The First Halo Fest Celebrates a Landmark Franchise

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Halo, one of the biggest video game franchises of all time, and the very first Halo Fest. Held in conjunction with PAX Prime, badge holders got special access to a weekend of panels, game previews, tournaments, and exhibits for Halo fans of all ages.

In an annex across the street from the Seattle Convention Center, Microsoft, 343 Industries, Halo Waypoint, and numerous licensees combined efforts to create a celebration that was every fan’s dream. Multiplayer deathmatches and Reach races took place around the clock. A commissary sold everything from miniature Warthogs to soundtracks to Spartan helmets to plush Grunts (adorable). Also of note was the History Wall, which stretched around half of the floor and detailed the evolution of the franchise’s design and development over the past decade.

Crowds lined up around banks of gaming stations to play demos of Halo: Combat Evolved, the anniversary reissue of the original game. More than just an update to the audio and visuals (though those are certainly impressive,) Halo: CE has cooperative gameplay, fan-favorite multiplayer maps from the first three games, and the addition of terminals. Terminals were first introduced to the game in Halo 3. Here, they are bonus content videos that add backstory and depth to the Halo universe. Yet the coolest feature of the anniversary edition—aside from it’s lower price point— is the ability to toggle between the updated graphics and the classic view of ten years ago with the touch of a button.

I couldn’t stop pressing that damn button. It was so cool to look back at Halo‘s origins, to be reminded that ten years ago these polygons and flat surfaces were so cutting edge. The nostalgia-factor was high. Where were you when you first played Halo? What was your favorite spot on a particular level way back when and what was it supposed to look like?

Multiple Halo Fest events occurred each day. Naturally, the most anticipated announcement was for next year’s Halo 4, a direct sequel to the cliffhanger ending of Halo 3. While the Reach and ODST installments were hugely successful for the series, nothing can really beat the return of the iconic Master Chief. I was lucky enough to see a special presentation about Halo 4, different from what was shown at the official panel, but there’s a Spartan holding a Needler to the back of my head as I type this, ready to enforce the nondisclosure agreement. Suffice to say, it looks amazingly cool in scope.

??I can say the “Halo Universe Fiction” panel did let a few approved tidbits on the upcoming game leak. Both Karen Traviss (Glasslands) and Greg Bear (Cryptum) have planted seeds for some of the locations and events of Halo 4 in their novels. Bear’s Forerunners series continues in January with Primordium, highlighting the human characters of Cryptum and their struggles with the Flood and more. Traviss, a former news journalist, places the UNSC in a post-war scenario with a heavy dose of realism. She admitted to never actually playing Halo before she began writing Glasslands, to come into the world with a completely pure reporter’s eye, treating the Halo universe as realistically as possible and asking objective questions. (She did, however, cop to losing two days of work to a Red vs. Blue addiction.)

After show hours, the annex hosted a huge VIP party for the most hardcore fans, developers past and present, and Halo Nation celebs. Franchise development manager Frank O’Connor gave the opening speech. Later on, dedicated cosplayers competed in a contest voted on by the audience. (I thought for sure a cute Cortana would win, but this crowd gets really excited for authentic Spartan armor.) Also, a Master Chief cake was served.

I wish I could say I was a huge Halo fan heading into Pax, but I wasn’t. As a Halo addict, I would’ve been blown away by the effort put into the festivities. After spending a weekend among such a lively and close-knit fan community and a team of creators, writers, developers who are the biggest Halo enthusiasts of all, I’m jealous of Halo fans for having an event like this. More than that, the excitement was contagious and I’m eager to revisit the series ahead of Halo 4. So if Halo Fest becomes a yearly event—and I hope it does—I can really be a part of the community, too.

For more of the latest Halo news, visit the official Waypoint site.

Theresa DeLucci has a Gamerscore of 8800. She’s racking up acheivements just so she can say her points are over nine thousand.


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