Welcome to the final article of this little mini series, looking at each of the Halo titles in sequence…This time, we have the lovely little spinoffs that Bungie and 343 Industries have made over the years…
Halo Wars (2009)
Halo Wars was an interesting take on the Halo universe as it brought us into the RTS genre. It had a campaign mode with an interesting story that successfully kept the signature Halo feel and style despite the genre change. Allowing players to play as humans or covenant you could select from a range of leaders to lead troops into battle. For a console RTS it was executed quite well, the multiplayer was a little buggy from what I remember. You’ll find the most joy out of the Campaign mode and probably won’t be picking it up again after you do. I have yet to play Halo Wars 2 so I’ll have to give it a go and see how the formula has changed.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (2011)
10 years after the release of Combat Evolved 343 released a remake and a release at once. Combat Evolved allows players to play through the classic campaign and multiplayer on the Xbox 360. However with the simple press of the back button you are able to switch between updated and classic graphics. The new graphics are really fresh and detailed almost giving a new sense of discovery to the ring world we’ve been on before. The multiplayer component allowed you to play on classic maps from the original game using the Halo Reach engine. While not maintaining all the original feel of the classic multiplayer, it does feel good to play on Blood Gulch once again.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2014)
The Master Chief collection is a celebration of the series as a whole for the Xbox One. All on the one game you have access to Halo CE, 2, 3, 4 and ODST. Combat Evolved is essentially the anniversary edition with the ability to switch between graphics. The version of Halo 2 has also been remastered for the sake of 10 years. Halo 2’s remake is beautiful in comparison to CE. Cut-scenes are remade with such amazing visuals that you will be questioning if it’s real life sometimes. 2 also comes with the ability to switch back and forth between visuals with a press of a button. 3 has been lightly touched up for today’s hardware with changes to how colourful and HD the visuals are. Halo 4 is pretty much the same as it was 2 years before.
The Collection also runs at 60 FPS which feels like a god send for the Halo series. Playing all the classics at such a smooth frame rate feels amazing and has been done without ruining the magic of the original games. Unlike Anniversary all of the original multiplayer would be accessible on the collection. It has all been left untouched from its original state, including weapon balance and maps. Playlists would allow you to play on game types between multiple games or a specific one.
Halo 3: ODST
Let’s get spooky and ambient as we look at the side guys from the series. The ODST’s.
After Halo 3, Bungie signed away the Halo series to Microsoft. This would however come at the cost of making 2 more games before doing so. Boy I do really like ODST. It released on September 22nd 2009 to some mixed reception. It wasn’t about the master chief and opted for some stealth like features which made it feel different in a lot of ways to what we had played for the last 8 years. However I’m here to argue why this was actually one of the gems, and doesn’t surprise me that it was a lot of people’s favourite Halo game.
ODST takes place during the events of Halo 2. If you remember the Mombasa mission, it ended with a massive rupture in space occurring in the middle of the city. During that exact time a squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers were landing into the city to fight the covenant. The explosion knocks their pods off course and they are separated and alone. The player is put into the shoes of “the rookie” he’s a new guy in the squad and wakes up alone and hours later. Instead of a traditionally linear story, the player embarks on a quest to find out what happened to his squad. By interacting with objects in the city you can trigger a flash back and play out the events of the squad member. All the squad besides the rookie has voice acting including some charming words from Nathan Fillion.
All the members of the squad are charming and easy to adore. As a rookie we feel obliged to meet and learn about our partners. While not being a groundbreaking story, it is told to us with interest and even expands the lore of the universe we’ve experienced before. The way it is told to us also makes for a breath of fresh air compared to the linear narratives that have come before.
It’s easy to understand why it carries the Halo 3 tag in the title as it uses a slightly modified version of the engine to make for a different type of game. A lot of the weapons will feel familiar and the visuals will feel pretty exact to Halo 3. However changes to health and damage has come to make for a more gritty solider story than an all out super solider set piece. That’s why I can understand some people calling this more a DLC than deserving it’s own game. After all it does take away the Forge and Custom games we’d raved about not so long ago.
However ODST brings a new toy to the table that is one of my favourite Halo modes around. Firefight is exactly what it says in the title. Games like Gears of War brought the rise of horde modes where the player would fight against endless waves of enemies. Firefight was Halo’s horde mode, and it translated beautifully into this small release. With a range of maps and difficulties to choose from you and 3 friends could partner up in enclosed or open spaces to try rank up the highest score. This made for an excellent challenge trying to get past a certain wave on legendary difficulty.
As an extra sneaky treat, ODST came with 2 discs. On the second disc was none other than all the halo 3 multiplayer content. This included all the DLC compiled onto one disc. This eventually became the preferred method of those who dedicated Halo 3 to multiplayer content only as well as making it easy for newcomers to get into the scene.
ODST captures a unique feeling of loneliness to the series that you don’t think about as the Master Chief. The soundtrack is so different to what we are used to. It sounds like something so quiet and soothing with the rain in the background. 8 encourage you give it a listen to hear the sounds it has to offer. While ODST wasn’t a massive game or one that gained much acclaim as the others, it was still a fun little tie in to keep the Halo train moving.
Halo Reach (2010)
Halo Reach would be the last game released by Bungie in the series and you can feel that as you play. It is a celebration of nearly 10 years of Halo and serves as a goodbye from Bungie. This would feel more like a core game than ODST did and went it’s way to replace Halo 3 as my multiplayer game of choice for a while. Let’s relive the final moments of Reach.
Halo Reach, released September 14th 2010, would be another story away from the green suit of the Master Chief. Similarly to ODST it would feature a team of soldiers, this time they would be Spartans like the chief. These guys were the next step up from ODST’s team, they are a bunch of lovable characters with real thoughts and reactions to situations. Anyway, Halo Reach is about the planet Reach. One of the first planets to be invaded by the covenant and the final defence before Earth. The fall of Reach took place just before the events of Combat evolved and there’s some treats to lead up to those events.
You assume the role of Noble 6, a new recruit into Noble Squad. The squad consists of Carter, Emile, Jorge, Jun, Kat and a former member who died. You are the replacement and have to get used to the members quick as you are sent on a mission almost immediately. The game handles the themes of tragedy and suspense remarkably as you fight for the sake of the planet. The story has a lot of sacrifices and loss, at the end you can’t help but feel it was a waste of lives. In that regard the story is emotional, while not in the cry your eyes out type of way, it makes you feel a kick to the gut.
Best memory I have ever had with Halo was with Reach, it was the first time playing and just the crazy stuff you could do with your friends was outstanding. We laughed and screamed so much the neighbours reported us. Shit was lit yo – Salman
As for the core Halo experience there’s quite a lot going on here to shake things up. The first notable change is armour abilities. These abilities would allow you to enhance mobility and combat through different ways. Most popular is the ability to sprint for a short time as well as a jet pack to reach high places quickly. Combat options involve turning invisible, healing auras and more. While these additions may feel strange for a Halo game they enhance the experience quite a good amount. Being able to sprint feels like a god send and makes the Master Chief look like a slow old fart.
Loadouts! Yeah that’s right they added loadouts into Halo. While sounding like a CoD version of Halo it was anything but. Loadouts would allow you to pick from a selection of kits with different weapons and abilities. These could please all types of players in typical combat as some might be the more long range kinda guy. This meant players could all be on the same level at the start of a game and using what they thought would be appropriate for themselves.
Multiplayer as a format stays pretty familiar for Halo veterans, aside from the additions i mentions. However Reach brings a popular new game mode called Invasion. Invasion would be a version of typical big team battles with 2 teams of different races. One would be attacking and the other defending. The maps would have interactive segments that opened up once a point was taken by the attackers and opened up stronger loadouts to spawn with. This was the first mode I played when I got the game and remained one of my favourites in the series.
Now we talked a lot in my Halo 3 section about the community that had grown and the tools Bungie had given us all. You’ll be happy to know they delivered again with Reach. The clunky forge mode from Halo 3 had been brought up to its highest potential. Objects could be modified and moved in a range of different ways. New tools were brought in to make editing easier and larger. That’s where Forge World came from. The largest Forge space ever seen was over 6 different environments in the same map, including caves, nooks, rocks, islands and beach fronts. Having all of this on one space allowed creators to go insane with their imagination. Game modes and maps from the past were brought into Reach and the community thrived once again.
The previous players who spent hours playing custom games in Halo 3 had moved up into this new world. Halo 3 was not abandoned in any form, but it’s forge tools were pale in comparison. With Reach the motto was “if you have the time, you can make it” there was no more limitations on physics and space keeping ideas at bay. Brought back was the File Share and Theatre mode, allowing the community to keep growing and sharing creations as time went on. Everything brought over was enhanced for this new game making it just so large in comparison to its predecessors. There was even a multiplayer beta once again allowing more time to fix problems and give everyone a tease.
Firefight has been brought back into the new engine for Reach. Firefight maps are larger this time around and enemies are scaled for the new abilities and the fact you are a spartan. However I feel like this is more of an arcade mode compared to ODST. In ODST you were a simple solider who was fighting off all these opponents at once with the task to survive. Reach has more of a focus on just trying to score off as much fodder as you can. This makes it a little less fun and doesn’t make for as much stakes as ODST did.
Bungies goal for Reach was to have all of these modes feel as part of the same game. To do this they made the player you build and level up in multiplayer also carry over to other modes, this meant that your appearance would carry into the campaign, making you feel like you are the character of Noble Six. Armour could also be unlocked using credits earned through all the modes. You were able to purchase specific parts of armour ranging from helmets, knee-pads and shoulders to unique effects.
I remember playing it early in the morning before school, and ending up in a match with you by accident. – Sam
The amazing score of previous Halo games has been brought forward into this game with it’s own style. Despite being a mainline Halo game it does not use those massive orchestral pieces of the trilogy and relies on something ODST did, by making a quiet atmosphere with the end of humanity looming in the background.
Reach was an end point for the Halo series in a lot of ways. The industry as a whole had changed at this point and more games were being pumped out making Halo less unique. Bungie had finished their story and had done so successfully for fans and Microsoft’s pocket. However with the end in sight, Reach did not keep fans around for as long as 3 ever did. By early 2012 the game was significantly less popular and was left to the hardcore fans to keep it alive. It’s unfortunate that it ended this way, but I’m glad that Halo Reach was the last big community experience I felt in the series.
So that’s it! Every single Halo title, near enough! If you enjoyed this little mini series, let us know down in the comments!!