The Halo Warthog is the most important vehicle in video games

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Image for article titled The Halo Warthog is the most important vehicle in video games

Screenshot: 343 Industries/Steve Da Silva, Picture: Steve DaSilva

the Halo The series recently burst into automotive news circles, following a Chevy Tahoe debut appeared in a trailer for the next games TV series. This little piece of car casting inspired a mod for the Master Chief collectionthe version of Halo 3, replacing the Warthog in the game’s Warthog Run climax sequence with the rugged SUV. This video, in turn, inspired a debate within the Jalopnik Slack channel about the most important video game car – and why it’s unquestionably the Warthog.

I specify that I do not mean better video game car, that honor clearly goes to the brick car from The Simpsons Hit and Run. No, the Warthog is the most important, and not because of his function within the Halo Games. It’s significant for what he did to the game as a whole and how unrecognizable the modern video game landscape would be without him.

My personal Warthog in Halo Infinite is a less than perfect example of the pattern.  Yes, I spent real money on the cyberpunk event to get this colorway.

My personal Warthog in Infinite Halo is a less than pristine example of the model. Yes, I spent real money on the cyberpunk event to get this colorway.
Screenshot: 343 Industries/Steve Da Silva

To describe why the Warthog is so important, we have to start at the beginning of Halo – or, really, its prehistory. Back in the golden days of 1997, when I was just a year old, a little studio called Bungie released their most successful game to date: Myth: Fallen Lords. It was a top-down strategy game, more Starcraft than Halo, but it made millions for the company. So, naturally, they followed it with a sequel.

But while most of the Bungie team was gone Myth II, a small team began developing a sci-fi themed strategy game. One with cyborgs, aliens and a Humvee-like military vehicle with a big gun in the back. The Warthog was born, and it proved to be a pleasure to operate. So much fun, in fact, that the little sci-fi game has been transformed from a top-down strategy title to a third-person shooter so players can drive around more. After a bit more tinkering, it became a first-person shooter – Halo was born.

Image for article titled The Halo Warthog is the most important vehicle in video games

Photo: Daniel Benavides from Austin, TX, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Halo may have been unveiled at Macworld Expo, but it launched on the brand new Xbox console after Microsoft bought Bungie. The game is widely credited with keeping Xbox afloat through its rocky early years – without a tentpole franchise like Halo, Microsoft would not have been wrong to completely abandon the console.

In this alternate world, where Halo launched as a strategy game on Windows and Mac, how could the modern gaming world differ? Of course, Polygon has already done in-depth exploration of a world where the game only launched on the Mac, but the timeline without Warthog diverges even earlier – this is a world in which Halo never became a shooter.

Cosplayers are a constant in every timeline, but without the Warthog, these three would be dressed as Iron Man or the Teen Titans version of Cyborg.

Cosplayers are a constant across all timelines, but if not for the Warthog, these three would be dressed as Iron Man or Teen Titans version of Cyborg
Photo: GabboT, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While GoldenEye 007 for earlier Nintendo 64 Halo as a modern console shooter, it did not use the now traditional two-stick layout to move a character and camera simultaneously. This would have been difficult on the Nintendo 64, with its one analog stick controller. A world without Halo is one where first-person shooters never thrive the same way on controllers as they do with a keyboard and mouse – without Halo, there may not be console shooters.

Consoles, hot take, are important for the democratization of video games. In case you can find a PlayStation 5, it’ll run games far more proficiently than any comparatively priced PC. Even modern graphics cards can approach entire consoles in price. But in a world without annual console releases of Call of Duty, (which admittedly has the advantage of never featuring a young Steve in Mountain Dew Code Red), these games appeal to a much smaller audience. Without the broad appeal of consoles bringing shooters to the masses, this alternate timeline never gets fortnite and all its related acts.

Imagine, a world in which Ariana Grande never embraces K/DA's ALL OUT aesthetic

It is also a world in which thevideo games cause violence“The concept is gaining a lot less traction. Sure, mortal combat is still around, but no one has come up with a control system that makes Grand Theft Auto playable on consoles. Call of Dutyis famous “no russian“Controversy never happens. Without this absurd counter-argument, it is still unlikely that this world will have significantly different gun violence laws, but the absence of these is harder for politicians to justify.

This world, too, does not have the Xbox. Without the Halo franchise to support it, Microsoft could have easily dismissed the console as a failure. the Forza the games are not developed, because Gran Turismo already exists – Turn 10 and Playground Games aren’t exactly developing for the Switch. It also means Game Pass is never developed, leaving indie games to wither on the vine because players are not willing to pay full price to try them.

The publishers behind Not Tonight explicitly credit Game Pass with helping them survive

A world without Xbox and Xbox Live means a very different world of online console gaming. Xbox Live was the first sensible, accessible, and convenient way to play online against your friends on a console. Without this competition, Sony and Nintendo do not have the same incentive to develop this technology. Imagine a world where you can’t visit your friends animal crossing he is.

A world without first-person shooters on consoles and without Xbox is a very different world than the one we live in today. It’s a world without some of the best-selling games of all time, and where many that still exist sell in far fewer numbers. So the next time you play against a friend online, die Call of Duty, or even just fire up your Xbox, thank the humble Warthog – the game’s most important vehicle.

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