Ten Things About Halo That Are Just Terrible
I played the original Halo back in 2001, and loved it enough to finish the game multiple times on various difficulty levels.
It wasn't perfect. But it felt sophisticated and adult; it made the tough-guy, one-man-army clich? of the genre somehow feel fresh and vital. Beyond that, I was a big Marathon fan back in the '90s -- so it was great to finally see Bungie get the mainstream credit I felt it deserved.
Then Halo 2 came along with its awful campaign and kicked me in the stomach and stole my soda money and broke my heart. Sure, its multiplayer was fine, but the game didn't make me feel anything. Again, I finished it multiple times, mostly just to see if I was missing something.
Next up: the expansive Halo 3. Here was a chance for redemption; here was a chance for Bungie to right some of those narrative and gameplay wrongs (more on both fronts in a moment). But nothing got righted. By the time I reached the closing credits, I was just as confused and broken-hearted and soda-money-free as ever.
Make no mistake: Halo 3: ODST is absolutely the best Halo since the original. It's human and vital and adult and, most importantly, credible. Finally, the Halo universe -- the Haloverse? -- makes a tiny bit of sense again.
Regardless -- and here comes the heresy -- the Halo series is an uneven, half-cooked mess. I think it stands tall as one of the most overrated videogame series in the medium's history.
Here are 10 things about the series that have personally driven me batshit since 2001.
1. The Covenant can speak English.
Enemies, especially Grunts, are prone to spouting phrases like "He's here!" and "They're everywhere!" I do not, for the life of me, understand this. The only logical explanation I can come up with is this: A supply ship loaded with copies of the latest version of the Rosetta Stone software crashed on the ring planet of Halo. Rosetta Stone copies were distributed. The Grunts learned how to say simple English phrases, such as "Where is the toilet?" and "I would like a basket of chicken, please" and "We're all gonna die!"
2. I can't run.
Four games and eight years later, and for some reason I am still slowly sauntering away from the game's hellish firefights like a tourist out for a leisurely afternoon stroll along the River Seine. Dear Bungie: Let. Me. Run. Please.
3. If you don't have a spare 100 hours per week to devote to "training," Halo multiplayer is not an option for you.
Fact: Halo multiplayer is a cruel, cold, lonely place, particularly for anyone who has other things to do, like holding down a job that pays you money, or skillfully making love to a living, breathing person.
4. The level design is generally very lazy.
Here is an actual note that I found on the desk of a Bungie level designer: "OK, let's really crowd this one area with even more bad guys, and then throw in about eight Brutes at the end. Ha, ha, that'll be awesome!" Fact: Cluttering an area with more enemies is not fun; it's lazy design.
5. The game's visuals, even after four games and eight years, still barely qualify as late-generation original-Xbox caliber.
Here's another fact: Halo 3: ODST, like it or not, looks dated. When C-grade fare like Wolfenstein can visually trump a first-party-published, flagship franchise like this, it's time to build a new gameplay engine, Bungie.
6. Three words: Covenant weapons suck.
Yes, they are effective. But I do not want to use the Plasma Pistol. Ever. Using these weapons never makes me feel like I'm being resourceful, and/or like I'm improvising my way across the battlefield, or like I'm really sticking it to the Covenant by shooting them with their own guns. It just makes me let out a long, audible, dramatic sigh, followed by a frantic scouring of my surroundings for an Assault Rifle.
7. You can usually reach the end of any level in any Halo game by run-walking and continually jumping in the air.
Actual quote from a fellow game writer (who preferred to remain anonymous for obvious reasons): "Halfway through Halo 2's single-player campaign, I got bored, so I stopped trying to fight everything and I just started running. I ran to the end of the level. Once I realized I could do this, I kept running, running, running -- well, the game's version of running, anyway, which consists of hopping and walking and hopping -- and eventually I got to the end of the game. True story." CG Pro Tip: This strategy is perfectly viable in Halo 3: ODST. Go ahead! Run to the credits! It's OK!
8. I am calling for a moratorium on all invisible dudes.
The cheapest enemies in all of gaming -- invisible enemies -- appear in every Halo game in great numbers. And, surprise: They appear early and often in Halo 3: ODST as well. If a tree falls in the forest and you are totally alone and something starts killing you, are you still having any fun? Think about that for a minute.
9. The sense of d?j? vu is strong with this one.
The original Halo recycled textures and environments so often that the end of the game bore an eerie resemblance to the beginning of the game. And Halo 3: ODST carries on this unfortunate tradition, and tends to do more recycling than a kibbutz.
10. Making sense has never been a priority for the series.
The Arbiter? Gravemind? 343 Guilty Spark? Prophet of Regret? Prophet of Mercy? The original Halo was kind of interesting and mostly made sense. But, as I stated earlier, the narrative train completely jumped the tracks during Halo 2, and it's been impossible to give a damn about anyone or anything in the series since. To its credit, Halo 3: ODST is the most narratively cohesive Halo game to date. So Halo fans: There's reason to hope and believe again.
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