It’s hard to overstate the impact that Halo: Combat Evolved had on shooters. From the moment Master Chief steps onto the Halo ring, it feels different to every console shooter that came before it, thanks to its distinctive setting, huge levels, and the irresistible feel of its diverse arsenal.
To celebrate its launch on this day 17 years ago, we’re looking at some of the reasons why Halo: Combat Evolved is a landmark game that changed gaming forever.
1. Two weapons limit
As much as we love Doom, Quake, and Goldeneye, the massive range of weapons your character could carry always left us with one question. How did they manage to lug around all that firepower?
Not so in Halo. You could only carry around two weapons at a time, a move that gave the game a minor bit of realism, and made you think what the best tool for your job would be. It would influence everything from Call of Duty to Mass Effect.
2. The regenerating shield
There was a time where you’d plot a path through a shooter’s level by figuring out where the health packs were. Halo’s huge game-changer in this area was introducing a shield that would recharge if you didn’t take enemy fire for a few seconds.
Across the sci-fi shooter’s huge levels (more on those later), it adds a tactical consideration that we never had to make before. Do you play aggressively, taking a chunk of damage but pushing the enemy back? Or do you play conservatively, sticking to cover and making sure you’re harder to kill? Either answer made for a thrilling experience that other developers soon adapted for their own games.
3. Made shooters feel at home on a console
It’s fair to say that before Halo: Combat Evolved, shooters were PC-focused. Although a few had made waves on consoles, such as 007: Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and Medal of Honor, they were exceptions rather than the rule.
Halo not only proved that shooters could work on consoles as fluidly as they did on PC, it gave the genre a popularity it had never experienced away from the mouse and keyboard before. Soon, a wave of games dubbed “Halo-killers” tried to match its popularity, shifting the focus more evenly between the two platforms.
4. Artificial Intelligence that was actually smart
Nope, we’re not talking about Chief’s AI partner (and now, Windows 10 assistant) Cortana. We’re talking about the Flood, Covenant, and Sentinels you take on when fighting across the ringworld of Halo.
The AI of the aliens you fight is so smart, it doesn’t feel like you’re locking wits with a computer game, but an actual alien army, who take cover, flank, and flee depending on your actions. It set a high bar for other shooters to try and… Reach (winking face).
5. Launched the Xbox
The Xbox was Microsoft’s first foray into console gaming and needed to make a statement of intent. A game that was so good, you had to buy an Xbox to play it.
It’s fair to say that Halo delivered on that front, becoming a must-play that had gamers across the country buzzing with excitement, and getting their mates around to play the co-op campaign. Plus, if you wanted to play the multiplayer with a large group of chums in a LAN party, you’d have to invest in a few consoles to boot…
6. Huge levels
Another reason why Halo instantly captured the mood of gamers is the sheer scale of levels you bounded across. From the beaches you thrash the Warthog around in the game’s first proper mission to the vast corridors of The Library, it was a step up in size for shooters.
But that didn’t mean they were large for the sake of it. Each level had set-pieces and firefights that were teeming with enemies to pump lead into, making your journey through this alien world grand in ways we had never seen on a console before.
7. Laid the foundations for the series
The series itself has become one of the largest in gaming, thanks to the way it repeatedly pushes the envelope. From the online multiplayer that debuted in Halo 2 to the graphical accomplishment of Halo 4, each entry in the series pushes shooters forward into new and exciting territory.
Yet every sequel retains some element of this classic. Whether it’s the large levels, fascinating lore, marvellous multiplayer, or oh-so-satisfying weaponry. Now, we wait to see where Halo Infinite will take our favourite Spartan.