chris-littlechild - September 12, 2016
Ask anyone who Nintendoâ€™s mascot is. Just do it. Right now. Whether itâ€™s your boss, your 127-year-old great grandma with the bladder problems or that exchange student from a remote village in the Alps, theyâ€™ll know the damn answer. Mario, theyâ€™ll say, and theyâ€™ll look at you with a pitying kind of why did I ever associate with this dumbass? Who the hell doesnâ€™t know that? Look on their faces.
According to something I vaguely remember reading somewhere on the Internet once, Mario is as recognisable worldwide as Mickey Mouse. If thatâ€™s not just a dream I had while hungover, itâ€™s pretty darn impressive. But then thatâ€™s always been the thing with Nintendo systems: third party support is lacking, but they sell on the strength of their IPs. Mario himself, his gangly-ass useless brother Luigi, Bowser, Kirby, Link, all these guys. You just have to look at the vast roster of the latest Smash Bros to appreciate just how many huge names Nintendo have at their disposal.
Â Microsoft and Sony just canâ€™t compete. Remember PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale? It was a bit shit, wasnâ€™t it? Thatâ€™s because they just donâ€™t have the names to back something like that up. On that note, who would you say is Xboxâ€™s mascot? That role probably goes to Master Chief, star of the Halo series.
The first game in this spacetastic shooter franchise hit the original Xbox in 2001. It kicked off the long and melodramatic story of our olâ€™ buddy the Chief, a member of a supersoldier race dubbed the Spartans. These guys were just the Arnold Schwarzenegger-like asswhuppers the UNSC (United Nations Space Command) needed in their war against the Covenant, a dastardly and bastardly group of alien races.
Â And thatâ€™s about all you need to know there. It all sounds fairly typical, the sort of thing that the genre trots out all the time nowadays. Fact is, though, Halo: Combat Evolved popularized this sort of sci-fi bent that FPSs would take, a step towards the Infinite Warfares and Titanfalls that weâ€™re all up to our gonads in right now. It looked and played pretty darn great, and, with its sequels, showed the world that shooters werenâ€™t a one trick pony. World War Two-amundo wasnâ€™t the only way to go.
Having dropped that solid foundation on our asses, developer Bungie set about building on it as the games went on. Halo 2 (2004) did things a little differently, seeing us playing as both the Chief and a member of the Covenant, the also-famous Arbiter, a disgraced commander who turns against his former allies. This was also the title that saw Xbox Live online play added, and I donâ€™t need to tell you what a huge damn deal that would become later in the series.
Up next, as youâ€™d probably guessed if youâ€™re down with this whole â€˜numbersâ€™ thing, was Halo 3 (2007). With this one, the story arc that began with Combat Evolved reached its end, and the Chief enters cryosleep with the whole Halo/rings/Covenant snafu seemingly over.
As has become an FPS trademark, critics had quite a boner for Halo 3â€™s multiplayer, but its kinda limp campaign didnâ€™t go down so well. The title was seen as the fullest and best-endowed Halo package thus far, introducing the classic Forge mode, an in-depth level editor of sorts. This was, a lot of fans would agree, pretty well the highest point of the series.
Â So, natch, everything died on its ass shortly after. Bungie parted ways with Microsoft at this point, making the third title their last in the main series. They dropped Halo Wars, an RTS spin-off, in 2009, and prequel Halo: Reach the following year, but that was to be it. Fans lamented, cried in the streets declaring that the end was nigh. They broke into Bungie HQ at the witching hour and shat on the desks. They sent petty-ass death threats on Internet forums. But there was nothing to be done.
And so we arrived atâ€¦ Halo 4 (2012). This was the first instalment from new developer 343 Industries, and it got a mixed reception for sure. To make their mark on all things Halotastic, 343 came up with a mix of the old and the new. Nobodyâ€™s ass was surprised to see Master Chief as the star again, with his AI buddy Cortana in tow. But this time around, we saw more of the Forerunners, a race who had previously only been referred to in lore. The campaign centers around Cortana, and the Chiefâ€™s attempts to save her declining robo-life.
So here we are, in this brave new era of 343 Halo. The last release, Halo 5: Guardians, is just shy of a year old now, and anyone whoâ€™s had themselves a slice of it will know that Halo has changed a hell of a lot. With the new developer came a turn toward other FPSs. These loadouts and modes and such reek of Call of Duty, the same way that the Doom reboot was criticised for being â€˜too Halo.â€™ But then you could say that about most shooters. Thatâ€™s just what these big olâ€™ influential ballbusting games do. Thatâ€™s the power they have, to shape a genre.
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