Playing through the original Halo again its hard to not be transported back to early in the new millenium. It was the sort of game that made jaws drop at the time, from the way light reflected off of the shiny surfaces in a way I at least hadn’t thought possible on a console, to the sheer scale and scope of the titular Halo world, it just felt streets ahead of anything we’d seen on consoles before. Sure the Playstation 2 had been wowing us with some pretty great games, but something about Halo felt futuristic and special. And with the controller in hand it was pretty clear that Halo was indeed Combat Evolved.
But while the seemingly perfect weapon balance and revolutionary control scheme were game changers – world beaters even – it was something far more simple that caught my attention. Mere moments an epic battle through the Pillar of Autumn, sheer seconds after you’re forced to crash land onto the mysterious Halo, an unassuming UNSC drop ship swoops into view and with it brings one of the most powerful and symbolic pieces of Halo ‘paraphernalia’ in the series decade-plus history. And as you approach the precious four-wheeled cargo, the isolation and rapidly fading sense of hope that the vast alien landscape evokes abates, As you slip behind the wheel of the greatest in military hardware suddenly it all feels like you could survive. And as the explosive power of the rapid fire mounted gun on the rear of the vehicle leaves a lasting ringing in your ears, you know you’ll survive.
Welcome to the Warthog, Chief. Welcome to the war.
There is no feeling quite like the first time you slide around a natural rock formation at speed, or send yourself and your passengers flying airborne over a canyon or a rapidly running river. The way the rather pedestrian Volkswagen Kübelwagen lookalike handles is unforgettable, with its loose suspension and all-wheel drive making it feel more world rally championship than modern warfare, and its high speed making every moment behind the wheel feel like a desperate dash to save a life. Hooning from skirmish to skirmish in the Warthog, while your adoring comrades take aim and rip through any grunt or elite covenant soldiers that get in your way, brought with it an almost unrivalled sense of power. The Warthog turned the trained Spartan soldier into a feared guerrilla warrior, and to me, those first moments behind the wheel were the foundation of the Master Chief I came to know over following games.
As someone who fell off of the Halo wagon shortly after finishing the fight with Halo 3, I am pleasantly surprised by how many of my fond memories of a game that changed the way the world looked at console shooters have been proven true. Everything from the roaring sound of the MA5 echoing through the compromised corridors of the Pillar of Autumn, to the strategic advantage on the battlefield provided for by the rather deceptively powerful covenant weapons, it all changed my expectation for what a console shooter, nay game, could and should be. But it was the unassuming vehicle that are the basis for my fondest memories of the game, and there has been nothing in any shooter since that has quite matched the feeling of taking the battle to the convenant on all fours. And it’s nice to know that these moments still make Halo the same special experience it was a good 14 years later. Combat evolved, indeed.
Did you have warm and fuzzy feelings taking control of the Warthog for the first time? Or do you have a favourite video game moment? Join the conversation in the comments below, or on Twitter using #MostAgreeableMoments.