I’ve spoken before about what an incredibly influential videogame series Halo is, however that doesn’t mean that at times it’s not better than at others. Halo is clever enough to not fall into the COD trap of releasing a new game every year and so when a new game is announced, it becomes a genuinely exciting event. I’m going to attempt to rank the seven main Halo games (so no Halo: Wars), I’m afraid. The problem with this list is just how divisive the series proves to be … Everyone has a favourite Halo game and it could be any of the seven, so prepare to be angered and annoyed by my list.
This ranking doesn’t take into consideration the multiplayer aspects of the series.
- Halo: Reach
Half of you reading this will be preparing a lynch mob, whilst the other half will be lighting fireworks and saluting my bravery at putting this title last. I think that this game is the most divisive of the bunch. 50% of gamers adored it, whilst me and the other 50% couldn’t get their heads around why everyone was harping on about it. The gameplay was interesting as it put you in a team of Spartans for the first time and it proved a nice prequel to the events of Masterchief’s story as it ends right at the start of Halo: Combat Evolved. The ending, which sees you fight off wave after wave of enemies in a last-ditch attempt to by some time for the future of humanity is genuinely touching, but seeing your crew picked off one by is nowhere near as emotional as some make out. I genuinely couldn’t care less when the mean-lady in the armour suit died; or the guy with the skull on his helmet met his maker; or the big guy with the big gun shuffled off his mortal coil … I can’t even remember the other characters, let alone anyone’s names and I’ve played the game through more than once. A game that is supposed to have a great story, left me cold … still nowhere near a bad game, however, as Bungie are incapable of making one, especially as parts of this game are as thrilling and innovative as some later down the list.
- Halo 3: ODST
Some of you may be surprised that this isn’t last and that I’ve ranked it higher than Reach. Many dismiss this entry as a strange entity that was released shortly after Halo 3 and felt like extended DLC. The reason I like this game (and if this were a personal list, it would be much higher) is that it took the Halo formula and bravely tried to do something new with it. The game added a free-roam hub area that had you meandering around at night, whilst avoid enemy patrols, trying to find your missing squad of ODSTs (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers). Instead of non-stop balls-to-the-wall action, these moments felt like you were in a Blade Runner-esque sci-fi noir film, that balanced tension and exploration. From a gameplay point of view, this game is by far the easiest of the series, however it did something no other title has done … it made you human. For the first – and only – time you are not playing as a super-soldier in power armour … you are a man, with an SMG trying to fight hordes of Brutes and Grunts in an affecting story that sees you under the command of James’ favourite human: Nathan Fillion.
- Halo 4
Halo 4 was a nice mix-up and after such a long hiatus to the Masterchief story, it was nice to get back to him and Cortana, fighting hordes of alien bad guys again. The game is low down on the list because although the cutscenes were incredible and the game had some brilliant level design, the whole thing felt more like it was 343 Industries proving they could make a Halo game as good as Bungie. I think they succeed, as 4 is an excellent addition, just nothing too original or exciting, particularly as the big bad-guy was little more than generic angry sci-fi villain number 72. It’s mix up in bad-guy varieties just felt like the Covenant with a different skin on, instead of when the Flood were introduced in the first outing and you genuinely had to completely over-haul your play style ... The opening level, however, is still probably one of the best in the series.
- Halo 2
Okay, this is the most divisive game in the series. The problem with this entry is that it spews out too much nostalgia for when Halo was new and exciting and clouds the judgement of gamers. Halo 2 was probably the most anticipated videogame of all time – with the possible exception of Halo 3 – as it was the follow up to the seminal and iconic Halo: Combat Evolved. For the most part, the game was a great sequel, as it upped the action, but failed to deliver on story. The story was good (not great), up until the end, which just ended … without an end … if you get what I mean. There was no ending, the game just turned itself off and we had to wait an interminable amount of time until we found out what was going on. The game is extremely difficult, as well, and is by far the most difficult of the entire series. Whilst the gameplay was fun, with the addition of dual-wielding, and the much-loved Battle Rifle (even if that meant the exclusion of the more beloved Assault Rifle); being forced to play as the Arbiter, and fight through near-invincible Flood … it all just became too infuriating.
- Halo 5: Guardians
Many will be surprised to see this entry so high on the list, but let me explain. I personally believe it’s one of the stronger entries in the series and is much maligned, for the wrong reasons. Firstly, we need to talk about the story, which isn’t great. Now, although it’s far from Shakespeare, I think that the more personal story is more affecting then people give it credit for. Like a good Murakami novel, the game is split into two stories: Masterchief’s defying of orders as he hunts for the presumably dead Cortana; and Spartan Locke’s hunt for the disobedient Masterchief (with Nathan Fillion in tow, which is also a bonus). The story was not what was promised, which has left many people to unfairly dismiss it, as when you take it on face value, the game is massively enjoyable (especially when you get to travel to the Elite home world and meet up with the Arbiter again). The story aside, I think the gameplay is one of the strongest in the entire series (maybe since the first) as it introduced many new aspects that have revolutionized the feel of the game: aiming down sights, climbing over obstacles and walls, and team-mate revival. Because of these things, the game did start to feel like a FPS/Gears of War, hybrid, but it meant the combat was refreshed and it’s stopped the tried and tested formula of the series becoming too stale. Lastly, some of the set pieces in the game are incredible, particularly anything involving the titular Guardians … enormous mega-AI that act as galaxy wide peacekeepers, able to destroy entire planets, if needed.
- Halo: Combat Evolved
The game that started it all and proved to the world that first-person shooters would work on consoles and could even be better than their PC counterparts. This game is still quite breath-taking today, but mainly in the sheer enjoyability of its gameplay … and yes ‘The Library’ level may be slightly tedious, but it is still fun because you are playing it using the incredibly intuitive Halo: Combat Evolved controls, which I still believe are the strongest, not only in the series, but in the entirety of the FPS sub-genre. You’d think a game that came out nearly 20 years ago, would have started to feel dated like Doom or Half-Life have, but Halo still feels as fresh and exciting as it did back in the days of the original green brick, that was the first Xbox console.
- Halo 3
Should I have put Combat Evolved at number one? Probably, but there is no denying how incredible Halo 3 felt to play when it was first released as a launch title for the Xbox 360 (forever bestowing it as a classic console in line with the Nintendo 64 and the PS2). I have such fond memories of playing through this until the disc literally cracked from over use; playing it both alone and with friends in the excellent co-op mode. From a difficulty perspective, I also feel this is the most balanced of the series as it was oft-difficulty, but never to the point where you thought you’d never get that Legendary achievement. The story was able to pick-up where the second one ended, and almost made us forgive Bungie for ending on such a sour and stupid note in number two. Yes, the Flood were back, but the game learnt from the mistakes of the past and, in my opinion, made them genuinely fun to fight, even if the ‘Cortana’ level is one of the most infuriatingly stupid levels in the history of modern videogames. This is the Halo game where every aspect was blended together perfectly to make the best sci-fi FPS cocktail the world has ever seen.
How much do you hate me right now for putting Reach at the bottom, or for being dismissive of Halo 2? Let me know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog