So, I have mentioned on my blog from time to time that my brother buys me games that he wants me to play, not because I actually want them, but because he wants me to have them. This time he got me the Halo Master Chief Collection, and Halo 5 for Christmas, and I've finally managed to work my way through all of them.
So, way back in the beforetimes, I bought the original X-box because I wanted to play Knights of the Old Republic. A Star Wars RPG set in the distant past of the Republic? That was worth buying a system to me. Usually it only takes one game I really want to play to shell out for a new system.
Anyway, it was, what 2002? 2003? So, I had my one game. And a game console that I didn't really have much use for beyond that. Then, one night, my friend called me up, and asked if I could come over and keep him company. He'd said something extremely stupid to the girl he was dating (who he eventually married) and she had dumped him. He needed something to take his mind off of it. So, knowing that he liked shooter games, I suggested I bring my Xbox over, and we go rent Halo from the Blockbuster that was like 3 blocks away from his house.
At the time, I sucked at shooters HARDCORE. (still do, kind of) I couldn't really do much but throw myself on enemy bullets and make sure the ground was good and soaked with my blood. But, seeing as how it was to cheer him up, rather than for my own enjoyment, we went and rented it. And then we proceeded to play through the entire campaign in split screen co-op on his 21 inch CRT TV. We kind of had a blast. Even though he was pretty much carrying my dead body through the entire game. We were both drawn in by the story of the game. It was a very cool sci-fi universe, and it did some pretty awesome things, story-wise that we'd never really seen before, especially not in a shooter video game. We were pretty surprised that a shooter would have such a deep and rich story.
So, anyway, he made up with his future wife the next day, and we went on with our lives. And that was pretty much the end of my experience with Halo. I never really picked up the rest of the games, because I don't really play shooters, and I suck at them. So, even though I was extremely interested in the story, I didn't have anyone to piggyback my worthless ass through the story campaigns on the rest of the games, so, I just sort of skipped them.
Well, with my brother buying me a whole bunch of shooters lately, I've come to suck somewhat less at them, and was able to get through all 7 Halo games on normal difficulty, except for 4, because that one was exceptionally hard. I did most of that one on easy. So, here are some brief thoughts on the series now that I've made my way through them all.
Halo - I pretty much already said my peace about this one in my intro above.
Halo 2 - I understand that a lot of people really love this game. It's considered to be one of, if not THE best of the series. But, to me. It kind of felt like the Matrix sequels. Like they didn't expect the first one to do so well, and then were faced with a, oh crap, now we have to make another one, what do we do now sort of situation. The story is really rambling, and kind of goes way off the rails. It doesn't really have much of a decisive ending either. It just sort of ends. The additions of new weapons, and some improvements to gameplay and graphics are nice, but the story just kind of felt like it didn't know what it was even supposed to be. It has a lot of filler missions that are pretty much just there to pad the game. They make you play as the Arbiter for several missions, and I kind of didn't care. Most of his missions just dragged on FOREVER and were really boring. And then after this game he kind of just disappears from the story entirely. He's in like, one mission at the beginning of Halo 3, and then that's it until they bring him back near the end of 5. It was okay, but it had a lot of problems with the story that made it somewhat less enjoyable to me than the first one.
Halo 3 - This one was much better than 2. The story is a lot more coherent, and it has an actual ending. The gameplay has been further improved upon, and there's lots of new goodies to play with. This one feels a lot more like the first game, story-wise. And though the ending is pretty open ended, I felt it was pretty good. A great way to end the story. And then 4 more games came out.
Halo 3: ODST - Okay, I REALLY liked this one. This is the first of two spinoff games that take place during the events of the main trilogy, focusing on different characters and events. You play as a pretty entertaining cast of characters from a unit that's dropping into the beginning of the fight on Earth at the beginning of Halo 2. It has a really entertaining cast of characters, and it gives you a new perspective on the war with the Covenant, that of the normal soldiers, rather than super cyborgs in indestructible power armor.
Halo Reach - This one is definitely my favorite of the bunch. It's the other spinoff game that Bungie made, and it was their last contribution to the series before selling off the rights so they could go work on something new, which would eventually become Destiny. Like with ODST, this one has a really entertaining cast of characters. You play as another Spartan attempting to fight off the Covenant invasion of Reach, just before the events of the first game. This one feels a lot more epic than any of the others that came before. You're fighting a war that you know you're going to lose, because you already know that the planet is going to be destroyed. Your job is to get data on where the first Halo is located to the ship from the first game before the planet goes boom. It's this desperate fight through overwhelming odds, sacrificing team member after team member until there's just one guy left to hand the data off, and then sacrifice himself so that the ship can get away.
Halo 4 - I don't like this one. It's probably the worst one of the entire series. You can really, really tell that it was not made by the same people. They changed the look of the enemies to make them look weird and more generic. The level design is terrible, and the weapons are not balanced at all. And they upped the difficulty considerably, and turned all of the enemies into ridiculous bullet sponges. Enemies you could take down with a few well placed shots in previous games, you can empty three or four entire clips of ammo into and they'll still keep coming. I found that guns were basically useless in this game. The only things that really took enemies down were grenades or a succession of melee attacks. It was ridiculous. Shooting guns in your shooter game is the least efficient way of getting through the game. Additionally, your shields are made of paper, and they take. WAY. TOO. LONG. to recharge. And then there's the story. It feels like fanfic. Probably because it is. It contradicts preestablished lore about the Forerunners. It just goes completely off the rails in the complete wrong direction. It's just not a very well made game, and it's really, really not a good story, or a worthy continuation of where we left off at the end of Halo 3.
Halo 5: Guardians - The gameplay of this game is VASTLY improved over Halo 4, and it has a lot of little quality of life changes that make it a lot easier and funner to play. The enemies are no longer indestructible like they were in Halo 4, which is a plus. The problem is when you get to the story. Oi. The story. Okay, first of all, it's not a direct continuation. I was pretty lost at the beginning, wondering what the hell is happening. After looking it up, I found that there are several books that come between Halo 4 and 5 that 5 assumes you read. I should never, ever have to read supplemental material to know what is happening in the story of the main line series. That is just BAD storytelling. But it gets WORSE. This was sold as a game where the Master Chief has gone rogue and you are sent out to hunt him down. It was built up to be this huge, epic confrontation between him and the guy you play as. And the marketing just flat out lied about ALL OF IT. Next, you only play as the Master Chief in like 3 missions of the 15 or so. This is a main line game in the series. It should be mostly from the POV of the main protagonist of the series. You want to give me a game about Locke. Fine. Don't call it Halo 5! Because it's NOT. Just call it Halo Guardians. And then the story just continues to shatter preestablished lore and continuity and really shows the people writing this crap do not have the first clue as to what they're doing. It might have made a pretty good sci-fi story... if it wasn't Halo, and at the same time, shitting all over Halo. I spent most of the story just saying aloud, "What? Really? Oh come on!" But it's still a better game than Halo 4.
So, anyway my rankings for the series, best to worst, go like this:
Halo 3: ODST
Halo 5: Guardians