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Halo Header, Screenshot.

Gamer Education: Halo Combat Evolved

By Taylor Howarth on September 20, 2022

Over these past few months, finding the drive to game has been a struggle. As someone new to gaming, it isn’t second nature for me to fire up my computer for comfort and escape. But that might be changing.

The idea of play is new to me. I was one of those kids that had to grow up fast, so as a woman in my mid-thirties, playing for the sake of playing is a foreign concept.

Playing Halo gave me insight into the fun of hanging out with your friends and doing dumb stuff in a virtual landscape simply because you can. Like Diablo II, Sage Gamer and I did a co-op style Gamer Education, which, to be honest, makes my life so much easier because we can move through games quicker and with less resistance. We completed the story, but definitely not without a healthy amount of goofing around.

The titular Halo world, Screenshot.

Halo: Combat Evolved was released in 2001 by Bungie on behalf of Microsoft and was a prominent feature of the release of the original Xbox. It was later ported to PC in 2003. While I did play a newer version of the game that defaulted to the updated graphics, I opted to go with the original to get a complete sense of the game as the developers intended.

I recently replayed co-op Halo with someone who stuck with the newer graphics, and she had content and cutscenes that the original game did not. This certainly made for an enjoyable gaming experience because she could interact with the map in ways I could not even see. Thank goodness for voice comms; we both thought we had entered the multiverse.

The Covenant are landing on Halo, Screenshot.

I was told that this was another game that would be chill, and for the most part, it was. There was a lot of downtime between moments of combat and a tasteful amount of cutscenes and story. Yet you could completely zone out, like I did when I first played in the fall, and still be able to finish the game without trouble.

This game is about a ringworld you stumble upon in the first cutscene as your spaceship falls out of hyper-speed travel. Immediately, you are attacked by a familiar enemy, the Covenant, who began a war with humanity in the previous century because we are an affront to their gods.

Large superhuman, Master Chief, Screenshot

You play as the iconic character Master Chief, and you are accompanied by a female AI named Cortana. Master Chief is a seven-foot-tall superhuman and celebrated hero, which is neat because the NPCs (non-playable characters) throughout the game interact with you in a reverent fashion, which makes you feel pretty good.

The music is absolutely stellar. Just tune after tune guiding you as you shoot these rather cute aliens that are trying to wipe your species out of existence. The little aliens tend to run around, flailing their arms and yelling in a very cartoony fashion, which creates a non-serious tone to the combat and story overall. The elite aliens are more difficult, requiring a greater amount of firepower and strategy when attacking them.

The covenant assault and a turret, Screenshot.

What’s also neat about the combat in this game is how dynamic it is. There is a mix of high and low-level enemies, and a rather sophisticated AI brings the battle to you wherever you are on the map. This means that your positioning as a player is key to successful combat. However, I still haven’t quite learned just how visible I am when fighting, and not just first-person shooters. But that’s just part of the newb experience, I guess.

There are various levels and locations, which also makes it visually appealing. There are a few spaceship battles, but there are also exterior environments, like the green hills, tall mountain ranges, and sandy beaches of the titular halo itself. There is even a snow-covered environment. There is a lot of variety between the visual experience of the levels, which I appreciate from the developers.

Sandy beach, screenshot.

One of the most satisfying parts of playing Halo, though, is jumping. There is a soft buoyancy to your jumps that creates a floating feeling, which I have never experienced in another game. It turns out that this is a signature of the Halo games, and I am here for it. The developers explain that this phenomenon is not a result of a low-gravity environment, but because of Master Chief’s superhuman abilities.

There are balanced gender roles (on the binary, of course, as this was a world conceived with minds from the early oughts), much to my surprise, with both men and women serving high ranks in the space marine corps. But there isn’t much racial diversity. Sergeant Major Avery Johnson is the only leading character of colour, portrayed as a cigar-chomping, no-nonsense military man.

The winter wilderness on Halo, Screenshot.

Overall, this game was entertaining and had a high brain-off factor, especially because death has no meaning. You simply re-spawn if your co-op partner is alive when you die. This is a fun, relaxing game that I am told folks in the oughts played over and over again because it was such a great experience to play with friends and so cutting edge for its time.

Definitely worth a revisit, or check it out if you have never played it.