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New to the franchise? Want to know which games to get first? This series is for you.
With Halo 5: Guardians' release imminent, I thought I'd take the time to make a weekly series, in the vein of Wilc0's Halo 101, reviewing each of the Halo games up to this point, and then top it off at the end with a review of Halo 5 itself. Starting with Halo: CE, it will run right through to the 8th of November, by which time I will have played enough Halo 5 to give it a fair review. Finally, on the 15th of November (which, coincidentally, is my birthday) I'll top the series off with a top 10 list of the best Halo games of all time.
Some games will be grouped together, such as Halo PC and Halo: CE. Additionally, graphics will not be discussed in these reviews (art styles and framerates may, though) because we're reviewing retro games here - the original Xbox couldn't handle 1080p. While this series is mainly for those who either cannot play these games due to lack of time or money (or those who (rightly) don't trust review sites), feel free to read and share your thoughts if you have played. Oh, and don't worry: I haven't been paid by Microsoft or anything, these are all my honest opinions.
It offered deep SPARTAN customisation, sublime custom games and a vastly superior Forge, some of the tentposts of a good Halo game were ultimately neglected.
Halo: Reach was Bungie's final entry into the franchise, and while it offered deep SPARTAN customisation, sublime custom games and a vastly superior Forge, some of the tentposts of a good Halo game were ultimately neglected. Namely, the game lacked any stand-out multiplayer maps, and although the campaign wasn't horrible, but its story was sadly inferior to what was offered by previous Halo games.
The story, when it was first release, wreaked havoc with established canon. Many of the glaring inconsistencies have since been rectified, but the whole ordeal leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The story begins as you, SPARTAN-B312 (better known by your new callsign Noble 6), join Noble Team, filling the boots of the recently-deceased Thom-A293. It then follows the team as they fight a losing battle to protect Reach from a gigantic fleet of Covenant. Instead of a swift, few-hour battle, the Fall of Reach is stretched into a two month-long last stand, in which Noble Team gradually sacrifice themselves to slow the Covenant onslaught. It ends with a glimmer of hope, as Noble 6 stays behind to cover the Pillar of Autumn's escape, which would eventually lead to the Battle of Installation 04 and subsequently the end of the war. The characters, while not as well-rounded as those in Halo 3: ODST's Alpha-Nine, are all relatable, and realistic. Sadly, the writing, while good, doesn't quite live up to expectations, presumably due to the fact that the legendary writer Joseph Staten was busy with Halo 3: ODST and later Destiny during the game's development.
The level design promised to allow even more freedom than the usual Halo game, and succeeded in doing it. In addition to the occasional choice of path, there is a level in which you are given a Falcon and free rein over an entire city. Encounters remain interesting, and often require you to use some of the fun new tools in the sandbox, such as the Jetpack, to overcome hurdles.
In the multiplayer, the weapon balancing is once again near-perfect, although there are some particular weapons that nobody seems to use, such as the Spiker. The map design is where it all falls flat on its face. All of the maps were really hit-or-miss, because they were simply copy/pasted from the campaign. There were some that stood out, like Countdown, but for every Boneyard there was a Powerhouse. The DLC maps did fix this problem, but they were DLC, so not everyone got a chance to play them. As far as gametypes were concerned, there was a wide variety, and each had numerous customisation options.
Halo: Reach has earned a place in the heart of many, thanks to its legendary custom games, which no Halo game has since been able to replicate. Thanks to the combination of a vastly improved Forge, a better Forge canvas and very in-depth custom game options, games like Duck Hunt and Speed Halo were born. Due to many reasons including limited custom game options, and lack of population, no Halo has been able to play host to such a wide variety of custom games since (although H2A did show promise).
As mentioned in my Halo 3 review, music and art style are key in a Halo game. While the music was on par with previous titles, it was Halo: Reach's art style that trumped everything else seen yet, in my opinion. Your SPARTAN looked like he was a real soldier who had been through hell and back, and not some plastic action figure. The UNSC's equipment was utilitarian, no unnecessary blinking lights to make it sci-fi. If you weren't fighting aliens, you might'nt have even noticed it was a sci-fi. And yet, the Covenant still retain their distinctly alien feel, with their sleek curves and bulbous hulled ships.
Onto the verdict!
|Even past Halo 4's launch, this game has the highest matchmaking population of any 360 Halo game to date, so get it if you're looking for a casual multiplayer experience (if you're willing to look past map design). If you're looking for a singleplayer experience, Reach also has the full package - an excellent Firefight and compelling Campaign.|
|Reasonably compelling story and characters.|
|Long-lasting multiplayer with good weapon balancing.|
|Music fits the theme and the art style is amazing.|
|Best customisation options in any Halo game. There, I said it.|
|Legendary Forge and custom games.|
|Armour abilities like Jetpack and Armour Lock are overpowered.|
|Some not-so-good multiplayer maps, ripped straight from the campaign.|
|The writing isn't bad, but nor is it great.|
|Broke a lot of what (at the time) was established canon.|
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
This review will be of the new features and graphics added in Halo: CEA. For a review of the actual game and gameplay itself, please see my Halo: CE review.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is very unfaithful to the original, but does deliver on bringing the old game to a modern audience, in stunning HD.
Ten years on from Halo: CE, 343 Industries made their debut as the guardians of the Halo universe, with a remake of the classic that started it all. As a remastering of Halo: CE, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is very unfaithful to the original, but does deliver on bringing the old game to a modern audience, in stunning HD fidelity.
It may sound like nit-picking, but when remastering this game, Saber Interactive simply used similar-looking models for players, NPCs, weapons and vehicles from newer Halo games without regard to whether these were actually the same weapons in the universe. This was especially annoying considering some weapons had made more recent appearances with models that were higher-quality than the ones used in-game. Nevertheless, despite not making the effort to individually remake the models for each of Halo: CEA's weapons, the environment and atmosphere in each level remains true to the original with one notable exception. Additionally, the ability to switch back to the original graphics was a brilliant feature, and something noticeably absent from many modern-day remasters.
Among many of the features added, the Kinect voice support was the gimmickiest. It was shoe-horned in for no apparent reason; why would I say 'Grenade' out loud, and wait half a second for it to register, when I could just pull left trigger and it'd happen instantly? I appreciate they were trying to sell Kinect, but really? The Library, on the other hand, was a very interesting addition which was poorly implemented. An in-game compendium of all the weapons and vehicles? Sure! However, tying it to Kinect was a poor decision. Sadly, this feature hasn't made it into any more recent Halo games, and so its potential is going unused.
Skulls and Terminals were a stroke of genius. They add another layer of depth to the game, and encourage exploration, in order to find them. Not only does finding them add replay value, but the terminals finally explained a lot more about 343 Guilty Spark, his irrational choices, a little about 2401 Penitent Tangent and they set up the future of the franchise. Skulls on the other hand made gameplay just that little bit more fun, especially when you kill a Grunt at your feet and then realise that Grunt Funeral is on.
The Anniversary Map Pack included with Halo: CEA is its replacement for a multiplayer. It features 6 classic map remakes and a Firefight map, all in the Halo: Reach engine. Some of the weapon balancing is changed to mimic Halo: CE's, but other than that it plays like Halo: Reach. Make no mistake, these maps are good, but they just don't play the same in Halo: Reach. Additionally, instead of remaking another classic like Sidewinder, Wizard, Blood Gulch or Derelict, they opted for a Halo 2 Headlong remake. By no means is this a bad map, but I was hoping for another CE map.
|As remakes go, this one isn't bad, but gimmicky additions and lack of respect for the original material take it down a couple of pegs. If you own a 360, buy this version over the original Halo: CE, as you'll get the whole campaign plus some new multiplayer maps which you can play online (unlike CE).|
|Excellent environments, each with a distinct theme.|
|Brings the dated Halo: CE to a modern audience, and allows older fans to relive memories.|
|Token multiplayer - it's a nice addition, but it's nothing revolutionary.|
|Skulls and Terminals are a welcome addition.|
|Switching back and forth between classic and anniversary modes is a great addition.|
|The 3DTV support may have been for a niche audience, and reduces the FPS to 15, but it was awesome nonetheless.|
|Switching from anniversary to classic took time - time in which the game was not paused.|
|Many of the player, weapon and vehicle models are unfaithful to the original game.|
|The new anniversary textures aren't exactly where the old ones were, often allowing enemies to see you first, or causing you to grenade into an invisible wall.|
|Gimmicky Kinect controls.|
Halo: CEA was a good remaster of a great game, but in all honesty, Halo 2: Anniversary overshadows it.
Next week, an ancient schism within the Halo community awakens, as I review Halo 4 (and *shudder* Halo 4: KOTH)...
14:51, October 4, 2015 (UTC)