The Most Legendary
Halo Infinite’s official release is right around the corner. The story of the upcoming game is seen as the third and final chapter of the “Reclaimer Saga”, which began in Halo 4. What better time to look back at the previous Halo games?
The topic of the “best Halo games” is tricky to tackle and divisive. Which would it be? Well, they all shine in their own way, so we at COGconnected want to have an awards show of sorts. We have several categories and features that we feel help define the Halo titles, such as multiplayer and the campaign. We thought about which games were the best in each category, so join us in celebrating these titles and the Halo series.
Best Multiplayer – Halo 3
Some gamers would argue that multiplayer is the defining feature of Halo, like many FPS games. With such a strong online community, it is hard to argue with that. As incredible as Halo 2 PvP was, there was something about Halo 3 that really pushed the envelope. Maybe it was the addition of Custom Games, the introduction of Forge Mode, Theater Mode, or the combination of all three. Halo 3’s multiplayer aspect felt infinite, pun intended.
In previous games, the multiplayer aspect has limited objectives; kill the enemy team, steal the flag, plant the bomb, or grab the skull. They are classic game modes. Those objectives were expanded in Halo 3. Players could participate in races and other non-combat-centric game-types, such as Grifball.
A personal memory that highlights the possibilities of Halo 3’s multiplayer involves playing Jenga. One team would stand atop a tower of crates and barriers, over a deadly chasm. The other team would use vehicles to push large items into man-cannons and launch them into the tower, trying to knock the enemy team off to their deaths. This showed me that the creativity of players could turn an FPS game into something other than shoot-shoot, kill kill.
Best Campaign – Halo Reach
Multiplayer holds a special place in the hearts of Halo fans, but another pillar of the series is the campaign. It gives the maps and settings context, and might even tug at your heartstrings at times. The general conflict in the series is humanity vs the Covenant. There are other factions in play, such as the Flood, the Banished, and the Prometheans, but the Covenant are the classic, constant enemies. This is one of the reasons that Halo Reach has the best campaign.
Before the Pillar of Autumn discovered Installation 04 and the Flood, before Master Chief found the Prometheans on Requiem, there was just the Covenant and their campaign against the humans. Halo Reach takes place on the colony Reach, and if you haven’t played the game or read up on the extended Halo lore, SPOILER: the planet Reach does not fare too well in this game.
Instead of playing as Master Chief, you play as a Spartan known only as Noble 6, the sixth member of Noble Team, if you can believe it. Throughout the game, Noble 6 is joined by various members of the team on missions to defend Reach from the Covenant. Watching them work, fight, and die together really defines the stakes this game. Watching Reach fall also puts into perspective the desperation of humanity throughout the rest of the series.
The story is not the only great thing about Reach’s campaign. The level design gives the player a great variety of flavors. There are great sniping levels, aerial vehicle missions, huge fights against unbeatable odds, and of course, an epic and desperate final mission.
The very first Halo game set the standard for the series in a lot of ways going forward. 20 years later, the game definitely shows its age, even in the Anniversary Edition. The games that followed have improved in virtually every way, either from technological advances or from learning how to build upon something great. However, the music is something that may never quite be overtaken by the other games.
Everyone knows the Halo themes. There’s the one on the title screen that goes aaaAAAAaaaAAAAaaaaaaaaa. Then the one that goes DuhduhduhDUUHH, duhduhduhDUUUHHH. These themes are reprised in each game with Master Chief for a reason. They are really great and it all started with Halo: CE.
Of course, there are games, such as Reach, Halo 2, and ODST, that have experimented with mixing rock into their soundtracks. They certainly help mix things up, but there have not really been any other themes or songs that have popped up and been brought back in later games.
Best ‘Master Chief’ – Halo 4
Master Chief has been an iconic character in gaming ever since he debuted in 2001. We have never got a good look at him without his helmet on, so the player can easily imprint themselves into his alien-ass-beating armor. From Halo: CE to Halo 3, he has mostly been silent, except during cutscenes. Again, this helps players put themselves in the shoes of Master Chief. However, in Halo 4, Master Chief becomes a more well-rounded character.
Some fans like the strong, silent Chief, who talks with his guns. Halo 4 gave Master Chief his first real character arc in the games, which helped players empathize with him in one of the games with more emotional gravity. As Cortana began to suffer from her rampancy, Master Chief, who was never really one for words, would also begin to show how much he really cared for her, through short, concise lines. He would also say these things under the guise of duty as a soldier, when he was really in love with a six-inch, holographic, blue lady, which I think we can all understand.
Standout moments where Master Chief really shows the depth of his character include his confrontation with Captain Del Rio and when he has to say goodbye to Cortana. He has always been the perfect soldier; always following orders with unparalleled efficiency and without question. When Del Dio orders him to surrender Cortana for disposal, we all wanted to smack him right in the mouth, but Master Chief gave him something even more with a simple “No, sir.”
When Cortana ejects Master Chief from the Didact’s ship just before detonation, they have a very touching moment. Even as they were forced to say goodbye, Master Chief struggled to find a way to tell her how he really felt. The closest he gets is saying that it was his job to take care of her. An ongoing theme of their relationship is figuring out which of the two is human and which is the machine. It is really painful to watch him not able to process his loss.
Most Innovative – Halo 5: Guardians
We like to look at improvements between games in terms of what gets added. Each game grows in scope and technical power, but which title changes the experience the most? We have decided that Halo 5 has changed the core gameplay the most in the series.
There has been a trend between the heavy hitters in the First-Person Shooter genre, Call of Duty and Halo. Each seemed to be becoming more like the other in the mid-2010s. You had Call of Duty exploring the sci-fi genre and Halo became more fast-pace, particularly in Halo 5. Guardians added several features that made it more akin to COD, for better or worse. Spartans finally learned how to do things like clamber onto ledges, slide into cover, and dash out of danger.
Exactly how did this change the gameplay? These abilities added more verticality to the game and gave players more life-saving options if you had the misfortune of being attacked from behind. As with every addition to the series, players had to learn and adapt to these changes, forcing them to abandon old strategies and make new ones; to innovate.
Best New Gameplay Features – Halo 3 (Theater Mode)
As we mentioned above, we like to think about which games add what. Some new features become staples for the series, while some are never revisited. Halo 2 added dual-wielding, ODST added Firefight, Halo Reach added sprinting, but Halo 3 added something that changed the game on a different level. It may not be even be the most memorable part of the game, but what would we do without Theater Mode?
After a night of playing Halo online, kids would go to school the next day and talk about the sick Halo plays they made the night before. Of course, you just had to be there. With Halo 3’s Theater Mode and File Share capabilities, you could actually show your friends what happened. Hell, you could show the entire Halo community. It also gave new life to a whole cinematic aspect to Halo. Rooster Teeth’s Red vs Blue had been doing it since Halo: CE, but with Theater Mode, everyone now had the tools to make machinima.
Theater Mode has also become a staple feature in the series. Almost every main-series Halo game following Halo 3 has this mode built in, which is a testament to how useful and loved this feature is.
Best Final Mission: Halo 3 (Halo)
The best part of a Halo campaign is arguably the final level. It is the punctuation to end the journey with. Halo 3 (at the time) was the end of the epic trilogy, and it felt like it. Master Chief and the Arbiter escape a self destructing Halo ring-world, wiping out the Flood once and for all. The final mission of the game takes obvious inspiration from Halo: CE’s final mission The Maw, only it shed the awful Warthog controls.
There is just something about this mission that really makes it standout from all the others. You say goodbye to the fallen hero Sergeant Johnson, who has followed Master Chief from the first game, you defeat Guilty Spark, you end the threat of the Flood, and you finish with an epic driving section, as the installation explodes, and you go home. Of course, this was not the end of Master Chief’s journey, which continues on to this day, but at the time of its release, it was the perfect end.
Speaking of endings, it looks like Halo 3 is taking the most “best” titles of this list. That’s no knock against any of the other games. Again, we couldn’t give any of the games the blanket title of “Best Halo Game”, even if we tried. Even the RTS games Halo Wars were considered here, but they just were not as popular and too different from the FPS games to really snag any wins. There are no bad Halo games. You really can’t go wrong with any of them, but they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Maybe you agree and maybe you don’t. Let us know what you think about the list and which ones you would pick instead!
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