Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rating the Halo Video Games

Now that Bungie has produced its last Halo videogame, it's time to rate their five games. Now there are similarities in all five games, some bad and much of it great. I can point out Bungie's sense of humor by making the cannon fodder Grunts into cowardly Munchkins. Note to those making a Halo movie, leave these adversaries out. Yet all of them have excellent gameplay and compelling storytelling. In that light, there is not one bad or even average game in the series. So let's countdown to the best of the Halo series, starting with number five.

5. Halo 3: ODST. (2009) It's the hardest of the series because you play a regular human soldier. You have no special armor. So that means you have to hunt for health while avoiding getting shot. There are times when you're confronted with a foe like a Hunter and the program doesn't offer you a heavy weapon. And finding the next mission can be tough since you have to find a small artifact to boot the next mission.

But as with all Halo games, the first person shooter (FPS) mechanics are stellar. There's a nice feeling of loneliness as you are cut off from the squad and are searching for them. Nice jazz music. And I appreciated the romance between Tricia Helfer's intelligence officer and Nathan Fillion's foot soldier. The grade is B.

4. Halo: Combat Evolved. (2001) The gameplay is inconsistent. Some missions are straight forward and accessible while others are very difficult. Try navigating through the library level with hundreds of Flood attacking you. And having the last mission to be a race against time in the near uncontrollable Warthog was an act of sadism by the programmers. It's made even more difficult by having ridiculous obstacles put in your path.

Okay, does that mean this is not a great game? Absolutely not. Firing guns has never been more fun. Gameplay is addictive. Controls are magnificent. The storytelling is nice mixture of science fiction and action. It was the success that the first person shooting genre needed to flourish on consoles. This is the game that saved XBOX. The grade is A.

3. Halo: Reach (2010) All the great game mechanics in the series are here. The dogfighting level in outer space is a blast. But Halo : Reach's strength is its story. It's a tragedy. And it exists in a videogame. When you finish the epilogue mission, you might feel sad but you realize the sacrifice was worth it as hope arises out of the fall of planet Reach. It's bold storytelling. The grade is A.

2. Halo 3. (2007) This is the first Halo game for the XBOX 360. It fully utilizes the hardware because the graphics are gorgeous. The mutating Flood troops are remarkable. The action is compelling. Though, I could have done without the deaths of Miranda Keyes and Sgt. Johnson. For some reason, writers want to make drastic changes in the last act of a story. Why? I don't know. Regardless, it's a satisfying conclusion to Master Chief's story. The grade is A.

1. Halo 2. There has been griping about the cliffhanger ending of Halo 2. Yeah, so what? It's the second act of three act play. Some consider Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back as the greatest of all the Star Wars movies. That also had an unresolved plot point. Halo 2 expands on the Halo universe in sophisticated ways. There's greater depth to all the races involved especially the when the story deals with Covenant. There's also lessons in tolerance.

Halo 2 also fixes some of the problems in the first game. Flying the Banshee is now a snap. Driving the Warthog is still hard but driving the tank is logical and fun. While this game is not easy, it's more digestible as far as the difficulty of the missions. The game also introduces online multiplayer. Everything is bliss as far as gameplay. Halo 2 is the perfect game of the series. The grade is A +.

I look forward to what new games Bungie will develop. I also am curious as to what direction, Microsoft who now will be producing Halo games, will take the franchise.

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