How did Halo become so successful 20 years on?
Halo as franchise is one of the biggest in the world. It has surpassed all expectations that Bungie and Microsoft had upon release in 2001. It has a very loyal fanbase, that continues to support the game to this date, 20 years on from the initial release.
Many major brands have been involved in Halo with the likes of OpTic Gaming being a main stayer in the esport for many years, and the likes of Call of Duty presenter, Lottie Van Praag originally presenting Halo. Furthermore, bigger stars such as Ninja began by competing in Halo esports early on in his career.
It is safe to say that in 2021, Halo is back and better than ever, but how exactly did we get here?
Halo: Combat Evolved
The release of Halo came a few years before Call of Duty, with the release of Halo: Combat Evolved, only available on the XBOX. At the time, XBOX had been struggling with their console sales, and with the release of the game, sales saw an increase at the time. The game itself was released on the 15th November, 2001, and would mark the start of a game that would grow to be one of the main players in the world today. It grossed a total of 5.5 million sales, breaking records worldwide at the time. At the time of release, XBOX Live was still in development, therefore multiplayer, would not have been an option had it not been for the split screen mode that was so beloved by so many fans of the game. The game also featured it’s still loveable regenerating shield, as well as a two-weapon system, which enabled the game to have a little bit more realism to it compared to its competitors at the time, such as Doom. Prior to the release of Halo, if you wanted to play a first person shooter, the obvious play was to go on-to PC, but Bungie decided that enough was enough, with the release ensuring that FPS games had a future on actual consoles, in comparison to the many games found on PC. Regardless of what Halo game you play today, Halo: Combat Evolved was instrumental in the future success of the series, as even today, you will see aspects of the classic in the every instalment of the Franchise.
Following the success of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 was released on the 9th November 2004. This game was much anticipated, due to the prior success of Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 2. The game was delayed, and came following many cuts that had to be made to ensure that the game released on-time. The game proved to be a difference maker at the time, with fear that it could not live up to the hype; it definitely did. It proved to be successful, selling a total of 8.46 million copies of the game in total, just under 3 million copies more than it’s predecessor. Halo 2’s campaign is a divisive one though, with some people loving and hating it. Many gamers hated the outcome cliff hanger that it left, whilst others loved being introduced to the Covenant. Halo 2 also saw the introduction of online multiplayer. Different playlists were introduced, as well as custom games and lobbies ensuring that players had maximum flexibility over their multiplayer gameplay. Overall, the game won multiple awards and was another big success for the franchise, and even today, people are still playing the game as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Halo 3 proved to be yet another huge success for Microsoft and Bungie, as the sales kept coming. 14.5 copies were sold worldwide, and more than one million players played Halo 3 online during the first day of release. The game itself has released multiple positive reviews and is heavily regarded as one of the best games of all time. It saw the introduction of the XBOX 360, and boosted the sales of Microsoft’s newest console during its early days. The original story of Halo 3 proved to be shorter than Halo 1 and 2 as the game inevitably had a heavy focus on the multiplayer aspect, knowing how successful it could be as it ensured people could game with people, no matter where they are through XBOX Live. The game saw the Gravity Hammer be able to be wielded by Spartans, whereas in Halo 2, it was very visual. It did extremely well to continue on the story of Halo 2, but that is not all that Halo 3 had going for it. It saw the introduction of equipment, such as the regenerator; a piece of equipment used by Spartans to drain the shields of anybody within a certain radius. Halo 3 is also known to be the game that allowed more cooperation than ever before as 3–4 players could now complete the campaign, rather than the previous 1–2 player limit seen in previous games in the franchise. The game is considered to be one of the best in the series, and it is very easy to see why.
Halo Wars was a jump to a completely different genre of game than previously. It proved that Halo is a game that does not limit itself, as it jumped from being a first-person shooter, to being a real-time strategy game, released on 26th February 2009. This proved to be less profitable than previous games, as a lot of people were sceptical due to the genre change. The story takes place years before the original Halo, so if you missed this one out, like millions did. You probably didn’t miss much. The game itself sold only 2.62 million copies, nearly 12 million less than the previous game in the franchise. Regardless of the lack of sales, and the different timeframe to the main series, the game itself had a positive reaction as people were impressed with the attention to detail and the way that the game was able to replicate the original Halo universe, giving Halo Wars that Halo feel despite it being very very different. It also allowed players to game together once again as players were able to go against one-another in Skrimish Mode, whilst being able to play a military campaign online with other players. Looking back at the game now, was it a bit irrelevant? Probably, but some players were still able to enjoy it and it did bring something fun and different to a highly successful franchise.
Halo 3: ODST
Despite not having a full first person shooter game focused on Master Chief and his ongoing story, in 2009, Bungie and Microsoft released not one, but two games. Along with Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST was released. The game followed five Oribal Drop Shock Troopers, known as ODST’s. The game itself is based in the 26th century, while a war is ongoing between humans, commanded by the United Nations Space Command and the aliens that make up the religious organisation, found previously in the franchise, known as the Covenant. As well as this, there is a substory of a girl called Sadie, who finds herself recording her story during the beginning of the battle, amid her ongoing search for her missing father. The game itself is a very interesting one, and is another breathe of fresh air, being able to explore stories that are not just focused on Master Chief, still gaining positive reviews and being praised, but not as much as its predecessors. It sold a total of 2.5 million sales, similar to Halo Wars, but proved to be a very fun different side in the Halo Universe.
Halo: Reach was the last game in the franchise to have been developed by Bungie. Bungie started this journey, and with the return to the FPS Halo Universe, Bungie decided to focus their attention on Destiny. Halo: Reach took place before the original Halo, and was a third Halo game without the focus on Master Chief and the ongoing story found in Halo 1–3. The game proved to be extremely high-quality with a lot of praise going to Bungie’s team for developing such a stunning location. The campaign proved to be a lot bigger than expected, with players being extremely happy with it filling a lot of gaps in the story leading towards Halo 1. It was the game that everybody was buying, and Spartans were buying into it. It proved to be the bounce back that Halo needed, selling a total of 9.87 copies worldwide. Despite not having the story of the other games, it had the same universe, with other Spartans becoming known, with the addition of Forklifts that many people loved to utilise within the game. The game is considered by many to be the “last real Halo” due to Bungie pulling out of the franchise, but if you haven’t played the game — you need to. It is by far, one of the best epilogues to a game that you will find.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
What is there really to say about this one? Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was released on November 15, 2011 on XBOX 360. It sold a total of 2.43 million copies. The game itself was a complete remake of the original Halo, which meant fans ate it up. It gave the stories, the game modes and settings of the original Halo, with all the updated technology. It was developed by Saber Interactive rather than Bungie, and did have several technical issues, but overall the game had a good reception. It was a good bit of nostalgia on the games anniversary. Well done to 343 Industries.
Halo 4 would be the next game in the franchise releasing on XBOX 360 on 6th November 2012, rocking a sale of 9.75 million copies. The game received positive reviews from critics, with a very divided fanbase. A lot of people couldn’t get behind this Halo, as it was too far away from the original three, and was not as recognizable; it was missing the feeling of Halo. Despite this, the game had major success and a lot of people absolutely loved it. The major critique of the game is the writing and the story. The characters didn’t really land much impact other than Master Chief and Cortana, therefore people didn’t really care that much. Having said that, the emotion of the story, and Cortana’s death really rocked the Halo fanbase, as Spartans felt a lot of empathy given their past. One of the key notes of this is that the game is considered not as good as previous games in the series, however if we stop and think about the game as a brand new standalone game without the rest of the series, it would be seen with a lot more potential than it was. Halo 4 had a lot more focus on the storyline itself, and being a lot more cinematic, despite the issues in the writing. Overall, the game was a good one, and it evoked emotion from the gamer, with a successful main story.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
The Master Chief Collection consisted of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4. The game proved successful as it essentially rereleased the original games, with the exact same stories, just with the updated systems meaning the performances were a lot better. It recieved a hugely positive reception from critics, who were extremely happy with the updated graphics and audio, but were not particularly happy with the shere amount of bugs and issues in multiplayer. One good thing to note abotu 343 industries, is that they listen to the fanbase, and as these were reported, they were fixed, resulting in a very enjoyable experience across the franchise. It has sold at least 8.13 million copies, showing just how relevant the series still is to the date.
Halo 5: Guardians
Halo 5: Guardians proved to be the sequel to Halo 4, being released on Xbox One on 17th October 2015. It came at a time where Xbox and Halo were being dominated by PlayStation and Call of Duty, however the game was able to sell a total of 9.5 million copies, showing that Halo still has that diehard fanbase that has been there since Halo 2. Halo 5 went back to the roots of Halo though focusing on key aspects like bringing the Halo Multiplayer experience, back to how it was in Halo 3, whilst working to ensure that it was new and up-to-date with brand new maps, abilities and making Halo 5 looks the best that it has in years. One of the biggest cons however was that this game marked the remove of split-screen, the one game mode that has been in Halo since the beginning. A lot of people aren’t a fan of the campaign though, with the campaign becoming very repetitive after a long time. Ultimately, Halo had a good online system, but the fanbase became very tired of the game, resorting to going back to Halo 3 after a few years.
Halo: Wars 2
Halo Wars 2 was a bit of a random release, but it did provide another game with a decent story that was not a first person shooter. The game released on 21st February 2017, and had a good critical response. It sold 2.2 million copies, which is why the game can be seen as a bit of a money grab to certain fans, but the franchise went back to make a sequel to the original RTS, Halo Wars. The story of Halo Wars 2 isn’t the best, and is known to be quiet basic but the game has a heavy focus on strategy, and for a real-time strategy game, that has to be applauded. Alongside this game, Halo Wars: Definitive Edition was released a week later to ensure it could run on the latest systems.
Fast Forward to late 2021. Following a long COVID-19 pandemic, and release delays to ensure the game was top quality and on 15 November 2021, the game was released to the world with one huge catch — It is free to play! The game was released initially without the campaign mode, with the campaign mode coming later on December 8th, but the gameplay is stunning. Halo Infinite has been hit with a ridiculous amount of positive reviews. We have already said that 343 Industries listens to its fanbase, and you will be glad to know that two key aspects of the Halo Series is set to return; Master Chief and Split Screen Gameplay. The game itself was announced in 2018, and the fanbase has been waiting for it for so long, and now that it is here. What do we think? From what we have seen, the game is another absolutely beautiful one, with the campaign recieving positive reviews all round. The game is a brand new one so we won’t spoil it, but while it is free to play, go ahead and play it and let us know what you think!