Understandably, we have Halo fever, what with Halo 4 releasing today (Read our review!). So to celebrate the occasion, we decided to rank the Halo games from worst to best for your reading pleasure. Keep in mind, though, we are only counting the main first-person shooter titles (sorry, Halo Wars). So without further ado, here is our official pecking order.
Halo 3: ODST
Halo 3: ODST is, without question, the weakest link in the chain. What developer Bungie set out to do with the title – provide an open world first-person shooter set in the Halo-verse – was admirable. But there’s no denying the world felt lifeless. The story of ODST also didn’t provide many revelations, instead coming off as a tangent that’s easily forgotten. The one redeeming quality of ODST is it introduced us to Firefight mode in multiplayer, which has carried over in some fashion to all Halo titles released since.
At the time of its release, Halo 3 was a beautiful looking game, maybe even the best the Xbox 360 had seen. However, there’s no denying that Bungie played it safe as far as the campaign was concerned. It felt like Master Chief was just going through the paces in order to finish his fight with the Covenant (outside being able to play as the Arbiter in co-op, although that didn’t change anything gameplay wise). While the single player experience felt like old hat, at least the multiplayer component of Halo 3 was outstanding. It established the new benchmark for which all future Halo multiplayer offerings were judged.
Firstly, Halo 2 gave diehard Halo fans quite the mind-f*ck in the game’s story mode when you got to play as a Covenant Elite soldier, the Arbiter. Seeing the Covenant War from the other side is one of the greatest gifts Halo 2 gave us, and helped make up for the out-of-nowhere cliffhanger ending and that strange plant-beast, Gravemind. Additionally, let us not forget that Halo 2 was the first Halo game to hit Microsoft’s online platform, Xbox Live. The way Bungie handled grouping with friends and finding matches still stands as the pinnacle in matchmaking for online console games. They have perfected the art over time, but Halo 2 was a watershed moment for playing console games online.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Here is the game that started it all. In what is probably the game’s greatest achievement, Halo: Combat Evolved made gamers believe Microsoft could enter the video game market and compete with Nintendo and Sony. Hell, this one game made me interested in picking up the original Xbox, and before laying hands on that fat-ass controller, I had no interest whatsoever. But the original Halo proved first-person shooters can be done well on a console, that it’s not a genre tailored specifically to a keyboard and mouse. And because of Halo, for better or worse, we now live in a time where first-person shooters have a stranglehold on the industry.
Bungie might not be in control of the Halo franchise anymore, but that hasn’t stopped developer 343 Industries from turning in one of the best Halo games yet. Everything about Halo 4 screams a studio developed it with decades of experience under their belt; however, this is really 343i’s first game (not counting the HD remake of Halo: Combat Evolved they did last year). That’s damn impressive. They could have easily just taken the tried-and-true formula of Halo, a formula that basically prints its own money, and turned in something safe and familiar.
Yet, 343i stepped up to bat and knocked their first Halo game out of the park with arguably the most emotional story in the series yet, as well as a robust multiplayer experience full of competitive and cooperative game types. The bar had been set high, but it’s clear 343i had no problem rising to the challenge, however insurmountable it may have seemed.
Our #1 spot was a difficult decision, but we had to go with Halo: Reach, simply because it reinvigorated our love of all things Halo. At the time of Reach’s announcement, we were burnt out on Halo; Halo 3 was good if not safe, and ODST did nothing but convince us maybe it was time to cut loses and lay the franchise to rest. Then Bungie released their ultimate Halo game as their swan song to the franchise, revisiting the early years of the series’ fiction to recount the fall of the planet Reach and the escape of the Pillar of Autumn that set the journey of Master Chief in motion.
Best of all, Bungie didn’t rest on their laurels, providing us with stuff like an exhilarating space dogfight sequence to shake up the formula. Halo: Reach was everything Halo 3 and ODST were not, and it was glorious. Additionally, the multiplayer suite of Reach was retooled to offer equipment loadouts like jetpacks, and a new Forge mode, which allowed you to edit an entire world however you saw fit.
For these reasons, among others, Halo: Reach represents the ultimate Halo experience… thus far. If you feel differently, sound off in the comments below!
Erik Norris is CraveOnline's Gaming Editor. You can follow him on Twitter @Regular_Erik.