By 2001 hardcore gamers might have thought that combat had already evolved to a pretty advanced state. They were right.
Halo‘s innovations were in fact subtle — its oft-imitated regenerating-shield health system, for example, and its emphasis on co-op play and vehicular combat — and for the most part it was set up like any other first-person shooter. What it brought to the table were exceptionally well-balanced gameplay, Bungie’s signature high-quality music and writing, and sublimely soaring visuals.
Halo is set on a ringworld, a circular man-made planet (you can often see the opposite side of it arching overhead) and takes the player through huge alien fortresses and across bridges over craggy, yawning gorges. The first time you commandeer an alien airship and soar up into the grey, snowy sky of Halo, the ground sinking away beneath you, your only appropriate response is awe. Oh, and Halo also features what may be the greatest final level of any game ever — a frenetic jeep-race against time — and it sold a jazillion copies, in the process turning the Xbox into a commercially viable platform. It may not be evolution, exactly, but it’ll do.