You might say I play the Halo games wrong or, at the very least, in the wrong order. Other than dabbling around with the first level in the original Halo a few times on the PC many moons ago, here’s how my Halo history has gone down so far: I played Halo 3: ODST, which I found a bit lackluster, and now three years later I just beat Halo 3. Y’know, the game that came before the previously mentioned one. Truthfully, I don’t think it matters because these games seem to have generic, paper-thin plots that are there to set up firefights or crowded hallways of enemies, as well as a vehicle-driven sequence or two, which all boils down to shooting aliens. I suspect I said the same thing minus the alien bit about Battlefield 3, but I’m really picky about my first-person shooters, usually going for ones that focus on non-shooting mechanics and stealth.
Anyways, recently, I jokingly tried to sum up the plot of Halo 3 on Twitter, which went something like this: You are Giant Soldier, out to shoot bad aliens. Then foreign plant aliens show up, and you shoot them too. At one point, these plant aliens are your allies, and they help you shoot the bad aliens. Then they get mad at you, so you are back to shooting all of them. Lastly, a planet blows up. The end. Sure, that might sound a bit dismissive, but really, that’s kind of it, unless you want to also discuss the post-credits scene, which is there to remind the Bungie loyalists that, don’t worry, you’ll get to do all of this again in the next forthcoming title. It probably also didn’t help that I played the first two missions back in October 2013 and didn’t get the urge to play again until after finishing Crackdown and wanting to keep the 2007 hype train a-rolling.
If there’s one thing I really didn’t like about Halo 3, it’s that Master Chief can’t run. Or, if he can, I have no idea what button sets those bulky feet into motion. The game, in general, moves extremely slow, but when you are trying to rush over to a Wraith to pop a sticky grenade in its engine and crawling babies are passing you–something is terribly wrong. Yeah, Master Chief can jump really high and regain his health/shield, but I’d trade all that and a limited edition Needler that shoots green spikes to be able to run up a hill. I guess speed is not a concern for Halo fans, but games like Borderlands 2 have spoiled me too much.
Also, let’s talk a bit about friendly AI and the wonky, unpredictable physics of flipping vehicles. Master Chief, on occasion, is accompanied to firefights with a handful of soldiers, and most of them will die before the end, either by the enemy’s hands or your own. In my case, I ended up running over a lot of them with a Warthog. They are terrible at flanking the enemy, and sometimes end up in weird, buggy states, like standing still or running up against a wall. I found myself on at least three different levels sitting idle in a Warthog while an AI-controlled soldier got in the driver seat, sat staring ahead, and mumbled, “Need a ride, sir?” until I got out, removed him from the driver’s seat, and drove away on my own. Enemy AI is pretty decent, as the goons and grunts will take cover and try to surprise you now and then. For true hilarity, when your vehicle tops over, you can press a button to flip it upright, and sometimes that works, and sometimes the entire thing does an Olympic gymnastic routine that would surely garner high scores.
After finishing the game and immediately deciding not to replay it all once more on Heroic or Legendary difficulty, I went hunting for skulls. These are tiny collectibles you can find in the levels that, once grabbed and turned on, make the game harder, but also give greater rewards. Sort of like the god shrines in Bastion. Alas, these skulls are teeny tiny and aptly hidden, making hunting hard. In other words, I looked up a guide and followed along, grabbing all of them within an hour, with only two proving quite tricky (Fog Skull and Famine Skull). First-person platforming is no easy thing.
I also tried a match or two of online multiplayer–yes, people are still playing Halo 3 competitively–and that’s fine fun, but again, it all moves so slow. You die, you respawn on the opposite end of the map, and by the time you get over to where everyone is shooting at each other, they’re all already dead.
Which is your favorite Halo game? Should I try any others or just call the series average at best and move on with my time? I could live life just fine if I never had to shoot another stream of Flood monsters ever again…