Most of us are gamers and were lucky enough to be actively playing games when Halo: Combat Evolved released in 2001, after being announced in 1999. It revolutionzed both the Xbox gaming scene with its unique take on an FPS, as well as the gaming scene as a whole, introducing a connecting bond between gamers around the world.
Xbox Live was a foreign term when this game dropped; nobody ever thought that the whole PC gaming concept of playing with millions of people around the globe could be possible on a console. After all, by the time Xbox came out, we were doing just fine for nearly three decades without having to interact with others, right? Quite, but as Halo soared to the top of every gaming chart there was, and broke as many records as were presented, Microsoft had to do something about this -- the game simply had too much potential to be harnessed as a single-player game.
By popular definition, Halo: CE (let's refer to it as just Halo) is considered an FPS game; to an extent, it has hints of RPG in the campaign, but that's a pointless argument with no reason to delve into. Halo was one of the very first "massive pushes" towards LAN play regarding console, not immediately supporting the Xbox Live platform, but rather taking on an alternate version limiting interactive play to a warehouse or nerd's basement: Ethernet.
The original Halo theme.
The story a bit cliche, but so well-written and in-depth, you couldn't help but feel engulfed in it while playing. You're a cyborg soldier with capabilities only one could dream of, and you're out to quell the alien race: the Covenant. The story takes you through many missions as you attempt to defeat your enemy, and the game series eventually went on for a trilogy before reverting to the old "let's make a prequel and hope for huge sales" idea. Although the gameplay was nearly uncomparable until Call of Duty came around and took over with its dull quickscoping antics and immature individual infestation on console, the thing that sets this game apart from almost any other (PC included) is the soundtrack. It's in that tier that I like to call "a classic". You hear Super Mario's theme, you know it. Zelda's theme, you know it. Call of Duty, you know it. Halo's in that category, and when you hear the organs and chorus at the title screen, you know that it's Halo.
Consisting of 26 tracks initially, the original Halo soundtrack was composed by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. Salvatori indeed is noted for his accomplished music career, but all credit for Halo's signature sound (as stated earlier), goes to Mr. O'Donnell. Both of these men are two of the most unsung heroes in gaming, having developed a truly magnificient soundtrack that we don't usually think of in terms of history or background information. Let's take a look at each of the composers' history and what they did on their road to finally working for Bungie as audio directors and composers.
The first trailer presented at E3.
Despite his last name saying otherwise, Martin O'Donnell, better known to friends and family as Marty, comes from America and is an American composer known for developing music for Myth, Oni and finally Halo. His good friend and musical colleague, Michael Salvatori works with him very closely to produce perfect musical scores for whatever game they're working on. Beginning his musical career writing small television jingles for local radio hosts and films, he went on in 1997 to compose Riven's score for a game company called TotalAudio. From there he went on to produce Myth II and eventually, a year later, was brought onto Bungie's team after the 1999 announcement of the game to compose that soundtrack, but nobody knew how large the game would once become.
His contribution to the Halo trilogy has been deemed legendary and iconic, having won multiple awards for his score, rightfully holding the title of audio producer for the best-selling video game soundtrack of all time in the United States. Although 100% of gamers prefer PC as Mac computers can't right-click, our boy Marty uses Apple Macintosh computers for all of his work, citing that he's done it since the beginning and won't change now. He's often compared to some of his inspirations, including Jeremy Soule (Elder Scrolls music guy), Koji Kondo (we mentioned this guy last time in the Zelda OST piece), as well as Nobuo Uematsu, deemed by many as one of the most iconic figures in the gaming world today, being credited with the majority of the Final Fantasy soundtracks as well as Super Mario Bros. Age the age of 57, O'Donnell still is going strong, refining his skill to this day trying to make that next signature sound -- hopefully he stuns the gamers' hearts yet again when Halo 4 drops; we'll see.
Martin (left), and Michael (right).
Just as things work out with Michael Salvatori, every famous person knows each other -- Salvatori was the overseer for TotalAudio, the game company we mentioned earlier that made Riven, and also has worked for Disney and Wideload Games (founded by Alexander Seropian, the same guy that founded Bungie after diving into the game developer scene straight out of college). Good Guy O'Donnell offered to split the Bungie offer with Salvatori, having been friends with him since college, and the rest is history. O'Donnell being the older of the two, has been said to be Salvatori's main musical inspiration, acting as an older brother and influencing/teaching Salvatori his personal techniques.
Salvatori took the lead for Halo 2 and Halo 3, scoring most of the games' soundtracks, but still credits most of the work to O'Donnell. He's gone in and out of the music business, but has stuck to composing scores opposed to being apart of a band (something he attempted in college with his own rock band). After moving to Chicago as a younger and continuing to pursue a few degrees in music (yes, a few, not just one), he scored a friends' film and went on to meet O'Donnell. He's rumoured to be working on the Halo 4 OST with his buddy, but time will tell if this is true. Hopefully the two come back into the spotlight and woo the audience that awaits.
One of the later Halo games.
Halo 4 is said to be released sometime in December of this year, making it the top item on most gamers' wishlists. What many of us don't like to necessarily admit is that most of us started on console, then reverted to PC when we matured and wanted to take on a different type of gaming challenge. Whether it be the Xbox, Playstation, N64 or Dreamcast, most of us played console games first, despite hating them to death nowadays as we've grown accustomed to the PC gaming scene and the recent tidal wave of e-sports within the past half decade or so.
Regardless, Halo will always be close to our hearts and deserves the respect it gets -- the storyline is truly amazing and the series will be considered a classic for decades to come. Some say its this generation's Super Mario, others say it's just a damn good game. All we can say for now is that we know a little bit more about the sounds behind the game we played with friends throughout the night into the early morning hours when we were younger.