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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, including Halo 5 itself. Starting with Halo: CE, it will run right through to the 8th of November. 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.
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: these are all my honest opinions.
While Halo Online plays well, I'm more excited to see what the modding community does with it than for the game itself.
I think it's safe to say that, when 343i unveiled Halo Online, people were very surprised and confused. It was a step that nobody could have predicted, and it came at a very unlikely time. Sadly, though, the game is currently exclusive to Russia and to PC (although there are ways to play it elsewhere, which I will not name/link here lest the review be taken down). Personally, while Halo Online does play well (due, in part, to its use of Halo 3 and Halo 2 maps), I'm more excited to see what the modding community does with it than for the game itself.
From a map design standpoint, it's pretty good, as most of the maps are taken straight out of previous Halos. The two that aren't, Reactor and Edge, aren't terrible, either. Most of the remakes still use the previous textures and models, although Icebox (Turf) and Diamondback (Avalanche) are remastered but have identical weapon and vehicle placement. The one problem with the map design is a direct offshoot of the one major of the entire game: the microtransaction system. All of the loadout weapons such as Battle Rifles, SMGs and Assault Rifles have been removed from the maps, presumably to add an incentive to purchase such weapons. This makes it really difficult to find useful weapons when you spawn - you have to go for a power weapon, or stick with what you have.
While aiming with particular weapons (looking at you, Battle Rifle and DMR) can be hard, due to extremely large reticules, most of the weapons are very well balanced. One exception is the Energy Sword which, when combined with sprint, is extremely over-powered. Other than that, all I can say is that all weapons feel right in the sandbox, and have their own niche that they cater to.
From an art style/music perspective, the game is... Meh. The main menu music is absolutely stunning, but that's pretty much the only music in the game. As for the art style, the remastered Halo 3 vehicles are great! Particularly the Chopper, which is a vehicle I've wanted to see in modern graphics for ages. The weapons are simply replaced with the newest available model, which isn't something that worries me, as most of them still look good. The many loadout weapon variants have stripes of colour on them, in order to differentiate between them. From a gameplay perspective, this makes sense, but I just doesn't sit right with me, perhaps because I prefer more gritty, realistic depictions of the Halo universe, or simply because I dislike the microtransactions themselves. Oh, and here's some fair warning: the armour sucks. Few of the recognisable Halo armours are in there, and they all have these weird Tron-style lights, that don't fit in the Halo universe.
I've been largely avoiding this topic in the review up until now, but... This game is pay-to-win. There's no other way of stating it. You can pay (with an in-game currency or a microtransaction-bought one) to 'rent' weapons. Yes, that's right you only get it for a limited amount of time. This cashgrab ruins what otherwise would be a great multiplayer game. We can only hope they come to their senses and remove it sooner or later.
Ultimately, I think Halo Online would be an amazing entry into the franchise, if they just released it worldwide, cut out the microtransactions (and replaced them with a traditional loadout system), put the loadout weapons back on the map, visually updated all of the maps and put it on Steam for $5-$10 (I'd pay for it), with Steam workshop support. However, right now, that's a pipe dream, sadly.
|Microtransactions and a pay-to-win architecture ruins what otherwise would be a brilliant game.|
|Great maps.||Pay-to-win microtransactions ruin the game.|
|Decent weapon balancing.||'Golden weapons' feel out-of-place in Halo.|
|Great music, and alright art style.||Horrible armour designs to pick from, without many returning classic designs.|
|Great armour customisation options, even if the armours themselves weren't great.||Exclusive to Russia.|
|Finally brings Halo back to PC.||It feels half-baked - many maps aren't remastered.|
I wish I could say Halo Online is the great game it had(/has) the potential to be, but sadly, I can't. Let's hope 343i gets together with Saber Interactive and Innova to make this game better.
Next week, expect a review of the most recent Halo to be released, Halo 5, which may or may not also feature a special guest ;)
20:37, October 25, 2015 (UTC)