It is easy to argue that shooters are the most popular genre of video games today. New shooters, both first and third-person, seem to release every other month, and many other genres have adapted shooting game standards into their gameplay. One franchise, now nearly 20 years old, has helped innovate, drive, and define the genre as a whole. That franchise first started back in November of 2001, Halo.
Halo has been a staple of the shooter genre and gaming as a whole for nearly two decades. Its first release, Halo: Combat Evolved, introduced some mechanics that are now industry standard and created a world that is nearly as recognizable worldwide as Mario or Pikachu. Still considered one of the best original Xbox games, Halo has long defined the shooting genre for a generation.
With many fans excitedly anticipating the release of the next mainline entry Halo Infinite, it's likely that some players are taking the time to go back and replay through the main entries in the long-running franchise. With that, it's worth taking a moment to consider the impact that Master Chief and his journey throughout the Halo games have had on the genre, and video games as a whole. Master Chief is even constantly a fan-favorite pick for the "next" Super Smash Bros. DLC fighter, a potential crossover that shows how widely popular the character and franchise have become.
Shooters had already become popular before the release of Halo, as titles like Wolfenstein and Doom had pioneered the genre years prior, and games like Goldeneye showed how popular multiplayer could be in a first-person shooter. While Halo has been right to take inspiration from more modern shooters like Call of Duty's success with adapting some mechanics and gameplay modes in its newer releases, Halo first pioneered many of the gameplay standards across the genre today. Halo introduced the rechargeable shield, fine-tuned multiplayer, and refined vehicle controls in ways that are now industry standard.
Younger players might be hard-pressed to imagine playing a shooter without some kind of rechargeable shield before they lose health. There are variations on how a shield might recharge: via consumables as in Fortnite or after a delay in games like Titanfall. This now standard mechanic made Halo's combat seem more dynamic, and at times, the shield made players feel safer after narrowly avoiding death from a large explosion. At other times, it added a level of urgency as players frenetically seek cover as the broken shield alarm sounds and they watch their health quickly plummeting. Fine-tuning this mechanic has been part of the evolution of the combat from the original Halo to Halo Infinite.
Multiplayer has long been at the heart of the shooter genre. For many players, even the grandiose and elaborate story of the Halo franchise is mostly a backdrop for essentially a long tutorial before they jump into competitive multiplayer. Some others enjoyed the co-op mechanics that Halo had deftly implemented as the premier way to enjoy the story. Some of the features introduced in even the earliest Halo games will likely continue to Halo Infinite and beyond. Halo defined multiplayer at the time, as many veteran fans have warm memories of lugging their Xbox and a CRT to a friend's house or a local game store to set up for massive LAN parties and tournaments.
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