocksuckers.

Andrew Deavin would like to say that not all Halo fans are cocksuckers, only most of them. He issues a challenge to readers - a list of post-Halo single-player console-exclusive first-person shooters that DON'T feature space/power armour, limited weapon slots, or recharging health. If the list is over 50 games, he will take back every anti-Halo sentiment in this post, and then eat his own face. For serious. Post them in the comments!


  1. I had something here, but you changed the challenge. Also: Monday Night Combat. Technically not first person shooter, but I lump 3rd and 1st person in the same category.

  2. Oh, and Blacklight Tango Down. Unless you count recharging to only half health as recharging health, and anything that looks remotely like power armor (regardless of its actual function) as recharging shields.

  3. Name 50 first person shooters that don't use projectile weapons and I'll eat my own face...

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