The Halo franchise is responsible for a lot of things we’ve come to despise: pre-teen fanboys cursing over Xbox Live, the infamous ‘teabag,’ and the nagging feeling that Peter Jackson’s film adaptation will never happen. With the anniversary remake of Halo: Combat Evolved arriving on store shelves next week, we take a look back at the franchise and remember the features and innovations that made the multi-million dollar franchise so influential. Some things on this list are small tweaks and others are big game-changers, but they’ve all had a significant influence on the feel and play of first-person shooters today.
9. Alternative Reality Gaming Marketing
Although Bungie quickly became a household name kind of developer, they still very much had the heart of an independent studio often including easter eggs and their wry sense of humor throughout the games. In anticipation of their release of Halo 2, Bungie designed an innovative viral marking scheme that included an Alternative Reality Gaming project called “I Love Bees.” The project had gamers getting out of their mom’s basements and answering the phone calls of pay phones all across the country, answering pre-recorded questions about an upcoming alien invasion. This kind of risk-taking, genre-mixing was the first of its kind and is especially rare in a high-profile franchise like Halo.
8. Regenerating Health Bars
While the original Halo only dipped its toe with regenerating shields, Halo 2 introduced the full-fledged regenerating health bar with no health packs necessary. Although Bungie wasn’t the first to use this system of health bar, it was certainly the first to use it in both a first-person shooter and a competitive multiplayer setting. Although Bungie would later return to the health bars of the original Halo, it became integrated into almost all first-person shooters including popular franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield.
7. Competitive Automatic Matchmaking
Xbox Live, Microsoft’s premiere online gaming service, became the backbone for the Halo franchise with the release of Halo 2 in 2004. Built ground up for Xbox Live, Halo 2 and the following installments in the franchise became the shining stars of the online service and were the prime examples of one of the first balanced and fluid matchmaking program that encouraged legitimate competition to grow in its community. Just about every game that features some kind of online matchmaking program by match type owes something to Halo 2’s original system.
6. Grenades Without Switching Weapons
Because the left trigger no longer had to be used for zooming in, Bungie was free to make another part of the combat gameplay more accessible. Like it did with the beat down, Halo did not invent the use of grenades in multiplayer shooters, but it did make them a more viable combat tool. The days of cycling through your weapons until you finally got to your grenades were over and would never return.
5. Zoom-In Ease (Control Stick Click)
This one, while incredibly smart, is more of a small tweak. Allowing players using the dual stick method of aiming (a relatively new introduction to first-person games) to zoom in with the same device they use to aim was one of the many small tweaks Bungie added on to the console-shooter formula. More importantly, however, it opened up another button that could be used for the next important innovation.