Today’s post is a love letter to my absolute favorite franchise in gaming history – Halo.
Over the course of this entry I’m going to go over each of the numbered games in the Halo franchise and talk about what these games meant to me and why I adore them so much.
Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)
I was 9 years old when Halo: Combat Evolved released.
I walked into the back bedroom of my stepdad’s house and saw another kid sitting cross-legged on the floor with a massive controller in his hands and my eyes immediately darted to the screen to suddenly be in awe of what I witnessed.
He was on the level The Silent Cartographer and took cover behind an overturned Warthog while lobbing frag grenades overhead to try and take out the enemies that were unloading on him with funny sounding laser guns.
“What is this?” I asked, “Halo” he replied.
I watched as he picked off the targets one by one with a mix of grenades, pistol rounds and an awesome looking assault rifle that had an ammo readout right on the gun.
Once he cleared out all the hostiles, he turned and tossed his vehicle right side up, jumped into the driver seat and continued across the island.
I was dumbfounded.
Up until this point, I’d never seen a game quite like Halo. I remember messing around on shooters before like DOOM and Delta Force on PC but I’d never experienced a game with levels as big as Combat Evolved that allowed you to hop into vehicles or grab the alien weapons the enemy had just tried to kill you with and turn them around on them.
After finishing that level, we asked my stepdad to take us to buy a second controller so I could play. The next week was spent in front of the TV from sun-up until sundown repeatedly beating the campaign on all difficulties and messing around in the multiplayer to launch each other in ghosts in what we referred to as the X-Games before slaughtering each other over and over on Blood Gulch while swearing (and lying) that we weren’t screen peaking.
In fact, the multiplayer for Combat Evolved is where I came up with my long-standing online user name. I wanted to change the color of my Spartan to black and in order to do so you had to make a profile.
I needed a name and after a few minutes I combined the two things currently stuck in my head – Captain Keyes, from the campaign we’d just finished for the third time, and Slayer, the game type we were going to play.
CaptainSlayer wouldn’t fit, so I had to abbreviate to CptSlayer. But now, almost 20 years later, I still use CaptainSlayer on everything it’s available for and it’s become synonymous with my online identity.
Halo 2 (2004)
A few years after experiencing Halo: Combat Evolved I was kicked back in a recliner when my mom’s boyfriend, Tim, kept asking me to grab something for him. I kept insisting I would go grab it once a commercial came on but he continued to insist that I should go grab it now.
Finally, I yielded and went to grab whatever it was but in it’s place I found a brand new sealed copy of Halo 2. I was ecstatic. I rushed back over and gave Tim a hug thanking him repeatedly for picking the game up for me before rushing to my Xbox to try it out.
Back then, I had AOL internet and no knowledge of gaming media websites so I didn’t even realize the sequel had released. Despite being later in the evening, I played the entire campaign in one sitting and then hopped into the multiplayer by myself to check out all the new maps.
I called my closest friend and ranted on and on about all the changes. “WE CAN FLY BANSHEES IN MULTIPLAYER!”
The next day at school, I was the most popular guy in class and everyone kept eagerly asking me about the game… and if they could borrow it… my reply of a quick and stern “No!” broke several hearts.
Unfortunately, I never got to play Halo 2 on Xbox Live. As said, I had AOL and there’s no way my mom was going to upgrade our internet or pay for an Xbox Live subscription.
That didn’t stop me from buying the physical version of the Multiplayer Map Pack later and playing through all of the maps both by myself and with my best friend.
I seriously couldn’t tell you how many hours I spent crouch walking through the bases on Coagulation while pretending I was communicating with team mates and coordinating an attack for the enemies flag.
I remember spending countless hours looking for easter eggs in this one as well, including the Scarab Gun which to my surprise ended up being real and both frustrating to obtain and fun as hell to use!
Halo 3 (2007)
Oh boy. This is the one.
Halo 3 was one of the first games I followed closely from announcement to launch. It was also one of the first titles I ever got to play on Xbox Live alongside Saints Row and Gears of War.
At it’s peak, I played Halo 3 on Xbox Live for an average of eight hours a day, but sometimes it would be closer to twenty-four.
I pushed as hard as I could in ranked, though my highest placement was 43, and when my friends were on I’d instead be running Big Team Battle or Custom Games like Ghostbusters, Jenga and Duck Hunt all night long.
I met several friends via Xbox Live on Halo 3 who I still talk to daily and some of them even attended my wedding in 2015. Many of us met up in 2018 to rent out a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN for a weekend and it. was. beautiful.
I loved everything about Halo 3. The campaign was insanely fun, especially with four players, and the possibilities with custom games and forge seemed absolutely endless. Logging in on a Friday or Saturday night and seeing upwards of a million players currently online made you feel like you were a part of something so much bigger and it’s an experience I greatly treasure and am infinitely happy that I got to experience.
To this day, Halo 3 remains my favorite of the mainline titles for nostalgic reasons. Going back, I can still have fun on the Master Chief Collection and, surprisingly, I can still hold my own in the social multiplayer modes.
However, it’s hard to find as many friends willing to play and going it alone can be a bit boring after a while. Long gone are the days of my entire friends list showing “Halo 3” beside everyone’s gamertag and even though I will always love Halo 3 – another game has since claimed the spot of being my favorite online multiplayer shooter!
Halo 4 (2012)
Halo 4 came at a unique time in the Halo lifespan.
Bungie had parted ways with Microsoft to go and work on Destiny and in their wake, we saw the rise of 343 Industries. A new company made up of former Bungie employees and fresh faces alike with the goal of creating a new and improved Halo title. Despite the opinion being quite controversial, I think they did.
Halo 4 contained a phenomenal campaign and the graphics were second to none on the Xbox 360. The Spartan Ops mode is the first exposure to a sort of ‘live service’ I can remember for console games and even though it recycled a good few chunks of content, I still remember getting excited to drop into each new release and see what was happening with the story. The multiplayer was also much more fast paced than Halo 3 and provided a unique experience that we hadn’t had in this universe before.
In hindsight, I didn’t spend as much time with Halo 4 as I did with the rest of the games, including Reach, but I still really enjoyed the time I did.
Halo 4 was a bold and innovative direction for the series and it was an outstanding game for it’s time. That said, I don’t queue up for it often in MCC and when I do get dropped into a match, it’s hard to find my rhythm as easily as I do with the other games.
Halo 5: Guardians (2015)
Halo 5: Guardians is by far my favorite multiplayer shooter experience in online gaming.
With this title, I feel like 343 Industries found their footing and properly pushed the boundaries for what Halo is and what Halo should be.
The game featured several new movement abilities while removing the armor abilities from Halo: Reach and Halo 4 and brought back “fair starts” in competitive matches.
The movement is so fluid and clean and my shots always feel like they land precisely where I put them.
The new game modes and maps felt fresh and innovative while the classics were preserved and just as fun as they’d ever been.
Legacy content was also included throughout the games lifespan with my favorite inclusion being the Halo 2 Battle Rifle which is by far the most fun gun to use in the game.
On top of that, Warzone was added as the first PvPvE mode in Halo history and Firefight eventually found it’s way back into the mix through a similar setup.
I also believe Halo 5: Guardians handled the inclusion of microtransactions in a fair manner. I never felt that spending real world money was necessary and obtained almost all of my unlocks through normal game play means.
The most controversial part of this game was the campaign which I thoroughly enjoyed from a gameplay and visual perspective, though I will admit it’s the only Halo title that I’ve played to completion a single time.
I love Locke and the rest of Fireteam Osiris but only getting to play as Chief for a whopping three levels was a let down and some of the story beats I tend to side with the majority of the fan base on – but that never stopped me from loving this game.
Earlier, I mentioned that Halo 3 is my all time favorite Halo game based on nostalgia alone. Halo 5: Guardians is my all time favorite Halo game – period.
Whenever I miss Halo, this is the game I go to. It’s still clean and fun to play and the movement doesn’t feel as sluggish as the older games.
I. Love. Halo 5.
Halo: Infinite (2020)
We’re coming up on the five year anniversary of Halo 5: Guardians release and despite having Halo Wars 2 fill in a bit of the time between mainline games, I’m still famished for something new.
Halo: Infinite has been teased time and time again and some cinematic trailers have been showcased at recent E3 showcases but at the time of this writing, we’re only four days away from finally seeing the game in action.
I’m excited. Really, really excited.
I think Infinite will be something unlike any other Halo game we’ve seen before and I’m hopeful that it will have a lasting impact on this generation of gaming and next.
Halo: Combat Evolved is often referred to as having revolutionized the First-Person Shooter genre, and I’m optimistic that Infinite has the potential to do it again.
I don’t know what to expect from Halo: Infinite but if I had one wish it would be that when I log onto Xbox Live over the weekend for a night of gaming, I’m greeted with a friends list that repeats “Halo: Infinite” over, and over and over – just like in 2007.
Until then, you can find me playing Halo games every Monday on my Twitch Channel for “Master Chief Monday”. Feel free to stop by and tell me how to Do Better!
Slight warning, unlike Positive Plugs, my stream is very much for mature audiences!