Monday, April 11, 2011

Chronological Halo: Introduction

Some of my favorite videogame series have been around long enough to develop a complicated mythology, and the more complex these things get, the more developers have to work to squeeze in additional entries. Often this takes the form of creating prequels or side-stories that take place simultaneously with already-released games in the series. Resident Evil has been doing this for ages: even before Resident Evil Zero, we'd already had a complete game that took place both before and after its immediate predecessor: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. They're complicated stories with confusing timelines. It's true of the Halo games, as well, though Halo often gets knocked for its story being just an excuse on which to hang the multiplayer component.

I've always had the desire to play through complex series like those in chronological order, to see how well they hold up when played in the form of a single long game. Does the story flow in a way that makes sense when you see it from the absolute beginning through to the absolute end? Does it feel like the games could have been released in this sequence, and is there value in seeing the story this way, from beginning to end?

Storyline among the explosions? Really? Really!
I'm going to find out, and I'm bringing you with me! It's Chronological Halo, and it's my new project here on this silly blog of mine. For the next As Long As It Takes, I'll be playing through every level of every game of the Halo series in proper chronological order, and writing about my thoughts on each mission. How is the story of Halo when played from the beginning through to the end? Does it deserve the criticism it gets for being too samey? Or will it hold together better now that we have all the pieces?

Some comments on my approach, first. I won't be playing Halo Wars, the RTS that technically occurs prior to all the events of the main entries in the series. That's because I don't own it, but also because part of the idea of this project is to see how well this series would play as a single (admittedly very long) game, and having that game switch from an RTS to an FPS after the first ten hours isn't really to my taste.

I've divided the main games of the series (Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: O.D.S.T., and Halo: Reach) into their constituent levels, and then sorted these stages according to their chronological sequence in the timeline. The result is a list of fifty-two missions that should tell the story of the Halo series in order. The one major exception to this occurs during Halo 2, when the Arbiter missions take place simultaneously with the Master Chief's missions; I decided to leave them in the sequence they appear in the game, so as to preserve the overall feel of that story. I'll talk more about that decision when we get there.

From a very high-level perspective, here's the sequence:

Halo: Reach
Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo 2 (through New Mombasa)
Halo 3: O.D.S.T.
Halo 2 (after New Mombasa)
Halo 3

I'm pretty excited to get started, so buckle up and hang on: Chronological Halo is about to get underway!

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