Tuesday, December 6

The box has it (or how Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary broke my heart)

Bitmob’s Kyle Russell and Rus McLaughlin have covered this already, but the omission of certain features – most notably, four player split-screen multiplayer – from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is nothing short of a travesty. Not only is it lazy on the developer’s part, but it also means that I’ve been robbed of the chance to player the game against my brothers.... again. Only this time, it’s for an entirely different reason; and one of which I have absolutely no ability to correct. 

It was 2003. My little brother had purchased an Xbox bundle which included both Halo and Top Spin. In those days, I was a PlayStation fanboy, so this purchase incensed me to no end. That is, of course, until I played through the game-changing campaign with my sibling. We then proceeded to fight each other afterwards, in the game’s splitscreen competitive mode. Usually, when in conflict with each other, things get heated; even violent. This time it was different, however: I was happy to fly off in a Banshee while he attempted to clip my wings with any gun he could get his hands on. I was happy for Reuben to run me over, and then desecrate my corpse. 

And soon, Beau would be home for Christmas. 

Beau is my older brother: my more successful, infinitely-more sociable sibling who had turned his back on videogames for a life of policy-making in federal politics. If there was one thing that could bring him back to the fold, it was Halo. I was sure of it.     

Reuben and I continued to work in the lead-up to Christmas, with Beau arriving late Christmas Eve. Fragging would have to wait, we would need to visit relatives and other things that families do when the unit is brought together. My older brother’s return to Nerdvana would be invariably delayed. 

Finally, we managed to trap Beau in front of the TV late on Christmas night. We loaded the game with what we thought was our secret weapon. There was only one problem: we only had two controls. How did this not occur to us until right then? I felt so stupid. 

“No worries,” I said. “We’ll rent one from a video store.” So then we drove to pretty much every video rental outlet in North Brisbane. Every transaction worked exactly the same: we engaged in small talk, we bought junk food, our expressions sunk when we heard “Sorry, we don’t rent controllers for the Xbox.” 

 O Brother, where art thou?

After arriving back home and still licking our wounds, we resolved to play the game regardless; with the winner keeping a controller. It was great: we laughed, we cried, we died repeatedly. Beau would escape to a life of international travel, marathon meetings and a seemingly endless run of nights that ended in trendy bars. Reuben and I still engage in a daily ritual of fragging, teabagging and griefing. 

This Christmas, Beau returns home from Thailand, and the Damen brothers will reunite with a copy of Halo: Combat Evolved. Again, we’ll take turns at splitscreen multiplayer, with no ability to accommodate the three of us at once. Most of the video stores we visited are out of business now, but there’s still a need for junk food and small talk. 

What are your favourite Halo memories? Did Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary disappoint you without even opening the box?

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