Tuesday, January 17

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary helped mend some broken hearts

Full disclosure: This post is a revision to The box has it (or Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary broke my heart). This post was retracted upon finding that four player splitscreen multiplayer was indeed supported in 343 Industries' recently-released remake. 

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Back in 2003, my little brother purchased an Xbox bundle which included both Halo: Combat Evolved 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 fought each other afterwards in the splitscreen competitive mode. If it were any other game, our competition would have spilled from the screen to the lounge room floor (read: we'd be at each other's throats). This time, it was different: I happily flew off in a Banshee while he attempted to clip my wings with any gun he could get his hands on. I wanted Reuben (my younger brother) to run me over and then desecrate my corpse.
Soon, Beau would be home for Christmas.

Beau is my older brother...my more successful, infinitely more-sociable sibling who turned his back on video games for a life 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; Beau arrived late Christmas Eve. Fragging would have to wait: We had to visit relatives and do other things that families do over the holidays. We would have to delay my older brother’s return to nerdvana.

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

“No worries,” I said. “We’ll rent one from a video store.” So we drove to pretty much every video-rental outlet in North Brisbane. Every encounter was exactly the same: We engaged in small talk, we bought junk food, and our expressions sunk when we heard, “Sorry, we don’t rent controllers for the Xbox.” 
O Brother, where art thou?

We arrived back home still licking our wounds, and we resolved to play the game anyway, with the winner keeping a controller. It was great. We laughed, we cried, and we died repeatedly. Beau escaped to a life of international travel, marathon meetings, and an endless run of nights that ended in trendy bars. Reuben and I still engage in a daily ritual of fragging and teabagging.

This past Christmas, Beau returned home from Thailand, and the Damen brothers were once again reunited with a copy of Halo. We even dragged our wives and girlfriends into the fray. Turns out the game is even funnier with players of varying skill levels vying for control of the leaderboard. On one hand, Beau's girlfriend struggled to even stand eye-to-eye with her many assailants; on the other, veterans like Reuben and I cackled incessantly as we performed seemingly-impossible headshots in a vast array of maps from both Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo: Reach.

Towards the end of our family picnic, Reuben and I introduced our loved ones to the online community. Our middling performances on the battlefield inspired much trolling, but it's amazing just how well you can respond when you have the Kinect set up as a mic. Even the loudest critics were silenced by the collective smack talk and uncontrollable laughter of seven people on our end.

It may not have been the emotional journey littered with little disappointments, small talk and junk food that brought three brothers back together in 2003; but it was fun all the same. If anything, it allowed us to bond with the new members of our family in what was previously a nerdy males' domain.

What are your favorite Halo memories?

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