Call me old school, or nostalgic, but for me, it was the first time I played Halo CE, WAAAYYYY back in 2001. I wasn't legally old enough to play M-rated games (my uncle got it for me through his job at Microsoft, shhh...dont tell anyone), and until that moment I hadn't realized games could be so deep and immersive and...you know, FUN. I had played Mario and Star Wars Rouge Squadron and a bunch of racing games on my N64 but...oh man. When I fired up my Xbox for the first time, and THAT OPENING THEME...I got CHILLS. And I thought "oh, well this is a good opening, I wonder how it'll be".
I played Pillar of Autumn. I dropped Grunts with the M6D. I shredded Sangheili with the MA5B. I FELT AMAZING.
"I'll only play one more level", I promised myself.
8 hours later I watched Chief climb from the seat of a Longsword and look back at the destruction he had just wrecked upon Instillation 04, and I found myself wonder "what...THATS IT?" I was almost heartbroken.
I had slain Covenant by the hundreds, driven every vehicle the UNSC had brought on the Autumn, destroyed countless Forerunner machines, and encountered what is, to this day, my most horrific foe in any video game, the Flood. And yet...it was over.
The next day, my uncle, with a knowing smile, handed me the Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund.
And that was when I REALLY, REALLY fell head-first into the series. The gameplay was amazing, better than anything I had ever done, and the limited story that was in CE was more than enough for me at the time.
But then, reading Nylunds book...and it was like I had stepped into the Domain itself (though of course we would not know what the Domain was until almost a decade later). I read about John and Blue Team. I read about Halsey's crimes to save humanity. The sacrifices, of the washouts, of Sam, of James over Reach and Linda on Gamma Station. Of Reach burning. Of the UNSC's desperate state. And it just became even MORE intense for me.
When I played through CE again (on Heroic this time), the fighting felt...PERSONAL. Now, I WAS Chief. I was doing this for the UNSC, for ALL my fallen Spartan brothers...
And when I finished the campaign once again I felt even BETTER about it this time. Score one for the UNSC!
Fall of Reach opened my eyes to the possibility that a game could be more than just blind, dumb entertainment. That it could be as deep as a movie or stand alone book series.
I don't regret that epiphany. Not one bit.