I'll be honest; I'm not a very big video game guy. Sure, I've played through the first two LEGO Star Wars games and Batman: Arkham City, and way back in the day I used to play LEGO Island, Liberty's Kids, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, and various Winnie the Pooh learning games, all of which I have fond memories of. Heck, I even tried taking up Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic not to long ago, before I decided it was a waste of time, even for a video game. But there's still one game I've played only a little that I follow very closely. Truth is, I'm terrible at this particular game, have little taste for it's genre, and have never owned a single copy of any of the series' installments. Yet, I am deeply awed by the detailed story, emotional depth, stellar visuals, and cool characters.
That game series is, of course, Halo.
Beginning with Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001 and going through seven more installments, the most recent being last year's Halo 4, the Halo saga follows the adventures of various heroes of the United Nations Space Command in their desperate war against the ultra-destructive, fanatically religious alien alliance known as the Covenant. The main hero of this first person shooter series is Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Spartan John-117, most commonly known as Master Chief. A Spartan-II super soldier, Master Chief has to fight not only the Covenant, but also a parasitic race of space zombies called the Flood. In the most recent installment, Halo 4, you get to fight against the Prometheans and the Covenant, but not the Flood, and there are no Brutes. In Halo 3: ODST, you fight against just the Covenant, but there are no Elites to fight. Master Chief is assisted by his A.I./girlfriend Cortana, who provides helpful instruction in all of the games that Master Chief appears in save the majority of Halo 3, and gives Chief someone to talk to in Halo 4.
Backed by his easily killed Marine followers, Master Chief later teams with the Arbiter in Halo 3 (you get to play as the Arbiter in some parts of Halo 2). The Arbiter is a Sangheili, better known as an Elite, a Covenant holy warrior turned de facto leader of the Elite people after the Elites broke away from the main Covenant to Ally with the humans. In Halo 3: ODST you play as an assortment of characters in an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) squad. These characters include "the Rookie," known by some studious research at the Halo wiki as James D. Also in the squad and available to play as are Buck, Dutch, Mickey, and Romeo. In Halo: Reach you play as Noble 6, a Spartan-III who is customizable by the player, including the character's gender. Halo Wars is a noticeable departure from the other games in that it is not a first person shooter, but a real time strategy game, kind of like Age of Empires. It's the only Halo game that I have not watched a YouTube walkthrough of. And really, that's the only way I know so much about Halo. I haven't read the books or comics, but I've learned a lot about Halo through the glory of the internet. One day, I will read the books and the comics, and maybe I'll watch the animated series, Halo Legends. I've seen Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn in both episodic web form and compiled movie form (the former was much better), and I've watched my share of videos at Halo Waypoint. And I will continue to gather information about Halo.
My favorite game of the series in undoubtedly Halo 3: ODST, which I believe is an underrated gem. It has some degree of unpopularity among gamers due to its short campaign and lack of new maps. However, I find it to be my favorite because of its many references to the Divine Comedy through a side story called Sadie's Story and it's deep character portrayals. I have a soft spot for Halo 2 because it's the first game of the series that I ever played, and introduces my favorite character, the Arbiter, but I would one day like to play Halo 3: ODST. If I could just get my mind around how the controls work, I'd be groovy.
My all time favorite Halo character is the Arbiter (also known as Thel 'Vadam), because of his interesting backstory and unique characterization. I hope that in future Halo games the creators will reveal what exactly happened to him after Halo 3. I haven't read the Kilo-5 series for more information on this, but I've heard bad reports about it. The author, Karren Travis, isn't exactly on my scope as an author worthy of my attention. I've heard really bad things about her work in the Star Wars universe. Yikes. Other favorite characters of mine include Commander Miranda Keyes, Lord Hood, Chips Dubbo, Sergeant Johnson, Rtas 'Vadum, the Rookie, Thomas Lasky, Mickey, and, of course, Master Chief himself.
In sum, Halo is a grand saga on the level of Star Wars, and I would heartily recommend the books and comics for your reading pleasure, but I have not yet read those books and comics, so I am unable to. However, when I read them, I will be sure to recommend them if I find them worthy of that honor. It is also one of my inspirations for my writing, and I will readily look to it when I write a science fiction story some day. Thusly, I hereby recommend the Halo games, with the exception of Halo Wars because I haven't watched a walkthrough of that movie yet, to all of you gamers out there who like to play semi-gory first person shooters (I say "semi-gory" because most of the blood in Halo is blue, and not entirely excessive), which, as Sergeant Johnson would say, is wrapped up in an epic science-fiction story which is so freaky, it gives me shivers just thinking about it. So, go read/watch/play some Halo!
Image courtesy of t3.com