10 minutes reading time (2046 words)

Evolution Of Halo

Evolution Of Halo

Any serious gamer would be familiar with the Halo series. But if, for some reason, you aren’t aware, Halo is a Microsoft-exclusive video game that focuses on the adventures of Master Chief and his AI sidekick Cortana as they battle against the alien forces of the Covenant to prevent the extinction of life in the galaxy. With its impressive performance and visuals, it is the perfect game for an Xbox or a specialist gaming PC.

The game has undergone a lot of change since its first release back in 2001, so now’s the time to talk about the evolution of Halo.

Early development

Bungie began development on a new video game in 1997 with a working title ‘Monkey Nuts’ before it was changed to ‘Blam!’. The game was planned as a real-time strategy (RTS), but Bungie soon decided the game was suited to this genre. This decision led them to change tack and go in the third-person shooter (TPS) direction.

Thanks to inside contacts at Apple, the developers were able to get a meeting with an impressed Steve Jobs, who agreed to showcase the game at the 1999 Macworld Conference & Expo. At this time the game still didn’t have a final name, so Bungie had to bring in a branding firm to help. They suggested ‘Halo’. This went down like a lead balloon with the developers - nobody liked it, complaining it was too “on the nose” in regards to the ring world the game was based around. At Macworld, Steve Jobs announced that Halo would be released for MacOS and Windows.

Despite this, in June 2000, Microsoft purchased Bungie and Halo was announced for a day-one launch title for their first games console, the Xbox. At E3 2000, Halo was shown as a TPS but after their acquisition, Microsoft pushed for the game to go down the FPS route - a rarity for consoles at the time. //H2:

The original trilogy

Halo: Combat Evolved

On 15 November 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved (CE) was released in North America in line with the launch of the Xbox. Initially Bungie developers felt uneasy about the ‘Combat Evolved’ subtitle, with some labelling it “stupid”. However, this was added by Microsoft to better describe the game and compete with other FPS games.

The game provides players with a first-person experience of a 3D environment, predominantly set on the ring-like world - Halo. It follows the adventures of lead character Master Chief (or John-117) pitted against the enemy forces of the Covenant, a group of allied alien species. Aided by the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), it’s up to the player to navigate their way through the missions and destroy the Halo ring before it’s weaponised by the Covenant to destroy all sentient life in the galaxy.

The player is equipped with a heads-up display (HUD) that registers both allied and enemy movement, and Master Chief’s shield charge (the traditional health bar), which automatically recharges if the player takes no damage for a brief period.

The player also has access to a range of vehicles throughout the campaign and on multiplayer, including armored 4x4 Warthogs, Scorpion tanks and various alien craft.

Halo: CE came with a split-screen mode, allowing two players to journey through the campaign together (co-op). The game’s multiplayer allows for up to 16 players - four per Xbox using a ‘System Link’ feature. With the game launched before the introduction of online multiplayer service Xbox Live, gamers had to play together through a local area network (LAN). Despite this limitation, Halo: CE is thought to have one of the best multiplayer experiences.

Sales for Halo: CE were a slow burner but it’s long-tail sales rate saw it become very successful commercially. It sold more than 5 million copies over three years, and it was sold alongside more than half of all Xbox consoles sold in the first two months.

Halo: CE has received critical acclaim, being regarded as one of the greatest video games of all time. With many publications posting review scores of 10/10, it was also up for numerous awards.

Marking exactly ten years since its release, Halo: CE was re-released in 2011 as Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. This version came with highly enhanced graphics and supported the online multiplayer mode, which was previously lacking.

Halo 2

The sales figures posted from Halo: CE were impossible for Xbox to ignore. Fans worldwide were anticipating a sequel, especially with Master Chief’s hint at the end of CE that the fight was only getting started. Thankfully they didn’t have to wait too long - at E3 2002, Xbox announced that Halo 2 was in production.

Halo 2 was released worldwide on 9 November 2004. The campaign picks up directly after its predecessor: a Covenant Elite commander is punished for his failure to prevent Master Chief destroying the Halo ring. He is given the rank of Arbiter and acts as one of the game’s many antagonists - alongside the parasitic species, the ‘Flood’, the Covenant leadership and Covenant Brute, Tartarus. Halo 2’s campaign sees the player journey through a number of locations across the galaxy, including the Covenant's planetoid station, High Charity, another Halo ring and our very own planet Earth.

Unlike its predecessor, the Halo 2 campaign alternates between two storylines - one following Master Chief and the other as the Arbiter. Both act as playable characters throughout the game. Master Chief’s HUD is similar to Halo: CE, just without the health bar. When playing as the Arbiter, the player can activate a camouflage feature for a short time.

Halo 2 again features a multiplayer system. With the successful launch of Xbox Live, this was the first game in the series to have fully functional online multiplayer. Players could find online games and also socialize through voice chats.

This also marked the beginning of downloadable content for Halo, where players could buy extra map packs. It also gave Bungie the ability to fix bugs and glitches found after the game’s release and distribute them to their playerbase.

A remastered edition of Halo 2 was released in November 2014 as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection for Xbox One.

Halo 3

It was never intended for Halo to be a trilogy, but the success of the franchise made it inevitable. The Halo series had garnered a hugely passionate fan base across the world. Very shortly after Halo 2 released, Bungie began work on Halo 3.

The final installment of the original trilogy was released on 25th September 2007. However, fans who had preordered the Xbox game Crackdown had the opportunity to get an early hands-on look with the game’s beta version. This was beneficial to Bungie, who could act upon feedback from players before finishing development.

The campaign is centered around “Finishing the Fight”, continuing the war between Humanity and the Covenant. Following on from the events of Halo 2, Master Chief joins forces with his previous adversary, the Arbiter. They fight to destroy the Ark, a huge artificial structure that can activate all Halo rings and is constructing another ring to replace the one destroyed in Halo: CE

Spin-offs and prequels

Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3: ODST was launched as the fourth installment of the Halo franchise on 22 September 2009. It was the first Halo game not to feature Master Chief as the main protagonist.

The campaign takes place during the events of Halo 2 and is set entirely on Earth, in the city of New Mombasa in Kenya, Africa. It follows the story of a lone Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) called Rookie as he awakes from a crash landing to discover what has happened to his squad.

While this game does not feature an online multiplayer matchmaking system, it does introduce ‘Firefight’. This is a game mode in which the aim is for the player to battle against increasingly strong waves of Covenant enemies to score points and survive as long as possible. Multiplayer firefight supports up to four players who share a pool of seven lives, which are replenished every five rounds.

Halo Reach

Announced at E3 in 2009, Halo: Reach was to be the last in the series developed by Bungie and the prequel to the original trilogy. Gamers who owned Halo 3: ODST had access to Halo: Reach’s multiplayer beta - which alone garnered between two and three million players.

Halo: Reach was released on 14 September 2010 and takes place shortly before the events of Halo: CE. Set on Earth-like human colony Reach, it follows a group of Spartans called Noble Team who are tasked with seeing off the Covenant in their efforts to destroy the planet. After it becomes inevitable that Reach will fall to the hands of the Covenant, it is up to the team to transport AI Cortana to the UNSC Ship we see in the events of Halo: CE.

The playable character in Halo: Reach is simply called Noble Six, a lone wolf who is a person of few words - they have no dialogue in the campaign.

Due to the dreary nature of the storyline, the feel of the game as a whole has a darker tone. Bungie introduced a redesigned game engine and hired an expert in motion capture to creative more realistic animations for the characters.

Halo: Reach came with online multiplayer matchmaking, Forge and Firefight - seemingly a culmination of all Bungie had introduced during their time developing Halo games.

Drawing critical acclaim again, Halo: Reach served as the perfect prequel to the series but also a great farewell to Bungie. It beat Halo 3’s record in sales, making $200 million on day one.

Halo in the strategy genre

In 2009, Halo dipped its toes into the strategy genre with developer’s Bungie initially planning for the game to be an RTS. Microsoft has published two Halo games in the RTS genre: Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2. The former was developed by Microsoft-owned Ensemble Studies who had previously experience in the strategy arena. Halo Wars takes place from a bird’s-eye view. Players can build bases, which in turn produce vehicles and troops to fight against their opponents.

After receiving a positive reaction to Halo Wars, Halo in the RTS scene went quiet. It wasn’t until 21 February 2017 that Halo Wars 2 was released, developed by 343 Industries and Creative Assembly.

343 Industries takeover

From 2011, Microsoft entrusted 343 Industries with the development of future Halo games after Bungie separated from Microsoft. Named after Halo character 343 Guilty Spark, the studio is dedicated exclusively to the Halo franchise.

343 spearheaded the development of the remastered editions of Halo: CE and Halo 2. They also introduced a new Halo series, the Reclaimer saga. This series would continue to follow the adventures of Master Chief as he fights against new enemies. Halo 4 was released in November 2012, with its successor, Halo 5: Guardians, released October 2015. There has been a much more mixed reaction to the 343 Industries’ titles compared to the original trilogy.

The future: Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite will see Master Chief return to the ringworld after battles on the planet Requiem and the betrayal of AI sidekick Cortana. Originally slated to release alongside the Xbox Series X/S, the title has been delayed until late 2021. While fans are understandably disappointed about the postponement, it’s worth noting that 343 Industries is taking the time to get the development of the game right.


By the time Halo Infinite is released in 2021, Halo will have been going for 20 years. This is hugely impressive and is testament to the extremely passionate and large fanbase that it has accumulated over the years. Halo has become so popular that it has not only dipped into multiple genres, but other media has also been created with the brand. There are books centred around it, and there is even a TV show in development. With its ability to evolve and diversify, one thing’s for certain: Halo is a juggernaut of the video game industry and it certainly isn’t going away soon.

Author Bio: Oliver Griffiths has a passion for film, video games and technology. He can be found at Tillison Consulting running a number of clients’ digital marketing campaigns across all sectors and platforms.

'Till Kingdom Come
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