Remember those computer magazines, Computer Active, PC Quest, Digit, and Chip being the most famous ones. The first issues always picked up from the railway station bookstalls, though the articles were incredibly fun and informative the most alluring part of the magazine was the CDs that came with them. The CDs had loads of freeware, wallpapers, videos, trialware, and yes games- free indie games or trial versions. There used to be exclusive gaming issues during the year, and that carried along with it the most anticipated games of the year. With one such item, I discovered a gem known as Halo: Combat Evolved. The game had only one level: The Silent Cartographer. The protagonist of the game, Master Chief, his trusted AI assistant Cortana, yes the current windows AI Assistant is named after the character, the Pelican aircraft, the 4*4 named Warthog all became more than characteristics of the game. The objective was to infiltrate a facility on the Halo Ring called the Silent Cartographer to obtain vital information about the Halo ring’s origins. This one level included vehicular combat, aerial combat, sniping, stealth, and an all-out assault on the enemies. It was no wonder the trial version or demo, had immense replayability.
Eventually, the best of demos run out of steam. Still, the right part of running out of steam was that it had generated enough interest in the young and impressionable minds like ours to unleash the hidden childhood power known popularly as pester power. Internet was a luxury back then, which meant no downloads. Video games had not yet generated enough interest to be pirated, which peaked during the 2009-2012 period, more about it on another post. This meant we could get our hands on the game only in a store like Planet M, Crossword, or Landmark in a metro city. It was a 2 CD set, whose unboxing experience can very well rival something on Unbox Therapy.
The game installed for over 2 hours, and there it was, after months of waiting and such build-up of excitement that it could be completed in one sitting. Though I was young enough to understand the story entirely, it turned out to be a gripping tale of grit, deceit, and standing for what one believes to be right.
Though online LAN gaming was not adopted yet, multiplayer those days meant split-screen cooperative campaign. And we loved every minute of it. If it was with a group of friends, each of us took turns playing the game, and I loved it every minute. We loved switching between my rifle and then my pistol to pick off the parasitic flood’s grunts and hordes. We loved gunning down the Covenant as my friend drove the four by 4 with me as the gunner. Storming an enemy base with an entire army made me feel like the champion of the war. And the music, that was the best of all. There was a new track, a brilliant new song at every moment of the game, or there was some variation on the original theme. We spent hours perfecting the Warthog Jump and stealing Banshees to get to parts of the level we weren’t supposed to see. We mined the levels for secrets, like the hidden room on the Pillar of Autumn.
The game started only with a pistol, then assault rifles, and later on, you could even steal guns from your enemies. That was some cool alien tech. The game used a regenerative health system; the protagonist had an exoskeleton than made him a superhuman, or something else. There was always the question of whether the Master Chief was a human or an alien hybrid. And the end of the game just teased us enough to keep our interest and conversation in the game even long after it was over.
And that was it, the beginning of the Halo Saga. Halo Combat Evolved was followed by Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo, Halo Wars Halo Reach, Halo 4, Halo Spartan Assault, Halo 5: Guardians, Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2. Along with live-action films, an anime series, and a host of novels and spinoff material.
Halo is one of genre-defining series and with-it quality lore, strong multiplayer, and an incredible campaign. Any superhero can win a war. To be the one who helps the hero, despite the odds—that takes something special. The most interesting Halo games let you occupy that role, and they’re essential for it.
A marketing and gaming enthusiast with an enduring love for all things retro tech.