Wednesday, February 3, 2010

EXP Podcast #63: Halo Podcast Evolved

To his personal shame, Scott had never played any of the Halo games. So we decided to drop into the franchise from orbit, pull Halo one from cryo, and mount up as Master Chief. Scott and I have just finished playing the first two Halos (on Legendary mode) and want to take a moment to discuss our thoughts on the birth of a truly epic franchise. Podcast topics this week include the dangers of zombies, complex level design growing pains, purple corridors, and the birth of a Spartan legend. We encourage you to leave your own thoughts on the franchise in the comments section below, though please avoid Halo 3/ODST spoilers.

Discussion Topics:

- How did you first feel about Halo 1 and 2 when you first played them.

- Is it hard to visit older titles? Do you find past mistakes become more tiresome? Do sequels forever take the place of their predecessors?

- How did Bungie manage to construct such a important franchise with such an influence on the history of game development? How well does the beginning of the franchise hold up today?

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Show notes:

- Run time: 36 min 25 sec
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. Hey guys.

    I'm kinda surprised to hear, that you actually seem to like Halo 2 better, since the Halo series is one of those franchises, where almost everybody agrees, that the first game is great, whereas the following games seem to get way more mixed reactions.

    MGS is also one of those games, whose sequels get partially ripped to peaces wrongfully.

    Maybe you should touch the topic of pacing in your next Halo podcast, in my opinion it's one of Halo's biggest streanghts Especially those calm moments stick out in a time, where every game tries to do the Modern Warfare thing.

  2. @ Christian

    I think the weight of the franchise changes the opinions toward the games, which could explain some of the first game's wide appreciation. Halo 3 had to make a splash, no question about it. As a flagship for the 360 and a evolution on its original success, I think Halo 3 (as well as Halo 2 to some extent), let some people down who were expecting the groundbreaking experience of Halo 1 all over again. Also, good note on pacing, we'll chew on that next week.

  3. For me, Halo's best selling point is its dynamics and everything that results from that. That 30 seconds of fun model plays a hand in this, but it's not just the quick-fire pacing of the combat that causes the dynamics of the game. Enemies obviously do too, with their varying AI changing things up in the battlefield, but I also really appreciate the inclusion of vehicles because of their influence on the dynamics.

    When the original came out, I was blase about its popularity, not particularly caring for a 'war' game despite it's sci-fi trappings, but when I bought it on the cheap I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it was to play, and it was the dynamics that were the main driving force of that enjoyment. I really enjoyed how the combat scenarios could play out differently, somewhat randomly, and how my choice of actions (guns, commanding a vehicle for a while, etc.) then altered the events in subtle but remarkable ways. There was definitely cause and effect happening in the game and yeah, it was awesome because it was unlike anything I had played in a shooting game previously. Obviously, being a benchmark franchise, a lot of what Halo introduced is now common-place, but I'm still constantly reminded of my experience with the previous titles, as well as surprised every now and then when I play Halo 3. It's almost like Rockstar and the GTA series: sandbox games are common these days but whenever I play a Grand Theft Auto game, it's pretty clear that the series is the best at what it does. I think the same applies for Halo (in terms of dynamics) and I find that interesting given that both franchises have managed to go mainstream, and both receive insane levels of hype whenever another installment is due.

    Despite all that, I'm not actually as into Halo as most other people seem to be. I've enjoyed my time with the franchise so far and I've found the elements that I like the most, but beyond that it doesn't interest me as much as I feel it should do. The same applies to Mario, Zelda and the Metal Gear games -- they're good, great even, but my gaming preferences lie elsewhere (namely the Metroid series, if we're talking Nintendo franchises specifically).

    Great podcast guys, as always.

  4. @Christian

    I didn't really articulate myself well enough in the podcast, but what I meant to say was that I thought the gameplay of Halo 1 was better than 2, but the story was better in Halo 2 than in 1. I felt like the combat and the environments got a little too cluttered in the second game. At the same time, I had a much clearer understanding of the story in second game, which I found to be surprisingly entertaining.

    I had never thought of the series in relation to MGS, so I'll definitely pay attention to that, as well as the pacing, as we make the jump to the 360 games.


    Thanks for stopping by! Like you, Halo's dynamics really impressed me. I was amazed by how modern they felt, even though the game is creeping up on 10 years old(!). After playing it, I started to see its far-reaching influence.

    I also hear what you're saying about recognizing "great" games even if they aren't your cup of tea. I've never been that into Sonic, but I see why those games were important.

    Since you are our resident racing expert, I should ask you this: Do you think there is a "Halo-equivalent" in the racing genre?

  5. Scott -- Not one to hold back with the hard questions are you? :P

    In terms of sheer popularity and mainstream appeal, there's probably no real equivalent -- games like Halo and GTA are rare in that their releases aren't just new installments but also major events -- but my instant reaction to the question was the Burnout franchise. Like those other two games, Burnout is very accessible and, especially in Burnout Paradise, contains a similar approach to dynamics that the Halo games do. Crashes are spectacular but even with the replay showing off the destruction they are over in around 30 seconds (nice convenient connection to Halo there) allowing gameplay to resume. Certain parts of tracks (older Burnout games) or areas are unique and could be considered the equivalent to Halo's set-pieces, but really I'm stretching the comparison there.

    If we were to judge on popularity alone then my only other suggestion would be Gran Turismo, which is still one of the biggest selling franchises ever. Beyond that, you've stumped me, so well done. ;)

    Seriously though, I hope that answered your question. Somehow...

  6. Hey, this is kind of fun. I had never played any Halo campaigns before, though I did play a lot of multiplayer with friends that had X-Boxes. I recently found a copy of Halo (PC) for $2 so I've been playing through the campaign for the first time. It's not a bad FPS game. It feels a bit slow (of course, I've been playing Aliens VS Predator 2000 Classic a lot, which has warped my opinion) and the missions feel like they drag on a little too long. Ultimately, I'm enjoying the game though. It's nice to hear your thoughts on this as a fellow very-late-to-the-party person. Cheers!

  7. @Steven

    Not trying to put you on the spot at all! It's just that you're one of the few people that I read who has done any critical analysis of racing games. My knowledge of racing games is pretty much limited to those that contain banana peels and blue shells. ;-)

    I'm intrigued by the separation between the mechanical similarity of Burnout and the sales similarity of GT. I wonder how the long-promised ps3 GT will do?


    I definitely sympathize with the mission length. Especially in the first game, there are times when you go through a room that is just the mirrored version of the previous room.

    I also noticed the speed of the game as well, and that it basically carried over to Halo 2. It's definitely more "floaty" than today's games, and even its contemporaries. It's also different to play a game where jumping is emphasized. It's like Master Chief has flubber on his space boots.