Quite a few years ago, Halo was released for the original Xbox. At the time I had a buddy that owned an Xbox and, of course, picked up THE game for it. I admit, I was a Sony fanboy at the time and thought that Microsoft getting into the console gaming business just had to be a terrible idea. Because of that attitude, I initially dismissed the notion of picking up an Xbox or even playing Halo. At the time, I don’t even think anyone else I knew had an Xbox. Bias? Of course, but I’ve matured and learned a lot since then. Like I’ve said before, it’s all about the games. And being all about the games, I recently decided the time was right, so I finally picked up all 3 Halo games.

Let me get this out right off the bat. The first Halo didn’t impress me, and honestly, I don’t get what all the hype was about. The game had decent graphics, a solid frame rate and decent (if limited number of) weapons. What the game didn’t have was a compelling story or very interesting characters. The story itself was standard sci-fi fare, and not very exciting at that. In the future, humans are at war with an alien species with superior technology. Hadn’t heard that one before, have you? The overwhelmed humans are then forced to fight in a previously unknown part of space. Now there’s some groundbreaking writing. And the clincher, both species are confronted by an even worse enemy. Wow, never would have seen that coming. Oh, yes I did. But sometimes even bad plot lines can be forgiven. Star Wars: A New Hope had an equally bad story, but what endeared that movie to fans were the unforgettable characters.

I know people are going to disagree with me about this, but after playing the first game did you have any idea who Master Chief really was? Of course not, how could you? He had no back story, very little dialog, not even a face to look at. The supporting cast of characters also gave me the same sense of…meh. Captain Keyes was just another character; other than the forced story element, I had no compelling reason to want to rescue him. Did seeing his final fate evoke any emotion from me? No, I didn’t care, and why should I? He was just a face with a name, a few forgettable lines of dialog, and nothing else attached. In this game, he’s not the only forgettable one, the enemies are no better. With the exception of the limited dialog of the Grunts, the Covenant forces have zero personality. All you hear from them are a series of shrieks, growls and howls; positively boring. These are supposed to be the baddest of the bad guys in the universe, but hell, they’re not even interesting enough to really want to kill. Oh, and don’t get me started on the Flood (For the record, my biggest gaming pet peeve ever is when constant waves of enemies jump out of some vent or other area that I can’t access. How can 30 of these guys hide in a place like that?).

The bullet sponges themselves may be pretty dull, but at least the act of killing them is interesting. There are several areas where combat is engaging with varied environments, but mostly you’ll fight in a nondescript outdoor area or the same endlessly twisting corridors (ala the library). The few weapons that you get are well designed and actually pretty fun to shoot. Plus, unlike most FPS games, the standard pistol is surprisingly useful in itself. I found myself relying on the M6D many times throughout the game.

Overall, the first entry in this popular series had a solid, if uninspired, start. More importantly, it helped to establish the Xbox as a legitimate gaming console in the eyes of hardcore players. All Bungie had to do next was make Halo better.