Sunday, September 30, 2007

An Exercise in Meh

I was doing some random websurfing and stumbled upon, and I shit you not, a completely serious website devoted to how Halo ‘changed the world’.

Ok, time for my take:

Halo 1 was a completely and totally average shooter. It didn’t have anything new, the weapons were samey and boring…and as for the ‘amazing’ story, Aliens trying to destroy humanity? Yawn, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. The levels were unimaginative and in some places looked like the same area cut and pasted over and over again. Seriously, it was so easy to get lost on some levels because every room and corridor was exactly the same.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but it was a plain vanilla shooter.

Then I tried Halo 2. I thought it was just like Halo 1, but with better graphics.

Halo 3 I have no intention of playing. Unless I hear some unbiased reviews that say it’s absolutely amazing, it holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever. Wasn’t impressed with the first two, and I don’t buy games on looks alone. If it’s pretty, great, but I don’t buy a game to look at it, I buy a game to have fun playing it.

Anyway, I started to wonder why everyone was going so nuts over Halo. I mean, the frigging pistol from Halo 1 was voted the ‘best’ FPS weapon of all time.

Did these people sleep through Doom’s BFG, Duke Nukem’s Shrink Ray and Half Life’s laser guided rocket launcher?

The website that inspired this post made some good points about why Halo was great, but I started to realize, these points only counted if Halo was the first shooter you ever played and you ignored everything that came before it.

For example, the original Half Life changed shooters because it was the first to have a really compelling story, and it told this story with scripted sequences while you were playing. Quake was the first shooter to be 100% 3D. What about those?

Long story short…Half-Life was groundbreaking, amazingly fun shooter…Halo was purely ‘meh.’

Then I finally got it.

Halo was the first ‘real’ first person shooter to appear on a console. In essence, it was the ‘Fisher-Price’ shooter that opened up the genre to people who couldn’t be bothered learning how to use a computer to game.

This almost annoys me in a way. We’ve had Wolfenstein3D, Doom, Duke Nukem3D, Quake, Half Life, Dark Forces…I could go on forever, and now thanks to the total dumbing down and ‘lowest common denominator’ direction the games industry is taking, we have these douchebags proclaiming a totally average game as the best thing ever.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how good the game is, as long as it has it’s own ‘energy drink’, comes with a collectible helmet and more marketing and TV time than the Presidential election.

I know this seems a really odd thing to get worked up about, but as I’ve said a million times before I see games as an honest to god artform. There’s nothing like seeing classics getting ignored and dismissed, all because the latest game appeals to the frat boy crowd who get suckered in by the hype and like to ‘pwn bitches’ while drinking their over-branded ‘Master Chief’ edition ‘Game Fuel’.

Put it this way, when we have people proclaiming any game is the greatest game ever played and creaming their pants every time it’s mentions, before they’ve actually played it…something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

1 comment:

Kato said...

You are, I believe, correct in your conclusion as to why it is popular. Halo was one of the first good FPS'es on a console (though Goldeneye for the N64 was a popular and important precursor). I think Halo on the Xbox was not only the first introduction a lot of gamers had to first-person shooters (a genre that was, up until then, the maintstay of PC gaming, and therefore more expensive) but also the first taste of networked FPS. We've been doing LANs and online gaming on PCs for years, but console LANs didn't really come about until the Xbox. Halo 2 came after Xbox Live was in place, meaning that console players could experience Halo with their friends over a network, which again was new for the console world.

The single-player Halo experience has always been decent (I'm a fan of the campaign itself--I'm the kind of person who drinks in that kind of story and unverse)--but it's the multiplayer that drives the sales through the roof. And, honestly, the head-to-head and team-based multiplayer is a lot of fun.

Also, you have to take into consideration the magic of the hype machine. The advertising budget for Halo 3 was clearly ridiculous, and they've been building name recognition for almost 7 years now, so it isn't surprising that the game can generate a tremendous amount of buzz.