Only the strongest will survive - I'll be the one to save us all

Okay so... I've never really been into the "The fate of the universe rests in your hands" games... in my opinion, they're never really done well. For starters, it's usually the same thing: We - as stupid, curious humans - have released some sort of hellish alien menace from it's resting place, and now one person - yes, just ONE - has to save everyone. Lame.

However, there is one series of games that has done this story line VERY well. One series of games that handles it realisticly, while tossing in things like character development and all that fun stuff.

I am, of course, talking about the Halo series. I've always enjoyed video games, but I think Halo was the game that turned me into a "gamer." The first Halo was magnificent - I think what caught my attention first was the music. The soundtrack was beautiful, sporting orchestral pieces that were absolutely gorgeous and moving. Even the music during action scenes or boss fights was beautiful. Then there was the feel of the game - dual toggle controls, different types of zooming and scope functions (depending on your weapon), and the layout was even awesome... your health, ammo, and sensor all laid around you as if you were merely looking through Master Chief's visor. It's also fairly realistic, by gaming standards. The main character has shields, so he can only be shot so many times before his shields go down and he's vulnerable to being killed, at which point one needs to hide so that the shields can have time to replenish. Your enemies have shields, as well, but a well placed shot on either side's part will put the character down. To put it frankly - shoot someone in the head, and they die. Being the sniper rifle enthusiast that I am, it pleased me to find that I could save ammo simply by being a good sniper.

But what REALLY caught me was the storyline. In Halo, you play as Master Chief, a soldier in the futuristic marine corps. Due to a warp jump, you and your fellow soldiers stumble upon a strange ring. It's size is massive, and on the inner most surface is what resembles a planet, complete with it's own atmosphere and everything. You land on the ring and begin to investigate, overhearing on a Covenant radio frequency that a weapon cache is somewhere nearby. You look for it, despite a hologram's warnings, and find that it's already opened, and not a weapon cache. Instead, you find that the ring is infested with a race of creatures known as The Flood, and anyone who has landed on the ring previously has been killed. Along the way, you find out that the ring is called a Halo, and it is actually a weapon of mass destruction, far more hideous than anything Iraq could throw at us. It is then your duty to destroy the Halo, so that it can't cause any more harm through out the universe, so you set out to do that... were it only so easy.

While you're trying to destroy the Halo, you cross paths with the Covenant, a species that views the Halo as a holy relic and - because you want to destroy it - view you as a demon. You defeat the game by joining with Cortana and destroying the Halo. An amazing game - when I defeated it on all three difficulty levels, I couldn't have been more satisfied. There was a good, solid ending, and the game had been a pretty fantastic mix of everything amazing. I had no idea that a second Halo was in the works, and nearly peed myself with excitement when it came out.

Halo 2 is by far my favorite in the series. The game play was smoother, there were a few new weapons, and the music was even more fantastic. But the story line was what really amazed.

Halo 2 opens up with a bit of an awards ceremony for those who survived and those who fell in the battle against The Flood, the Covenant, and Halo. However, you are interrupted when a small Covenant fleet appears amidst your ships... looking to inhabit Earth. As you battle, you find out that each batch of Covenant soldiers is leaving bombs on the ships, and you have to find the one on yours and return it. You find out that one of the Covenant Prophets - named Regret - was leading the small fleet on who knows what kind of mission. You get more acquainted with Cortana, as she helps you more and more throughout the game. As you defend city after city from the Covenant, you learn that Regret jumped the gun on his "invasion," thinking there wouldn't be anyone on Earth when he went. You also learn he's on some sort of "great journey." As the Covenant tries to flee the city you're defending, you follow it into a hyper space jump.

Alternately - and I think this is my favorite thing about the game - you learn the fate of the Elite Covenant warrior that failed in stopping you from destroying the Halo. He is dubbed as a heretic and tortured, until he is brought before the remaining Prophets - Truth and Mercy - and has the honor of Arbitar placed upon him. As the Arbitar, you are chosen to help smash a real heretic uprising within the Covenant ranks...

After the hyper space jump, you discover another Halo and get to the surface of it, finding that Regret intends to activate the Halo and use it. You set out to kill him and as you do, you are thrown into the deep waters and dragged to your "tomb" by an unknown force.

As the Arbitar, you are given the task of finding the Index, the key that will activate the Halo. When you are successful in your mission, you are betrayed and thrown into the deep darkness, only to find yourself constricted by the same creature that holds Master Chief in his clutches. It transports you both to separate locations, forcing you to find the Index and stop the Prophets from activating the Halo. I don't want to give too much of the ending away, but you end up having to leave Cortana behind, with a promise to return for her.

Talk about moving.

Halo 3 picks up right where Halo 2 left off - I don't want to give too much away, because the whole game is basically "the ending," but basically, you team up with the Arbitar to stop the Prophet Truth and retrieve Cortana before she is corrupted by the Flood. The only gripe I have about Halo 3 is that they took away the ability to double weild a Needler, and that's one of the most effective weapons... but for the most part everything is great about it. It seriously feels like you're playing a movie - the character development and story line and everything is just so thick. I like watching the relationship between Cortana and MC grow, as well as the change in the Arbitar as his eyes are opened more and more to the Prophets' definition of the Great Journey.

Halo 3 is supposed to be the end of the Halo series... Bungie has swore up and down that they weren't going to make any more, but anyone who beat the game on Heroic or Legendary found a special secret ending that hinted towards Bungie not being completely honest.

Sure enough, Bungie announced it's release of Halo Wars on March 3 in America... and I peed myself with excitement again. I really do love this game... and I can't wait to find out what happens to Master Chief and the Arbitar! If you've never played Halo, I strongly insist that you do - it's beautiful and tons of fun, especially if you unlock all the secrets! (In Halo 2, you discover Silver Skulls - one of which is called the Grunt Party Skull. If you get that skull, then, every time you shoot a Grunt in the head, it will explode into a mess of confetti, and a bunch of children will yell "yaaaaaaaay!" It's so cool XD) I can't wait for Halo Wars... or the much talked about Halo movie! :D It's going to be FANTASTIC!

So - as a game - Halo definitely gets 5 stars... it's one of the best games I've ever played. Go Bungie... and go Master Chief. :D

If you've never played Halo, you need to, if not just to find out why you don't like it... if you have and loved it, you need to let me know so we can play sometime... ;)... and to everyone who's reading this blog - say hi to your mother for me.


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