It took the gaming industry long enough, but they finally caught up with the rich interactive platform that Bungie Studios provides as a venue for social and competitive interaction. Halo is no longer the most widely played game on Xbox Live. This is no longer news. It’s been that way for months now. COD4 took us all by surprise as a remarkable team-based experience. GTA4 reasserted itself as a horseman of the apocalypse, and corrected every mistake that was made by its West Coast predecessor along the way.
What is newsworthy is that there is still a damn good game to be had wearing Mjolnir [or Elite] Armor on Xbox Live. Hundreds of thousands of gamers clash on the virtual battlefields wrought by developers every day. They are the faithful. With so many other relevant offerings competing for their attention, the Halo Loyalists insist on finishing the fight again and again and again. The Halo Nation is, perhaps for the first time, populated by citizens who play their game because it is their favorite – not because it is the only viable avenue upon which their gamertag can travel.
They are the panel for this discussion.
What keeps you coming back to Halo? What is your favorite part of the Halo Experience on Xbox Live? It could be a specific hero moment, like picking up a stranded flag carrier on a Mongoose while defenders close in like a swarm of natives chasing down an archaeologist with a golden totem stolen from the ancient temple. It could be the friends you have made along the way in building your rank.
What is the one unit of joy that has you sticking with Halo?
SN1PEZ: Has to be all the friends I’ve made over the years. Its one thing to get that one-shot or save that is an instant thrill, but the presence of your online friends after every win/loss is a much better feeling.
ooCRIMoo: One easily over-looked aspect is the way the online experience works. Setting up a multi-player game in GTA 4 made me long for Bungie’s simple party-based system. I like that when playing with a less than full team, it’s simple to pick up an extra random player if the chemistry’s right and the wins are rolling in.
BSG Alekat: If I really got to the reason why I sign onto Halo almost every day, it has more to do with the community and Bungie’s support. It’s not hard to fall in love with a game when you love games, but it’s the massive amount of content out there that keeps me coming back.
Whachamacalzmit: Community is key. Those great features of Halo 3 only brought us to this game, but the community is what kept us here. If all my friends migrated to another game and there was no community left for me, I’d probably leave.
AmericanNightmr: I keep coming back because I want to see who’s going to die from… What? Mongoose wheel across the map? You simply never know what is going to happen. Pretty much every time I play I see something that I have never seen before. I can’t say the same for the other titles, and if something unique happens, it still doesn’t compare. That and medals are addicting.
Cleanbeats: I really enjoy the competitive nature that the game offers. No other game has really been able to capture that for me. With playlists like Team Hardcore and the newer community offerings from MLG, the game has that competitive environment built right in.
OboeCrazy: I love the basic game mechanics, and then the matchmaking has such a wide variety of play styles to offer that I always have something I want to do. I can Lone Wolf if I just want to slay. I can BTB if I want the epic army vs army experience. I can play SWAT if I want something fast paced and twitchy. We can load up customs and play all manner of strange and wonderful games. Or go into Forge and make our own, or just play around with all the items. Other games, once finished, are simply finished. There’s always something new in Halo 3.
CodeMonkey: The one thing Halo offers that no other online multiplayer game has so far is the statistical reporting on their website. Bungie did a great job for all the fanboys out there when they built in game stats reporting and then setup a website to display those stats. Their online website community is the glue that holds the Halo community together. No other game studio tries to interact with gamers on a level that Bungie does.
Stuicide: It’s hard to think of just one amazing moment but my favorite would have to be the splatter with a ghost. There is no greater feeling than mowing down unsuspecting people with a ghost. The blasters on the ghost are only an effective tool if you use it to get people to jump so you can bust them open like a pinata on their way down.
Monte: When I play halo, not only do I get my friends by my side, but I get to be someone else, a bad ass BR wielding maniac or a pathetic driver trying to have some fun. It’s new, it’s fun, it’s unique. No other game has given this to me so I still play this one. I’m playing Mass Effect right now and it’s great. I crave the friends and the enemies that halo gives though.
Hard Boiled: The perfect gameplay moment is that well-executed flag cap. When everyone is doing their part and working together for a singular goal, it’s a sweet feeling. You have the sneaky people making moves on the flag. The vehicle teams rolling, giving the carrier that perfect path out, and the defensive team keeping your own base area clean for those last few crucial steps.
Maximobien: I play Halo because I LOVE STICKIES. Getting that stick and seeing the medal pop up never gets old. Of course, the more spectacular and long-distance the better, but every stick is sweet.
Mondo Jay: I think the resources for everlasting fun is what keeps me coming back. COD4 may be a great team game with great moments of FPS glory, but you can’t go back and watch clips of that game in a theater like Halo 3. GTA4 may have a wide open experience to explore and cause chaos, but you can’t customize the city/map to the way you’d like to play it ala Halo 3’s Forge. And a lot of games are great fun online, but the matchmaking system just doesn’t run as smoothly as Halo 3.
Tortacular: Moments like this:
Sunburned Goose: What is it about Halo that makes is special, my go-to game besides Gears, COD4, or GTA4? Realism, or the lack thereof. Mancannons, Shields, Plasma Weapons, and Energy Swords, all of these elements and many more add to a story that will never be an experience I will share in real life. Many of the other games I mentioned are variations of real life for me, each of them suffer from the Uncanny Valley hypothesis. Playing GTA 4 or COD 4 builds up a residual feeling, a resistance, because I’m killing Humans which prevents me from picking it up time after time unlike Halo. Shooting a Spartan doesn’t evoke the same emotion in me because the armor is like the pixel version of tanks in my Atari days. He’s human underneath but only part of him.
the dihn: To quote the dinh of the A-Team “I love it when a plan comes together.” A great feeling comes when that flag is planted or bomb planted or sniper is taken out due to some coordination. Nothing like it.
Zeuz Patter: For me, it is the lobby system. It is the only one that works right. It is so easy to get a game. And as hard as it seems to believe, every H3 game is different from the previous one. You could have 3 straight CTF games, and they are all different. Not many games can say that. H3 made a huge improvement on cheating and modding and that is the decisive point.
Fezzer: The Warthog is a beautiful machine. I’ve yet to see any other game EVER implement vehicular gameplay with the elegance and balance that Bungie has achieved. I’ll be completely happy when the Gauss appears in MM again.
[Editor’s Note: Amen, brother]
Milk: Friends, and Halo. They seem to go hand in hand. A lot of communities, and people would not be able to make this experience a memorable one if they were unable to meet online, and through LAN. I would say the one thing that kept me coming back were those two features. LAN, and than later Live.
Flatlined: As I tend to be a Bear style player on objective games, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to steal a defended flag, or arm a bomb and keep defenders away long enough so it detonates. Even if I touch the flag and know I am going to die fast, just touching it and knowing the other team has to start all over to try to return the flag is a great feeling.
Vi Et Armis: I like the pacing of Halo combat. The style of combat in GTA4 and CoD4 is a little more of a swell and ebb for me, with action being offset by periods of tension while you try find the next foe/objective/sniper who shot you in the head. In Halo, the longest breaks you get are when you die and run straight back into the fray.