Say it loud and there's music playing. Say it soft and it's almost like praying.
For those unlucky enough never to have owned, or known someone who has owned an Xbox, Halo is possibly the best first-person shooter (FPS) game since the original Doom. Ironically, it was originally intended to be a Mac-only computer game, much like its predecessors, the Marathon series (all produced by Bungie). But the Evil Empire, Microsoft, swooped down and bought the souls of the Bungie developers for whatever the going price of a soul was at the time.
[Tech-sector souls in 2001? Box of donuts and a six-pack of Moutain Dew Code Red. --ed]
Suddenly, the Mac-loving Bungie developers found themselves working on an Xbox-only game.
So Halo debuted for Xbox and quickly became the console's flagship game. Featuring excellent graphics and gameplay, a complex single-player storyline and the toughest, least talky protagonist since Clint's Man With No Name, Halo would have been a pretty magnificent game even without its trademark innovation: its vehicle system. Even in a four-player game, one could hop into a jeep or an alien hoverbike and run over your friends without mercy.
Halo ends with a rather definitive victory for the forces of good, but money talks, and it had a pretty brief discussion with Bungie and their Microsoft overlords. It went something like this:
Money: Make another Halo game.
Bungie and Microsoft: Okay.
And so, on Nov. 9, 2004, Halo 2 will temporarily slow the economy as millions of people in the tech sector cease to work for at least three days.
Anything as popular as Halo must, of course, be marketed into the ground. Part of the assault has included a line of action figures by Joyride Studios - previously the makers of some rather sub-par videogame-inspired toy lines. Halo proved to be their big break, and thankfully, Joyride rose to the occasion and produced a toy line a notch above their previous efforts. In a refreshing twist, each successive toy (particularly the recent Grunt and Flood figures) has been better designed and sculpted than the last.
Joyride will, of course, be producing piles of Halo 2 figures. The first of them appeared at the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) in the summer of 2004: a tiny prototype mini-figure, limited to 2,000 pieces, of the redesigned Master Chief, the hero of both games.
Master Chief stands just a smidgen over 2 1/2" tall. He comes with only one accessory: his trademark rifle. Since this is a prototype, there's really no paint to speak of - he's cast in a light, canned-peas green, and there seem to be sparkles in it. There is a tiny circular insignia with the number 04 inscribed in it on his left breast; having avoided plot spoilers for Halo 2, I have no idea what the "4" stands for.
[bet you $20 it's the year of release and nothing to do with the game --ed.]
What really impresses me about this figure is the sculpt and the articulation. Somehow, the sculpt of this tiny figure is easily better than Joyride's sculpt of the original Master Chief. But what's more perplexing is that it even seems to be a better sculpt than the production versions of their new 7" Master Chief from the Halo 2 line (which were on display at SDCC). The 7" Chief's shoulders seem a bit high and his backpack too broad, giving him a strange simian look; also, the bottom of his mask is too smooth and flat, which just isn't accurate to the game (or even the pictures of the prototypes that Joyride released). However, these problems aren't evident on the 2 1/2" MC.
MC also has balljointed shoulders, pin-joint elbows and knees, a v-crotch and pivots at the waist and neck. That's already better articulation than a lot of 7" figures get. Admittedly, the articulation isn't perfect - the leg joints, for example, are a bit narrow and given to popping off easily, though they'll snap back on without a problem.
This SDCC-exclusive MC, which was given away for free, is one of those rare finds where you get a lot more than you expected for a lot less (or in this case, anything at all). If Joyride can manage to get the same kind of care and attention to detail in their 7" line as they have in this 2 1/2" figure, they could join the ranks of NECA, Mezco and other well-respected, up-and-coming toy companies.
Halo: sign of Xbox's greatness, or solo star on a failing system? Discuss it over at The Loafing Lounge.