Last week marks the end of an era as Microsoft pulls the plug on the online features in Halo 2, the massively popular console FPS that has been going strong since its release back in November 2004. As we say goodbye to a title that has been an Xbox Live staple for almost six years -- an eternity in the video games industry -- we take a look back at the series as a whole to measure the impact that the Halo brand has had on the way we play games. Here are five ways Halo has helped change the current state of gaming.
Until Halo came along, most games relied on health packs to manage your health; suffer damage in battle and you had to go use an actual item to restore your vitality. Master Chief had a different trick up his sleeve in the form of a regenerating shield to keep him safe from bodily harm. It allowed for bold strategic maneuvers like rushing into the fold for a few critical seconds; gamers could gamble a little, safe in the knowledge that they could compensate for their suicidal ways by ducking back to safety and letting their shields come back online.
The shield also proved to be the difference between surviving an intense firefight and dying a bloody death; and seriously, who wants to juggle through an inventory for a band-aid or go hunt around for a health pack in the middle of a battle? Halo didn't completely abandon health packs -- you could still pick them up to repair any damage done when your shields dissipated -- but the shield allowed us all to keep our focus where it belongs: on dishing out the pain, rather than trying to micromanage it.
Console FPS Controls
Many will argue that the N64 classic Goldeneye was the first console FPS to nail down a solid control scheme that rivaled the PC's keyboard and mouse, and they'd be right. But the N64's controller was far too "unique" for its own good and has since gone the way of the dodo; it also lacked a critical feature that has become commonplace in today's gaming landscape: dual analog sticks.
While the original Microsoft controller was an unwieldy hunk of plastic, it, along with the original Halo, helped set the "language" of console FPS gaming in stone. It established control conventions that are still in use today. Things like using the left stick for movement; the right stick for manipulating your viewpoint; the right trigger for firing your weapon; and the A button for jump became the norm thanks in large part to Halo. The controls were further refined in Halo 2, but by then, other developers had adopted the scheme and the rest is history.
Online Console Multiplayer
While Activision's Modern Warfare franchise is the current king of the console multiplayer hill, Master Chief held that throne long before Call of Duty left the trenches of World War II. The Halo franchise helped establish the Xbox Live service as the dominant force in online console gaming, attracting a ton of gamers to the pay-to-play service. Halo's leaderboards and devoted community also served as a model for other publishers looking to suck gamers in long after they'd wrapped up the single-player campaign.