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It’s already clear to me, weeks before it releases, that I will not be at the top of any leader boards for Halo 3. Like millions who will wait in line to purchase the finale of a trilogy that has broken barriers into mainstream appeal, my part in the game will be delegated to fodder for the better players on Xbox Live. Which calls into question why us millions played Halo 2 to such a mind numbing degree, a feat that will likely be equaled for Halo 3. The answer isn’t as simple as I’d wish, otherwise I could tag this story with Halo and just call it good. But to play as Master Chief is to truly love what videogames are. My gaming life will always be defined by sessions of Metroid, Mega-Man, and Chrono Trigger. But the day my then fiancé decided an Xbox would be a decent “just because” gift my world was changed.
In the early 2000s gaming, for me, had become a slightly jaded experience. This had somewhat to do with a new job working in NYC, a big change for a small town boy. But mainly it was that I wasn’t finding the games that had once inspired me. Late to the game, I got my Xbox and Halo the spring before Halo 2’s release. Immediately I was enthralled with the gameplay, and spent many visits with my brother-in-law battling it out one-on-one in multiplayer death matches. Yet, the Halo infection didn’t quite hit me. I still challenge anyone to tell me that Halo’s campaign told an innovative and interesting story. It certainly sparked something for gamers, but it was fairly derivative of your typical sci-fi shooter. The one aspect it had over Half-Life was that the gameplay felt more story driven, but still it wasn’t enough.
How odd then, despite its gut wrenching fade-to-black ending, that Halo 2 would soon change my view on videogames. This isn’t to make more of Halo 2, especially the campaign, than is really there. That’s because the experience of Halo 2 went beyond a single player game. Bungie created a gamer hivemind with the Halo community, and that is what makes Halo such a special series. The LAN community already knew of Halo’s phenomenal multiplayer experience, but most of the world had simply no clue. With the robust online system of Halo 2 that experience would expand to us all.
For the first time in twenty years of playing videogames I was utterly obsessed with a single game. For three months straight I played nearly 4 hours each night, venturing most often alone into the sewer of online games. But I found something interesting. A game that incorporates the community which loves it so deeply is the only way to experience multiplayer. Most games get that following by simply being decent (or often great) games. With Halo 2 Bungie built that into the very code of the game.
Hooking up with friends and going from to game to game became the default way to play online; trick videos were scoured for and poured over for the next new tactic that us lowly gamers could never figure out ourselves; Bungie got in the trenches and played games with us, as well as informed the audience of the goings on behind the scenes. We were given unparalleled access to the brains behind Master Chief’s brawn. And we made friends.
Halo 2 is the largest unofficial LAN-fest of all time. You can argue that all of online games should fit into that description, even if it’s technically incorrect. But no other game brought so many of us together in the way Halo 2 did. Other online games were there to get some variety, Halo 2 became a way to have fun with people you began to call friends. Like me, there are many of you who met someone through Bungie’s game and now call them friend. Not just a gamertag on your Friend’s List, but a person who you know in a way only a true bond could define. I met my wife online, so I know firsthand how strong these types of relationships can be.
Maybe they didn’t realize quite what was going to happen, but Bungie certainly took this course deliberately. Like the greatest works of fiction in human history, Halo has gone beyond the content. While there may be better games out this year, none will have the emotional impact of Halo 3. No matter how many plot twists, atmospheric music and visuals, or rocking songs you include in a game, the effect on a community will pale compared to Bungie’s juggernaut.
So, does Halo really deserve all the praise it gets? It is, after all, a fairly straightforward FPS game. There are some things that come along which go beyond the mere physical form they are presented to you in. Halo is the first game to truly achieve this. Beyond the niche hardcore gamer and gaming geek, Halo is a part of the world community. For all my hours of fragging joy, for the dozens I call friends, and for reinvigorating my gaming desire when I needed it most I thank Bungie for telling a little story about a cyber soldier fighting to save humanity under impossible odds.
Finish the Fight
Below are all the Halo 3 Primer stories for easy navigation. You can use this story as a way to get around our Primer. The intent here is not to give every minute detail known about Halo 3. Our Primer is a way for you to see, in one convenient location, all the things you can expect to see somewhere in Halo 3. For the most part we stick with officially confirmed items, but we do offer reasonable speculation on what is likely to show up in the retail version.
The Halo 3 Primer
CB Games Beta Diaries
Master Chief Battles Samus Aran