Halo: The Master Chief Collection just hit stores last month, which marked the 13th Anniversary of the series being released on the original Xbox console. This release includes (as the title implies) all the games Master Chief has appeared on: remastered editions of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, as well as porting Halo 3 and Halo 4 for the Xbox One, making these the first games of the Halo series to appear on Microsoft’s newest console.
So, it seems like an appropriate time to have a rundown of what has come of the iconic series so far, and as CultureMass’ biggest Halo fan (no one from the staff showed up when I asked them to challenge my title), it is my duty to get on this task.
But being the resident Halo fan around here is somewhat relative. I’ve been lashing out to this franchise for openly embracing some of the worst practices of the AAA videogame industry, like focusing too much on its multiplayer options, and how its sequelization has managed to disappoint me with every new entry of the series.
My love for Halo hasn’t become hate, I just can’t help looking down at the series with mild disappointment for not achieving its true potential, or not staying up the hype that accompanies each release.
In order to celebrate the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, I’d like to talk about what I love about the series: its missions. I’m going to take you on a three part journey about the missions that made the best impression on me, the missions that somehow got things the wrong way, and the ones that got so close.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The first title of the series makes picking just one favorite mission a really hard task. While a little vague on its story, the game is made of small set pieces and moments that sets this title in a collection of memories of “remember that moment when… and then?” But anytime I remember the game, the first mission that comes to mind is…
The Best: Assault on the Control Room
Bungie didn’t call this game Combat Evolved just because, they knew they had something big in their hands and they didn’t hesitate telling the world just that. This is the mission that places everything this game has to offer in one single place.
This mission offers two of the things I love the most in the series: large battlefields being fought on vehicles, and smart AI companions fighting at your side (it’s the actually first time I felt I wasn’t the only one doing the job in a videogame.) Pretty much every vehicle in the game is available in this mission, including the Scorpion and (if you’re fast enough) a Banshee.
The Scorpion is a super powerful battle tank that can be driven by a single pilot. It sports a main cannon and secondary machine gun, but also allows four footsoldiers to ride along on the sides. Remember your first time driving the Scorpion? From then on, there are two kind of missions: The ones with a Scorpion, and the ones without it.
The Worst: The Library
No surprise and no doubt about it. This is the first time you’re facing the Flood—the parasite that takes control of Human and Covenant corpses—and it is a frightening experience if it’s your first time playing it. This mission changes the pace you got used up to this point; instead of fighting against smart enemies who take cover and avoid your fire as they attack you, you’re being attacked by a more numerous enemy who mindlessly swarm you with reckless abandon.
A change of pace and some variety isn’t so bad, but the issue is that there’s just too much of it! You’re walking around hallway after hallway, elevator to elevator, sweeping wave after wave of enemies along the way… For some it exists as a great horror experience the first time you try it, but it’s not the mission you’d probably want to play more than once.
Runner-up: Two Betrayals
On the plot side, this is the point when you learn what the hell this Halo thing is and how close you were from committing genocide on a galactic scale. On the action itself, there’s a feeling of danger and urgency along the whole mission; you’re no longer only dealing with the Covenant and the deadly Flood, but now also the Sentinels are after you… as a matter of fact, you start surrounded by Sentinels and they start their attack as soon as the missions starts!
There’s a lot of hell going on in this mission, as you come across Covenant units facing off the perpetually charging Flood, and there are many ways that can go wrong—and you can use always use that in your favor too! It was really close from being my favorite mission, but the lack of a Scorpion tank in this mission took some points away from it. I have mentioned how much I love tanks, right?
If Combat Evolved set the stage for future shooters to come, Halo 2 perfected everything it did and—as a whole—it is the only one I can consider a true sequel of the series. The additions to the core gameplay on this game are huge, we’re talking about new game mechanics, an enormous array of new weapons (many you can now dual wield), more vehicles to drive into the battlefield, and a few more enemies (including the fearsome and vicious Brute).
I’m a little bit excited to try Halo 2 remastered on the Master Chief Collection, but I’ve also talked about my disdain toward the current state of re-releases these days. If 343 Industries had the chance to revise this game, they shouldn’t stop on the graphics and sound departments (or added cinematics) when they had the chance of adding the stuff that got cut out in the first try… but of course that means they should have to work on it, and shame for me if I’m actually asking them to actually do something before they start asking for my money.
If Marvel could publish a 4-issue comic (Halo Uprising) tying up the events between Halo 2 and Halo 3, there’s no way the game can’t do that, right?
Best Mission: Metropolis
I love every piece of this mission; there’s a real sense of invasion throughout the entire place. You’ll see the whole city of New Mombasa being torn down from the sky; Covenant units fight you on every street, every building, and every rooftop; and more importantly, we’re introduced to the Scarab—the most massive vehicle in the Covenant’s arsenal—while it wanders on the city obliterating everything on its path.
Of course I love the fact I can drive a Scorpion as soon as the mission starts, and the experience of opening your path with it is one of the fondest memories I preserve from this series. The mission then presents you with different vehicles, command of various marine squads, takes you to fight on beaches, tunnels, and bridges, building up the expectations until you’re given the chance of bringing that Scarab down.
Metropolis is in fact my favorite mission of the whole Halo franchise; you’ll see me mentioning this mission a couple of times below, so take this into account.
Worst Mission: Quarantine Zone
Ugh. The Flood once again. Everything I said about The Library in Halo: Combat Evolved applies here as well: the lack of appropriate pacing, the lack environmental or combat variety, and the same mindless enemies over, and over, and over again.
Granted, there are a few quirks and turns and surprises along the way, but once again, while it is enjoyable the first time through it surely isn’t a mission I’m willing to go back to anytime soon.
Runner-up: The Great Journey
Not everyone appreciated the inclusion of the Arbiter as a playable character, but I didn’t mind that at all when you get to play missions like this one. The mission starts off with a Covenant vs. Covenant vehicle mayhem.
The best part comes a bit later, as you’re leading a group of Elites against the Brutes, and you’re supported by a pair of Hunters—I don’t have words to describe how awesome it is not to be on the receiving end of the rampage these armored massive radiation cannon wielding strange alien… things (they’re actually a gestalt of small worm creatures… and by the way It’s not as strange as you’d think?)
But of course, we’re also talking about the final mission of the game, and in the end the Arbiter ends up making an alliance with Sgt. Johnson and his marines, following him on a Banshee as he drives a Scarab to your final objective, and ends up with a final Boss Battle against—Brute Chieftain—Tartarus.
That’ll be all for now folks, join us next time as we talk about the best and worst missions in the Halo 3 and Halo 4. Do you agree with my selection or do you consider there are better or worse missions to be included in this list? Let us know in the comments!
Tune in tomorrow to see the best and worst missions from the Xbox 360 titles.