Halo 5 launches today, and the launch of a new Halo game always makes me nostalgic. For almost 15 years now Halo has been Microsoft’s tentpole franchise and the backbone of the entire Xbox brand. Since I’ve played every game from Combat Evolved at the launch of the original Xbox to today’s Guardians on the Xbox One, I thought I’d take a look back at every mainline game in the Halo series and rank them based on my own opinion. Since each game varies so much between single and multiplayer, I’ve decided to split this list up into two parts. Right now I’ll be looking at the multiplayer campaigns of each game* – but I’ve ranked the campaigns right here. Make sure to check out both parts to see where I rank your favourite Halo game, and be sure to leave a comment telling me where you’d put each game. I’d love to hear from you.
Let’s get started.
Halo 4 certainly doesn’t have a bad multiplayer mode, but at the same time, it wasn’t what Halo fans were looking for. It’s clear from the outset that 343 Industries was looking to change things up in an attempt to attract the same audience that follows the Call of Duty series. Preset class loadouts, killstreak care packages, and a dedicated sprint button fundamentally changed the multiplayer mode into something distinctly un-Halo. Add to that the missing Firefight mode, and I feel that 343 went a little too far in catering to another audience. It’s not that Call of Duty is bad, it’s just that it’s certainly not Halo.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The original Halo was, for many years, the premier splitscreen experience. Having you and 3 friends huddled around the Xbox was a sublime experience, and taking it even further by networking multiple consoles together was something almost unheard of on consoles. While not a as complex as it’s predecessors, the simplicity was part of it’s charm. Matches in Combat Evolved were fast, frantic, and fun, and the large multiplayer arenas provided the space to take some vehicles for a spin. The only downside is that Bungie hadn’t quite found their feet yet when it came to mapping, with half the maps being incredible, while the other half were a lot better in concept than in execution.
If it weren’t for the lack of online play (at least in the original version) the multiplayer for Halo: Combat Evolved would rank higher.
Much like the campaign, the multiplayer mode of Halo: Reach was all about refinement. It took everything introduced in the previous games, added a sprinkle of new features, then refined the hell out of it. Reach had more weapons and better gunplay than any other game in the series, and the revamped Firefight mode took co-op to another level. The new armor abilities and customizable armor were (mostly) a great new way to play the game, adding in some variety between players and adding to, instead of straying from, the tried and true Halo formula
Unfortunately, I’m one of those people that couldn’t get over how much the Armor Lock ability broke the game.
Halo 2 was the cornerstone of Xbox Live, and so Halo 3, coming in hot on Microsoft’s new console, had a lot to live up to. Could it take over where Halo 2 left off and serve as the premier Xbox Live experience, sucking away our time as it sucked in players? The answer was a resounding yes. Halo 3 picked up right where Halo 2 left off. Everything from weapon count to gameplay modes were bigger and (mostly) better, and the maps were almost universally brilliant and featured some of the greats from past games. Add to this a more robust version of Halo 2‘s dual wielding system, a few new vehicles, and the incredible Forge for creating new multiplayer maps and modes, and Halo 3 did for the Xbox 360 what Halo 2 did for the original Xbox.
There’s something to be said about the “feel” of a game. The greatest games, and multiplayer games especially, live or die by the way the feel. That feeling, of course, isn’t necessarily how you feel about the game, but closer to how smooth – how good – a game feels to play. Ask anyone who has ever invested any significant amount of time into a competitive game; the way it feels is everything. Feeling is key to the success of any competitive game, and feeling is exactly why Halo 2 is on top.
For all that could be said about Halo 2‘s multiplayer – it’s weapon variety, it’s array of outstanding maps, it’s perfectly tuned balance – nothing holds as much weight as how good it feels. Even the simple act of moving around feels good, and everything else is secondary to that. There’s a reason that Halo 2 was a multiplayer staple for years. No other shooter, from the Halo series or any other, has come close to matching the feeling you get when you hold the controller and go in for the kill.
Here we are – my favourite Halo multiplayer modes, from worst to best. If you’d like to see how I’d rank the campaigns, check it out here. Do you agree with my rankings, or am I way off base? This is just my opinion, but I’d love to hear yours – leave a comment and let me know how’d you rank the Halo games. We all love Halo, so let’s talk about it!
* Halo 5: Guardians is not included in this list. Since it releases the same day this article is posted, it’s too new to give an accurate ranking to. As well, ODST has not been included since it’s primary mutliplayer mode was the same as that of Halo 3.