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Forget resolution. Why Halo is really worth playing again

by on October 14, 2014
 

halomasterchief

Halo is old.

It’s been more than a decade since Bungie released its sci-fi shooter on the original Xbox. Thirteen years since we played as the armored green soldier known as the Master Chief and saved humanity from an alien threat. Thirteen years of the shooter genre evolving, going from arcade-inspired to military-inspired to somewhere in between; from frantic to bombastic.

The Master Chief Collection, which brings Bungie’s original trilogy and 343 Industries’ debut together on the Xbox One, will be released next month. With it, Microsoft and 343 Industries suggest, rather hope that you want to travel back and play through the series again. But, even though it may look good, Microsoft promises it will run at a modern 1080p and 60 frames-per-second, you still have to interact with the old systems.

To call Halo’s mechanics old, though, is to mislead newcomers. Playing Halo, shooting aliens with biting rifles and energy weapons, hasn’t changed in those many years between the first game, its sequels, and the most recent iteration, Halo 4. Halo hasn’t changed, and that’s what has kept it alive so long.

There’s a reason why going back to a Halo game is more muscle memory than nostalgia. Halo’s push-and-pull combat is the bicycle of games. Why no other game has copied it is still surprising to me today. Perhaps that says something about Bungie’s articulate design and 343 Industries skill at carrying it forward.

Halo has a rhythm that other shooters don’t. And that’s not to say Call of Duty lacks momentum and timing. It has those, but they’re so much faster. Halo is big and weighty and therefore slower-paced, but satisfying in a different way.

Halo firefights are fair. You go in aggressive, the enemies slam you back. You go in cautious, the enemies coax you out. There’s constant conflict no matter what tactic you take. Shooters rely on that simple, reactive input and output to work, and Halo has done it over and over again.

Halo is old. It’s grand and now embarrassingly obtuse story has aged too. The aesthetic, while unique, isn’t as flashy as today’s space shooters. But beneath all of that is what Halo is really about and 13 years later, it’s still pristine. So, yes, I’d love to play Halo again.

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