To celebrate the 13th Anniversary of the Halo franchise and the release of the Xbox One exclusive Halo: The Master Chief Collection, we made a run down of the best and worst missions on every game of the series. In previous articles we talked about Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, and then we talked about Halo 3 and Halo 4.
But of course, not every Halo game is about Master Chief, so this time around let’s talk about the games that The Master Chief Collection decided to ignore, lets talk about the best mission, the worst mission, and a runner-up of every game, so lets begin with…
(Editor’s note: Microsoft has announced that Halo: ODST will be patched in to Halo: MCC in Spring 2015. However it does not feature Master Chief as the main protagonist and thus still fits the theme.)
No. I’m not doing this right now, sorry.
I could just say that I’m not covering this one since it’s not a first-person shooter like the rest of games on this list, but the real reason is because I can’t remember anything particularly good about the game (beside its cutscenes… it has great cutscenes).
I’ve covered the reasons why this is another possibly great game that stayed short to its expectations before, so let’s move on.
Halo 3: ODST
I wonder if people are going to pretend Halo 3: ODST didn’t happen. This was the first major game of the series to not have Master Chief as its main character. This time around you wore the boots of 5 different ODST (initials for Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, also known as helljumpers) as you take part in a very classified mission during the Covenant’s Invasion to the city of New Mombasa between Halo 2 and Halo 3.
I’m not going to let this game fade away; Halo 3: ODST is relevant because it promised so much, and committed to so little at the very end.
ODST not only was supposed to fill all the blanks left behind by Halo 3, but also strived to change things around by not having a Spartan as the main character. In the end, the game hardly qualifies as a complete delivery (but they still asked for full retail price), and familiarity won the day as almost everything felt utterly similar to previous entries.
On the other hand, most of the missions on this game took some inspiration, they’re really different from each other, and I had some rough time picking a favorite mission. In the end I had to go with…
Best Mission: ONI Alpha Site
What I like most about this mission is that it carries that sense of “we’re being invaded” I was so looking forward to since Halo 3. This is one of those few missions in the entire game where you’ll see the Covenant as a truly daunting force to deal with. They’re always more numerous and have a tendency of constantly keeping you and your AI buddies against the wall.
You start the mission under heavy fire, and your first objective is to detonate a bridge in order to slow down the Covenant’s siege on you. After that the mission keeps you moving, setback after setback, as the invaders just keep pushing you down until they corner whatever remains of your team for a final firefight.
This mission is more or less what I’ve been looking forward to in this game. If ODST is depicting an invasion, the enemy is not supposed to be easy on me, and this mission is all about that. It’s really rare for me to favorite a mission in a Halo game with zero vehicle time, it’s just that compared to this, every other mission is pretty much a walk on the park. Speaking of which…
Worst Mission: Coastal Highway
I must be going insane, right? This is the last mission on the game, and half of it has you driving vehicles, how can I not like this one? Do you want to know what happened? Metropolis happened! Remember? My favorite mission back in Halo 2? I told you I was going to mention it at some point, and here it is.
The thing I hate in this mission is how much it tried to be like Metropolis, but couldn’t quite make it. Metropolis had highways, tunnels, beaches, and different settings; Coastal Highway doesn’t. It’s just a… long coastal highway that goes on and on, while offering conveniently placed stronger vehicles along the way.
It’s fun, I’ll give you that. But where’s the passion? Where’s the excitement? It’s weird for me to turn down a mission that relies too much on vehicles; on the other hand…
Runner-up: New Mombasa Streets
At the start and between each mission, you’ll be wandering on the desolated streets of New Mombasa, and what I liked about these sections is how different they play from anything we had played on the Halo series. New Mombasa Streets makes an exploration game out of the Halo series.
Not only do I geek out over the moody set of the invaded city of New Mombasa, but this is also where ODST’s small gameplay differences really shine. If you want to survive, you have to plan your attack more strategically. If you see a Covenant patrol you’ll have to think if it’s wise to attack them, and the best route to do so; you have to consider your position related to theirs, your weapons and ammo, if you can use the element of surprise, etc.
Not being an almost invulnerable Spartan super soldier brought a new layer of depth to the game. I’m the guy who usually applauds when a series dares to do something new, and in the case of Halo 3: ODST I just wished there was more of it.
And we’re finally here, the last game developed by Bungie, and the one about that mythic battle on planet Reach we’ve been hearing about since the beginning of the series. And yes, this is another game that didn’t make it into the Master Chief Collection because “The John Wayne” of the series isn’t here… You know, there’s nothing wrong about having different characters to flesh out the battles being fought all over the galaxy.
I’m going to talk a little longer about this game since there are a few things that were horribly wrong, and this was the last disappointment I accepted from the series, I haven’t preordered another Halo game since. While I dig most of the game’s plot, the game itself feels rather rushed. A lot of things in the game feel sloppy, and some missions lacked some more inspiration. But there is one mission that especially stands out for me…
Best Mission: Exodus
This is something very basic if you’re developing an action game like this; if you want to create a believable enemy, make sure to expose the stakes of the conflict.
Exodus is the mission that truly sets the stage on the Covenant invasion on planet Reach; it’s everything good about Halo 2’s Metropolis, and everything that lacked in Halo 3; this is an honest and expansive invasion, and you’re neck deep in it.
The tone of the game dramatically changes right at the start of this mission as you’re introduced to a battle ravaged city of New Alexandria; dead civilian bodies paving the city’s streets set this game to a new darker tone. Pacing is incredible on this mission, you’ll be doing a lot of things along the way, there’s mild vehicular action, and there’ll be a lot of UNSC soldiers fighting by your side in this one.
Worst Mission: Tip of the Spear
This mission portrays everything wrong with this title. The invasion on Reach was supposed to be one of the major clashes between UNSC and the Covenant, and Tip of the Spear promised that much. It starts with you riding shotgun on a Warthog rolling together to an entire UNSC vehicle battalion.
Then a wall of enemy Wraiths appears in front of you, and they start firing their plasma mortars as a swarm of Banshees swoops in and hell breaks loose all above and around you. I loved this part… This is all I was looking forward in Halo: Reach.
But of course this is just a cutscene, and it ends as I’m taken down from my vehicle and away from that battle; I felt like the game punched me hard and started laughing at me saying “What were you expecting?!”
To add insult to injury, the mission also introduces you a “new” vehicle—if mounting a different gear on the old warthog counts as new—the rocket warthog; I can’t express how impossibly conceived this vehicle is since Red vs Blue series have already mocked about it. If only the Halo universe had some kind of anti-aerial vehicle they could’ve used instead, like… I don’t know… the Wolverine maybe?! Yes Bungie, I would’ve loved driving that!
Runner-up: Long Night of Solace
What I like about the mission best known for featuring a space battle flying the new YSS-1000 “Saber” space fighter, is not the space battle itself; it’s all about what happened prior to that! Before you can get there, you and your team need to gain access to the Sabre Launch Facility, which is being overrun by the Covenant.
So the mission starts as you and the rest of Noble Team assault on the Covenant troops stationed on the beachhead that leads to the facility. The battle is fast, fierce, and you just don’t want to lag behind your team! This is part of what I was expecting from Reach: to be part of a fully operational Spartan squad, and I got a taste of that for a few solid minutes!
Actually, the advertising for this title made some people (and myself) believe Halo: Reach would be an entirely different game, like they’d add some kind of tactical gameplay into the mix. I actually thought they’d make something more akin to Star Wars: Republic Commando.
So, what’s next?
I haven’t been subtle about my disappointment toward every sequel after Halo 2, but I can’t say I hate the series. I just can’t help it, Halo has this mix of action, sci-fi, and lore I usually geek over, and the series has built enough momentum to keep me engaged for so long that I can’t help it now. I’m just disappointed, I’m still waiting for this game to be up to its expectations once and for all.
343 Industries have proven they’re perfectly capable of replicating the gameplay forged by Bungie ten years ago, they’ve brought back Master Chief by popular demand (because… God help us if we’re introduced to actual characters, with faces and distinct personalities), and multiplayer remains the main reason why people care about the franchise.
But times have changed a lot; Halo isn’t alone any more, other franchises are doing the things it did—better, faster, noisier. Pulling the same thing Halo has been doing over the last decade isn’t going to cut it anymore.
So here’s my personal undisclosed message to 343 Industries: Try harder, be better, and go bolder than what is expected from you and the series. I still care about Halo’s gameplay, lore, and characters, but my expectations toward incoming titles on the series have reached its lowest point, this is the best moment to surprise me.
Also, holy crap! Spartan Sarah Palmer is such a badass character… when is anyone making a game about her?