Editor's note: While the Halo series never really captured me, I do understand getting sucked in and completely consumed by video games. My weakness was always World of Warcraft. While I've successfully kicked that habit for about a year and a half, that new expansion is looming on the horizon and is already starting to whisper to me in the dark recesses of my brain. -Jay
I haven't played it yet, but I can already tell you that Halo: Reach will be the scariest game ever made.
Sure, other games have scary elements: Silent Hill 2 has Pyramid Head, Alan Wake has psychological terror, and the Resident Evil series has its voice acting. But Halo: Reach has something way more frightening than a mannequin-raping monster and awkward dialogue delivery — it has online multiplayer.
No, I'm not scared of the new Halo's multiplayer because of the homophobic meat-heads on Xbox Live that toss around pejorative terms related to sexual orientation. I'm not even frightened of the squeaky-voiced 13 year olds that'll tell me that I suck and call into question my mother's chosen profession. What I'm scared of is — despite the aforementioned assholes — becoming addicted to the series' multiplayer … for the third time.
My addiction started with Halo 2. I know the Halo purists will say otherwise, but Halo 2's multiplayer struck a perfect balance. Every weapon had a use; every map had equilibrium. Most matches were fair because the matchmaking system grouped similarly-skilled players. In short, Halo 2 was a near-flawless online experience.
And then they introduced stat-tracking. In my first Bitmob article, I talked about how I obsessed over stats in online games. Halo 2 was the game that started that obsession. You know how everyone says you should play games just for fun? Screw that. I wanted to win. I wanted the highest kill count. I wanted the most medals.
I gave Halo 2 hundreds of hours of my life. I played the game regularly for a couple years before my addiction started to wane. But just when I thought I was free of Halo's clutching talons, Halo 3 came out.
Halo 3's online multiplayer wasn't so much a leap in innovation as it was a schoolgirl skip across a hopscotch course. But that was OK because I didn't want — nay, need — anything besides some new maps, weapons, and improved stat-tracking.
And did I ever get more of that — especially stat-tracking. Halo 3 tracked everything: kill/death ratio, your most and least used weapon, the number of medals you had earned, and more. Add to that a deeper leveling system, and you have the perfect recipe for the stat-obsessed.
These numbers meant more to me than you could possibly imagine.
Halo 3 improved on its predecessor's online multiplayer in every way. Once again, Halo consumed me. When I was at work, I thought about Halo. When I was sitting in my British Literature class, I thought about Halo. I was even late to a Halloween party because I was playing the Zombie mode that was only available on Halloween day. I stopped playing the game after two years, and that was only because I couldn't afford to renew my Xbox Live subscription.
Now that Halo: Reach looms, I'm both excited and terrified. I'm elated that another installment of one of my favorite franchises is coming out. But I'm also frightened that the game will devour my social life. It took me a long time to break from my addiction to Halo's multiplayer. But now that Reach is almost out, I'm anticipating a relapse.
Is anyone else apprehensively looking forward to Halo: Reach? If not, is there another online game that you loved because it was fun, but hated because it massacred your social life? Lemme know!
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