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The Technical Superiority of the Halo series
Posted By: Mothergoat <>Date: 5/6/05 4:15 p.m.

The Inexplicable “It” Explained: The Technical Superiority of Halo


It seems there are as many staunch Halo anti-fans as there are fans these days. It’s natural for any high profile title to draw blind criticism just for the sake of attention and being petty. However, some fans, like me, have a hard time explaining the inexplicable “feel” we get when we play one of the Halos after spending a few hours on another FPS like Unreal Championship 2, Brothers in Arms, Pariah or Area 51 – fine shooters in their own right.

But why does roaming around by yourself in a multiplayer level of Halo 1 or 2 feel infinitely more satisfying than doing the same in one of the aforementioned games? Why do we feel at one with the Halo universe immediately and with other games it takes awhile to get into? I believe the real answers lie in the underpinnings of the series, the technical inner-workings…the unsung features from the unsung heroes.

Yeah, we know the Halo series has a kick-ass story with a cool, enigmatic protagonist, amazing soundtrack, more-than-competent AI, best FPS vehicles bar none, varied weapons and so on, but these elements wouldn’t come together so well if it wasn’t for the profound polish in the following areas:

Collision and True Geometry

If I had to pick one technical quality that makes other shooters lick Halo’s feet, it would be the meticulous care given to collision detection and use of geometry. There is nothing I detest more than playing a shooter where it looks like I can jump on to a rock in the middle of a level, but I hit invisible walls where it makes no sense to have them. Instead of mirroring the rock’s polygons for collision, it’s easy to tell that a developer slapped a paltry six-sided rectangle of collision. This invisible wall factor gives us an immediate disconnect with the environment, making the entire scene feel less immersive.

Simply play any multiplayer level to immediately notice the gentle fashion in which Bungie crafts maps. Two words: Crouch jumping. That’s how you know Bungie went the extra mile in getting the scales, height and geometrical relationships tight enough to make static shapes usable. When I made my two maps for Halo Custom Edition, it actually didn’t really take much to make these sort of relationships happen, which makes me wonder if there is something inherent in the Halo engine that processes collision more efficiently or what. Whatever the reality, the attention to collision and geometry is purely unrivaled in any FPS, console or PC.

Seamless Transitional Environments

That attention to collision and geometry gives the artist one heck of a platform to create a sense of freedom when crafting terrain, structures and, more importantly, the marriage of the two. And “freedom” is the operative word here. You even wonder why outdoor environments in other games feel more claustrophobic and levels like Silent cartographer feel wide open? Sure, both Halo and Game X are trying to suspend your disbelief, making you ignore that you are playing in an enclosed skybox, but Halo has no problem suspending this disbelief because of its seamless marriage between indoor and outdoor environments, structures and terrain…with no loading screen.
Game X: Outdoors – full stop – Indoors – full stop – outdoors – full stop, etc.
Halos: Rolling hills, plateaus, caves or buildings built into rock, several paths, underground etc, with no hitch, no extra loading screen. Far Cry and Breed did an okay job with this, but failed in other technical areas to make it even matter.


It blows my mind how little hit detection animations there are in shooters. Brute Force and Pariah immediately come to mind on how to take all the aesthetic satisfaction out of the kill. How can you do this? Make the enemy not even flinch or give a visual cue when it’s getting hit with projectiles. How can you make it worse? Make every death animation from headshot to foot-shot exactly the same and extremely stiff. The Halos do wonders with satisfaction-laced animations. Grunts stagger, drones shift and even when Chief has his shield on (mp), you can tell when someone’s getting hit. Not only that, but the death animations are varied enough to be unnoticeable…which is a very good thing. Man, I loved the sniping headshot death animation for multiplayer in Halo 1. Sure it was slightly exaggerated, but man, what a feeling of accomplishment.


Prisoner. Lockout. Headlong. Assault on the Control Room. The list goes on and on. The reason why games like TimeSplitters 3 feel so old is the lack of exploration of the vertical axis. Sure, many games have multiple levels stacked on top of each other that you can ride elevators to, but hardly any have an open field of vision of multiple levels. There are so many more shooting up or shooting down moments in the Halos than any other shooter. And I am not talking one level above, but multiple stories. Halo implements a sphere of gunplay, not merely a circumference.


Framerate issues and hiccups are forgivable in almost any genre. Not shooters, especially in multiplayer. Bungie has found a way to have a satisfying level of decals, projectiles, bipeds, vehicles, explosions, particles and flailing limbs on one screen at a time with nary a hitch. I don’t care how much they had to mess with LOD in game to get it to run so smooth on a 733 Mhz chip, I just care and congratulate them that it was achieved period. Most games enable a proportionate amount of auto-aim to make up for what missed frames can do to your shot. I find it funny that Halo 2 and Halo have so much auto aim for a game that is so stable.

Pariah is one of the most frustrating single player experiences. I feel like my Xbox is going to start bleeding with how hard it seems to work to put frame after frame on the screen. Explosions in MP? Don’t expect to aim your reticule where you want it to go in the next second.

Functional controls

Why haven’t more games implemented both a specific melee or grenade button? Your functionality as a player increases so much with the extra functionality. Not only that, but the aforementioned collision detection comes into play again with melees that actually feel like they’re hitting something and grenades that bounce accurately according to geometry.


The user experience can be killed before you even fire a shot. If the menu layout is convoluted and confusing, starting a basic Deathmatch will be cumbersome, coloring your experience before you even frag. Bungie’s menu system, lobbies and whatnot have such a polish to them and are extremely intuitive. It’s never a barrier to the land of fun. Also, the HUD never gets in your way and is both functional and ignorable…a must-have combination in the heat of battle.


The genius of the Halo series wasn’t really ever in initial content, but how efficiently that content was implemented. Each of these areas not only make the Halo experience what it is, but each area complements the next, building a game on solid foundation after solid foundation, increasing the fun factor exponentially with each success. As I’ve always said, it’s not that Halo HAS everything, it’s that it does everything right.

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Message Index


The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesMothergoat 5/6/05 4:15 p.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesGryphonOsiris 5/6/05 4:57 p.m.
           Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesDaggart 5/9/05 6:43 p.m.
     True dat.Saint [lpn] 5/6/05 5:19 p.m.
           Re: True dat.Spec ops Grunt 5/6/05 7:25 p.m.
                 Ah...Saint [lpn] 5/6/05 9:42 p.m.
                       Goldeneye! *nm* *NM*Tar 5/7/05 11:04 a.m.
                             Re: !!!GOLDENEYE!!! *very large grin* *NM* *NM*AB10784 5/9/05 3:23 p.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriestrigger119 5/6/05 6:16 p.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesSlimby 5/6/05 8:47 p.m.
           Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriestsuranuku 5/7/05 8:57 a.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesPhobix 5/7/05 7:59 a.m.
           Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesMothergoat 5/7/05 8:41 a.m.
                 Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesEl Sjaako 5/7/05 9:11 a.m.
                       Exactly (re: invisible walls)Interactive Civilian 5/7/05 9:43 a.m.
                             Re: Exactly (re: invisible walls)zugy 5/7/05 8:38 p.m.
                 Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesSA 5/7/05 9:47 a.m.
                       Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo serieszugy 5/7/05 8:40 p.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesCoriakin 5/7/05 8:44 a.m.
     The genius is in the recharging shields *NM*Remo-Williams 5/7/05 8:59 a.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesCuda II 5/7/05 9:46 a.m.
     RealismJLrep 5/7/05 11:25 a.m.
           My TakeJinno 5/7/05 3:12 p.m.
                 Re: My TakeDevil Mingy 5/7/05 3:31 p.m.
                       Re: My TakeJLrep 5/7/05 6:53 p.m.
     i thought mothergoat quit halo *NM*synide 5/7/05 4:34 p.m.
           Re: i thought mothergoat quit halodjpaddock20 5/7/05 4:56 p.m.
           Re: i thought mothergoat quit haloMasterGrief 5/7/05 6:54 p.m.
           Re: i thought mothergoat quit haloMothergoat 5/7/05 11:01 p.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesDj Suppai Saru 5/7/05 7:58 p.m.
     Hey MotherGoat, could you please explain...Dj Suppai Saru 5/7/05 8:02 p.m.
           Re: Hey MotherGoat, could you please explain...zugy 5/7/05 8:34 p.m.
           Re: Hey MotherGoat, could you please explain...JLrep 5/7/05 9:02 p.m.
           Re: Hey MotherGoat, could you please explain...Mothergoat 5/7/05 11:07 p.m.
                 Re: Hey MotherGoat, could you please explain...Dr@Home 5/8/05 1:52 p.m.
                       Re: Hey MotherGoat, could you please explain...AB10784 5/9/05 3:41 p.m.
     What makes Halo good?zugy 5/7/05 8:53 p.m.
     bravo. and now for my 2 centsk_wizard 5/7/05 11:51 p.m.
           Re: bravo. and now for my 2 centsBlazorax 5/8/05 3:02 a.m.
                 Re: bravo. and now for my 2 centsRC Master 5/8/05 9:17 a.m.
                 Re: bravo. and now for my 2 centsJLrep 5/8/05 1:02 p.m.
                 Re: bravo. and now for my 2 centsAB10784 5/9/05 3:48 p.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesE.T. the Extremely Tired 5/8/05 1:10 p.m.
     Well said.FuzzyWhisper 5/9/05 2:44 p.m.
     Re: The Technical Superiority of the Halo seriesJoe Mama 5/10/05 4:55 a.m.

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