An interesting thing happened yesterday with my brand new, second-hand original Xbox. As I picked up the chunky controller (not the original Duke controller but the revised, smaller S-type which is still bulky) and sat down to play the original Halo for the first time, I suddenly felt transformed. Even the initial boot-up was an act of roleplaying in and of itself, because I could no longer see myself as a responsible adult indulging in a hobby. I was instead a teenager, grasping my hands around the enormous controller with its huge squishy triggers in order to make up for inadequacies in other arenas. Mission accomplished, Halo.
In those first few minutes (none of which involved any gameplay), I recognised I’d destroyed any chance of my being an approachable yet cred-conscious nerd. My image of family-friendly guy picking up family-friendly consoles to play family-friendly games like ChuChu Rocket, Jet Set Radio and Four Swords Adventures went out of the window. Even my claims to be a postmodern hipster playing niche retro stuff like Mr Bones on Saturn or Devil’s Deception (aka Deception in the U.S.) for PS1 fell by the wayside. Boring!
Instead I would have to see myself as a dudebro, the kind of guy who takes “gamer days” to play Xbox on my own, or possibly with some manly mates on the sofa with me. In my head I’d even brought others into my dudebro fantasy: my long-suffering partner played mum to me and my demands for chocolate milk, doing all the household chores and generally clearing up after me. “Boys and their toys,” she sighs, wearily. It’s just like one of those rom-coms you read about.
With this whole identity crisis going on, it’s a wonder I was even able to play Halo at all, yet play I did. And behind all the cultural baggage and the hilarious bravado of the storyline (it’s basically Starship Troopers with none of the tongue-in-cheek satire), I learned that Halo has at least a good singleplayer campaign, that much is clear after just a few levels. (I played some splitscreen multiplayer back in the day so I’m familiar with the game’s addictive qualities on that front.) The gameplay in the campaign effectively merges the accessible mayhem of multiplayer in Goldeneye 007 with the setpieces and smoothness of Half-Life, with added vehicles and scope to the environments.
But Halo’s reputation has, for me at least, overshadowed what Halo has to offer in terms of gameplay. Instead I just get these bizarre teenage gender vibes, not something I ever felt when playing Half-Life, even with its many shooter-y moments.
So what happens now? What else is out there to explore in the land of the original Xbox? Well, let’s see, there’s Halo 2, Chronicles of Riddick, the Splinter Cell series, three Grand Theft Autos, Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Project Gotham Racing 1 & 2… the dudebro dream lives on!