Throwback Thursday: Halo: Combat Evolved Reaches For The Stars (VIDEO)

On November 15, 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was released for the original Xbox. A launch title for the inaugural Microsoft console, the first-person shooter presented several innovations for the genre, with the story, combat, and multiplayer garnering widespread praise. Halo: Combat Evolved ‘s monumental success made both Halo and Xbox a household name, labelling even vaguely similar experiences as “Halo clones”.


Background


By the year 1999, developer Bungie had gained a reputation for several war-themed shooters throughout the 90s and were looking to make something new. In the heyday of real-time strategy games like StarCraft, the studio was compelled to pursue a similar project, but with more of a focus on combat and vehicles rather than resource management. As their project progressed, Bungie’s ambitions to craft an exploratory experience transformed the tactical game into a third-person shooter.

After a crowd-pleasing showcase at Macworld 1999, Halo became a very intriguing project to many in the gaming industry. At the time, PC company Microsoft was looking to put out their first gaming console and jumped at the chance to bring Bungie Studios into the Xbox fold. Following the acquisition, Halo would go through several changes to better fit a console experience, including scaling back the online multiplayer (Xbox Live wasn’t a thing yet) and a shift to a first-person perspective.

Halo: Combat Evolved ‘s title went through many changes before settling on the name we know today. At various stages of development, Bungie’s game was known as “Blam!”, “Covenant”, and even the jokingly absurd “Monkey Nuts” before the team eventually settled on the name “Halo”. Microsoft, on the other hand, was not keen on the heavenly name, originally wanting to swap it out for something more militaristic. Bungie refused the idea of a replacement, but eventually compromised with the subtitle “Combat Evolved”.


Gameplay


Players inhabit the role of Spartan super soldier Master Chief amid a war between humanity and the enemy alien force of the Covenant. The Chief is awakened aboard the military vessel Pillar of Autumn as it encounters a mysterious ring-shaped space station called “Halo”. Before much can be learned about the ringworld, Pillar is heavily attacked by a stray Covenant fleet, forcing Master Chief and his trusty AI companion Cortana to jettison to the nearest planet. From here, players embark on a mission to rescue the survivors and discover the secret purpose of Halo.

The gameplay of Halo: Combat Evolved is similar to many shooters of its time, focusing on navigating a 3D environment and defeating enemies though use of various firearms. What made the experience unique was the presence of controllable vehicles and the wide array of weapons at the player’s disposal. Halo also marks one of the first uses of a recharging shield mechanic, another departure from standard FPS games.

One of the standout features of Halo: Combat Evolved is its five-mode multiplayer, which could support four players at a time, or as many as sixteen using the System Link feature. Since Microsoft’s online service Xbox Live had yet to be launched in 2001, the only way to reach that player limit was to connect four or more consoles together, forming a LAN party. However impractical, many Halo gamers would gladly pursue this multiplayer method, that is, until an eventual PC version introduced the coveted online play feature.


Legacy


Halo: Combat Evolved launched an entire media franchise that still continues to this day. Bungie followed up Master Chief’s adventure with two numbered follow-ups, as well as the spin-off titles ODST and Reach. The series’ real-time strategy beginnings would come full circle in Ensemble Studios’ Halo Wars and Creative Assembly’s Halo Wars 2. Following Bungie’s eventual split with Microsoft, a new saga dubbed the “Reclaimer Trilogy” was quickly underway by 343 Industries, spawning sequels Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, with many more expected in the foreseeable future.

What’s your opinion of Halo: Combat Evolved? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day! Also, be on the lookout for the next Throwback Thursday where we’ll highlight yet another title from gaming past.

Eric Hall2687 Posts

Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his biweekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.

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