Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Buy Halo: The Master Chief Collection - Microsoft Store en-AU

“Halo: The Master Chief Collection” is an investment well worth your time if you are a fan of the Halo Universe and PC games. This game still has replay value for me and I played it primarily for the story and campaign. This was also a much needed release as not everyone owns all the XBox systems and I’ve always been primarily a PC gamer. Hell, most Microsoft games I buy because they are PC games. So it was great to finally see the Haloverse fully come over.

In this I’ll post a summary of my thoughts on each game in the collection as well as a link to the original review. So without further ado. Here they are in release of where they fall on the Halo timeline from earliest to latest.:

Buy Halo - REACH - Microsoft Store

“Halo: Reach” is the best of the collection giving us a story with consequences, an ensemble cast and truly showing how dangerous the Covenant are as a threat. This game is also “Star Wars: Rogue One” done right and I wish I could have cared about those characters to the same level I came to care about these Spartans. This game leads directly into the events of “Halo: Combat Evolved.”

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/07/06/halo-reach-a-fantastic-exploration-of-the-cost-of-war/

Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary HD Wallpaper | Combat evolved ...

“Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary” is a beautiful and epic game. This game truly captures the space opera nature of the Halo Universe and does an amazing job of putting you into the shoes of Master Chief. You aren’t an unstoppable force and this story like “Reach” has consequences that you experience at the end. You can tell how early this is into the lore too as you see no clear leader of the Covenant and it is more about the general experience of combat and basic story reveals which are great and still very much hold up.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/halo-combat-evolved-anniversary-still-a-great-space-opera-and-introduction-to-an-awesome-universe/

Halo 2: Anniversary PC | Halo: The Master Chief Collection - YouTube

“Halo 2: Anniversary” is a really good sequel. The biggest issues with I have are out how retcons some things and how it ends on a cliffhanger. What really carries this story is the introduction of the Arbiter and showing just how complex Covenant politics are. Covenant politics are some of my favorite part of the Halo games and the Elites are such a fun faction. I’ll take the Arbiter over Master Chief or a Spartan any day as an option to play and story to explore so I’m glad he carries half the game in this. One of my biggest issue with this story is how it turns Master Chief into a superhero, which annoys me to this day.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/07/05/halo-2-anniversary-great-lore-caught-in-the-center-of-a-trilogy/

Halo 3: ODST on Steam

“Halo 3: ODST” is another really good game. It gives us a bunch of character stories to follow and we see what happens between “Halo 2” and “Halo 3” on Earth and it isn’t through the super soldier perspective of a Spartan. This lends the narrative strength and I love how you are Rookie investigating what happened to your missing team members until it all comes together for a pretty amazing final mission.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/10/10/halo-3-odst-uncovering-connections/

Halo 3 - GameSpot

“Halo 3” is a great ending to the trilogy that completes the arcs of Master Chief, Cortana, the Arbiter and the human allies that have helped them through the Trilogy. This is a story with consequences and stakes and the Brutes are truly a worthy threat. We get our usual Covenant and Flood threats and the full exploration of the different types of combat that made Halo so much fun. I wish the series for Master Chief had ended here as the story truly is complete, but you can’t kill Mickey Mouse. The Franchise must go on…

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/07/19/halo-3-a-great-ending-to-an-amazing-trilogy-that-builds-on-the-prior-games/

Halo 4 on Steam

“Halo 4” is a beautiful mess without much going for it. The human characters are all extremely unlikable, which is a feat after how fun they are in the “Halo Trilogy” and “ODST” and we get a Master Chief as “Chosen One” arc and the worst version of Cortana brought to the screen. The game is beautiful but this is a game that I’d only recommend if you are completionist. The deep lore is more confusing than anything else and what interesting enemies we get are wasted in their execution.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/halo-4-beautiful-and-empty-with-choices-i-hated/

“Halo: The Master Chief Collection” was worth and it and good, even with “Halo 4” only managing to be fun and the worst of the lot. The games were released over an amount of time to fully experience the campaign in each and I still go back for multiplayer campaign playthroughs with friends, which is something I cannot say for many games. This was definitely worth the price and I hope future Halo games will be for the PC and available on Steam.

Halo 4: Beautiful and Empty With Choices I Hated

Halo 4 on Steam

“Halo 4” is easily the weakest of all the games in the “Master Chief Collection.” It doesn’t help that the story of Master Chief and Cortana is done after 3 and Microsoft wasn’t able to pull of a “Toy Story 4” but I also didn’t hate it overall, though there were quite a few story choices I did hate. This is a game that I won’t recommend unless you are completionist or already bought the Master Chief Collection. I enjoyed it but this is a story only for those who want a little more lore and gameplay, both of which are weaker than the past games.

The story follows Master Chief and Cortana when Master Chief is awakened 4 years later above the mysterious world of Requiem as a Covenant Remnant attempts to destroy him.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – This soundtrack is much more mysterious and electronic that really is the strongest in the final mission. Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi bring this world to life and elevate a pretty weak script.

The Graphics – This is easily the best looking of the “Halo Franchise” up to this point and the cinematography is also movie level quality. This game is beautiful, it is just a shame the story couldn’t be more.

Master Chief – Master Chief is compelling in that he is doing all he can to save humanity and Cortana but it doesn’t get much deeper than that. He is the only human with an ounce of complexity and he barely carries this story.

The Covenant Remnant – The Covenant Remnant are so much fun to fight (much fun than the A.I. Promethean enemies) but we never see their leadership interact with the Didact. They feel like they are just there because they are familiar when so much more could have been done with their story this game.

Okay:

The Didact and Librarian – The Promethean Leadership is okay. The Didact is the main villain who want to kill humanity for being the Reclaimers. We get hints of that ancient history and hatred but it isn’t enough to carry the game. This needed multiple games to really be made the most of or at least some setup in expansions prior. I didn’t hate the Prometheans but them as a threat and ally only really works in how mysterious they are, not in the history we see.

The Combat – The combat is weaker than in prior games, which is a shame since you get a jet-pack and the cool Combat-Walker called the Mantis. Most vehicles are weaker and even the weapons don’t feel as effective. Halo 3 this wasn’t a problem so I wasn’t sure what happened inbetween.

The Cons:

The Knights and Crawlers / A.I. Enemies – The A.I. enemies are really annoying. They swarm you and have predictable ways of behaving. The Knights take a lot of hits and the Crawlers can swarm you. The Drones also can reconstitute dead Knights so you need to watch for that. Any section with multiples of these takes longer than expected and made the game tedious. Just give me some Elites, Hunters and Brutes, they are deadly but at least fun to fight.

The Human Characters – The human characters are usually always clashing with Master Chief or are just bland followers. I missed Johnson and the humans we met before as the game seeking to make Master Chief more of a rebel just came off making humanity unsympathetic. We got scientists obsessed with study over survival and Commanders who have the same mentality. I don’t think 4 years fighting Covenant Remnants would have realistically done this to the UNSC.

Cortana’s Arc – Cortana is dying and fails as she is dying over the course of the mission. In the end she saves Master Chief and humanity and that is it. The reason this is a con is it isn’t gradual and for her being in Master Chief’s head you never get the full effect of what is going on with her. This was a missed opportunity as her and Chief were solid in the main trilogy.

Master Chief as Chosen One – The Librarian says that Master Chief was made to defeat the Didact and save humanity and force evolves him. He becomes a literal chosen one. I hated this as before he was an important part but not the only thing saving humanity. I also hate Chosen One narratives generally and this one doesn’t do it well. It feels contrived and forced.

This was a fun, beautiful and a very flawed game. This is easily the weakest part of the “Master Chief Collection” and I’d only recommend it to completionists or folks who really want to know what happens next. I liked the game enough to finish it but the characters and world deserved better than an enjoyable game if the story were to continue.

Final Score: 7 / 10 I enjoyed it though part of me wonders if this score is still being generous. I was inspired enough to finish the game, so I guess it stands.

Halo 3: A Great Ending to an Amazing Trilogy that Builds on the Prior Games

Halo 3 - GameSpot

  “Halo 3” brings a finality to the Trilogy of the war against the Covenant and Flood and explores Master Chief and Cortana’s relationship further as we are given a game that has the apocalyptic proportions of the first game and plays tribute to the first game in a lot of the missions you play. This is one of my favorite games as it is a story with stakes and the variety of gameplay and combat is the best it has ever been in this Franchise outside of “Reach.” I still prefer the first game in some ways simply due to the difficulty and Master Chief not being the immortal superhero he is in later games but this is very much a favorite game that I highly recommend.

The game was developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Studios in 2007.

The story picks up where “Halo 2” left off as The Prophet of Truth has landed on Earth and initiated his plans and Master Chief must work with the Arbiter to investigate and stop his plans upon the planet. All the while he is haunted by visions of Cortana.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is the best it has ever been. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori continue to capture the epic nature of this space Opera as Master Chief, The UNSC, the Arbiter and the Elites and Cortana race to save the Universe from the Flood, the Covenant and Guilty Spark.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is the smoothest it has ever been. The vehicles drive better than they ever have. Enemies are challenging and smart and mission variety is fantastic. My favorite missions were dealing with

The Universe – The Haloverse is an amazing sci. fi. universe and all the elements of what I love about it are on display. We have the Covenant Civil War, the Forerunner mythology with the Ark and the Halos, Gravemind and heroes from past games. This is a game that finishes a lot of these stories and completes it a beautiful way.

The Stakes – The stakes are high from the get-go and rise from there. You have Truth and Covenant forces in Africa digging in and actively attacking UNSC forces. This soon rises when Truth and his forces escape into a mysterious portal and the Flood arrives on the scene. From here we arrive on the Ark where a Halo is created and we have the challenge of using it while not bringing about the end of all life as Guilty Spark once again tries to end all life like Truth was doing as all along Gravemind consumes and seeks to survive. The Flood are a flood and once they arrive on the scene they never stop growing and being around as a threat.

The Arbiter and the Elites/Sangheili – The Arbiter is back and works with UNSC and Master Chief until the Elite’s Shipmaster arrives with a fleet to help against the Covenant and the Flood. Both are fantastic characters and give us the tension between humanity and the Elites. We also see that the fleet that came to help doesn’t even know if their homeworld is safe as stopping the Covenant and Flood have been their only priority. This leads them going home with the Arbiter as the implied leader leading the Sangheili into a new destiny no longer controlled by the Covenant.

Gravemind and the Flood – Gravemind isn’t the final boss but he is up there as it races against time to stop Truth from activating the Rings on the Ark and even makes a temporary alliance with the Arbiter and Master Chief once more to make sure that happens. For much of the game it is seeking to consume and control Cortana but fails as Master Chief gets to her in time. From here we see it defeated at High Charity and make a final stand against them on the new Halo Ring as it seeks to stop the Ring from activating and destroying it. It fails but never stops being a terror throughout the game. The new Flood forms are also more of a challenge too as there are some that can only be hurt in certain areas and the quantity and variety has grown since the first 2 games.

The Prophet of Truth – After betraying the Prophet of Mercy last game Truth is flying high this game. He is successful in most of what he sets out to do (even activating the Ark for “The Great Plan”) and kills Lieutenant Commander Amanda Keyes. He never stops believing in his faith and the challenges he sets against you are some of the funnest missions in the game. When the Arbiter got revenge against him it was really rewarding. Truth was a magnificent bastard and a great villain.

The Ark – The Ark is a forerunner installation that made the rings and could activate them. It has a really cool design like a twisted star and exploring it was a lot of fun. The mystery surrounding it is fascinating too as Guilty Spark even admits that it’s creators hid the existence of the Ark from it.

The Cost – The cost is real in this game. The Elites destroy half of Africa when to stop the Flood infection. Most of the UNSC fleet is destroyed by the Covenant in the initial battle and in the end Lieutenant Commander Amanda Keyes and Sargent Major Avery Johnson are both killed over the course of saving the world. Keyes is killed by Truth and the Covenant while Johnson is killed by Guilty Spark. I felt those deaths as we really got to know those 2 characters over the past games. In the end their sacrifices help save the Universe. There are also all those consumed by the Flood who perished and Cortana and Master Chief are Missing In Action in an unknown part of the Universe.

The Cons:

Cortana and Master Chief Moments – Master Chief and Cortana have a real strange relationship from 2 and through 3, at least as it is presented in game. It is almost romantic but Cortana says things to him that sound like things his kidnapper and maker Dr. Halsey would have said to him. Dr. Halsey is part of her program (Thank you “Reach” for telling us that) so in a way they have both been scarred and wronged by her and both follow the programming she put upon them but that element isn’t really delved into. Master Chief is effectivly a super hero who can’t get hurt and Cortana is the one you are saving and after the one with you and the Arbiter who is saving the Universe. The Dr. Halsey but romantic elements are my biggest issue with the writing, which stands out even more as Cortana is the narrator who starts the game and Master Chief’s last words when they are trapped alone at the end of the game is to wake him up if she needs him. The weird romantic chemistry doesn’t go away. I wish them being survivors of Dr. Halsey and trauma had been explored more as that I think connects them more than anything else, but we don’t know that about Master Chief in-game so all we’re left with are the strange romantic elements. The other issue is how Master Chief continues to be untouchable and unkillable as the game starts out with him falling from the sky and waking up fine. This was an issue in 2 that 3 continues and really the whole romantic element between Chief and Cortana started in 2 so that is where my problems with 3 really come from.

Rating “Halo 3” versus the original is tough as 3 takes a lot of the best parts of 1 and builds on them. We have a variety of missions and gameplay. The lore is delved into where there wasn’t much lore in the first game. Really the biggest issue with 3 is how Master Chief is a super hero so it is hard for me to feel he is ever at risk. This game has the narrative flow of the first game and all of the missions are really fun and challenging. For me the only reason I would not rate it above 1, even though the graphics and gameplay are improved is the fact that 1 did it first and the problems from “Halo 2” in regards to Master Chief and Cortana do carry over where they didn’t exist in 1. This is still a fitting end for the series and the Master Chief and Cortana story as it ends how it begins. A Spartan in stasis to be awoken once more when the universe needs saving.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10 One of my favorite games in this Franchise.

 

 

Halo: Reach – A Fantastic Exploration of the Cost of War

Buy Halo - REACH - Microsoft Store

     “Halo: Reach” is easily the best “Halo” game of the Franchise. This is a story with stakes and consequences and some phenomenal character development. This was the first time the UNSC characters are truly compelling and humanity is complex and nuanced. This is something the core games of the Franchise don’t really give us. They give us human archetypes but not nuance and complexity (at least in Halo 1-3 (haven’t played ODST or 5). This is also a game with a ton of mission variety and does the rising stakes really well, nearly as well as the original game.

The game was developed by Bungie and produced by Microsoft Studios.

The story follows a group of 5 Spartans called Noble Team when Noble Six joins their team as they investigate what the Covenant is doing on the planet of Reach.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – This game continues the quality soundtrack from past games and does a wonderful job playing on the heart strings when we experience character deaths or moments of heroism. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori continue their amazing work.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is the height of “Halo” as we get the greatest variety of missions and the levels get progressively harder. You get the great ground vehicle combat of the later Halo games (2 and 3 specifically) some amazing space combat that I haven’t seen in any other Halo game and the greatest variety covenant foes as you face both Elites and Brutes along with the standard variety of Grunts, Jackals, Drones and Hunters. I had so much fun beating this game and playing the missions again with a friend.

Dr. Halsey – Dr. Halsey created the Spartan program and because of this it is hard to call her good. The Spartans we meet were child soldiers and not all of them survived when they were turned into Super Soldiers. To them she admits care and keeps distance between and feels angry when they question her judgment and calls. She is a wonderfully complex character and I wish the Franchise as a whole could have given us more nuanced humans like her. She also created Cortana and it is up to your team to get Cortana to The Pillar of Autumn.

Noble Team – I love Noble Team. Noble Six (the player character) is the heroic rookie who always has his teammates back and is inspired by their actions. You have the reserved leader Carter who is easily the most balanced of them. He sacrifices his life to stop a giant Covenant Scarab Tank from killing you and Emile. You have Jun the thoughtful sniper and one survivor the the Fall of Reach. You have Kat who is Carter’s second-in-command the one willing to take risks to learn truth or complete the mission who is sadly killed by a sniper when evacuating civilians. There is Emile who is the hardened soldier who warms to you over time (wears a skull painting over his helmet) and dies from an Elite’s sword and there is Jorge. Jorge is the only Spartan-II on the Team and risks his life to defeat the Covenant cruiser above Reach. He is the first to inspire Noble Six and his death is felt by the team as each of them probably knows that his end will most likely be their end as well. This element of tragedy and getting to know your team is what I wish “Rogue One” could have been. This is the suicide mission done right.

The Ending and Fall of Reach – This game is the story of how Reach fell to the Covenant and even you as a Spartan Super Soldier is unable to change that. What the game does well though is that you rescue tons of civilians and in the end deliver Cortana to The Pillar of Autumn which saves humanity in the long run. This is all expressed in the Epilogue which has power behind it as you see nearly every member of Noble Team die except for Jun who survives. This is one of the few games where you lose and in turn it does a fantastic job of giving the player the cost of war.

The Cost of War – This game shows us the cost of war both in the lost of civilians and soldiers and how no matter how heroic a person is, sometimes you die in battle. This is told through the loss of the majority of Noble Team and the events they witness as they attempt to save as many lives as possible.

This is the best of the “Halo” Franchise and I hope if they continue to make “Halo” games that they will learn from this one. It is possible to tell a complete and contained story that has stakes without the need for it to be apocalyptic and world ending. This game is the story on a personal level and is elevated all the more because of it. I wish humans had been written this well in the other games as this game truly shows the potential and amazingness of the Halo Universe.

Final Score: 10 / 10 The perfect “Halo” Game.

 

The Invisible Man (2020): A Powerful Exploration of Abuse

The Invisible Man | Universal Pictures

      “The Invisible Man” is a great film that explores what it is like to live with an abusive partner. Blumhouse seems to be the type of Studio that either puts out powerful films (like this and “Get Out”) or Redbox level forgettable crap (“Split,” etc.). Suffice to say this is a film well worth your time and worth checking out if you are a horror fan. I’m glad that Universal got away from the Dark Universe Franchise after the failure of “The Mummy” as the original film for this had Johnny Depp as the “Invisible Man” and hero. Instead we are given an amazing heroine and a story that makes a larger point.

The film was written and directed by Leigh Whannell.

The story follows Cecilia Cass as she escapes from her abusive and wealthy boyfriend. After it is believed he killed himself she finds herself haunted when mysterious occurrences happen around her sister’s house.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise is intriguing as you have a woman escaping abuse and her boyfriend was CEO of an advanced tech. company and it is from this that the idea of the “Invisible Man” is born. From this premise the horrifying nature of psychological abuse is explored as well as privacy being touched upon too as some of the film viewed through the lense of a video camera.

The Horror and Exploration of Abuse – The horror aspect is handled really well as her boyfriend uses his invisibility suit to drug her so she loses memory (and a job interview). He hacks her computer and has her send a horrible email to her sister and at one point slaps her sister’s child making it look like Cecilia did it. This comes to a height when he kills her sister in a public place and puts the knife in her hand, making it look like Cecilia did it. The horror through the loss of control she has over her life, when she had so little to begin with living with him (he told her what to wear and how to act) is done really well and is what makes the film work. Like other survivors of abuse, she doesn’t know who she can trust and is left questioning every truth she discovers as even her boyfriend in “death” tries to control her life.

Cecilia Cass – Elisabeth Moss does such a powerful job in this role. She gives Cecilia strength and resolve as well as capturing the desperation she feels in her escape from abusive boyfriend and as her life crumbles around her. This arc is completed after she is framed for her sister’s murder and she brings the fight to her boyfriend as we learn her boyfriend’s brother was working with him and is stopped from murdering her niece and brother-in-law. It is as this point she begins to take control and confronts her now discovered boyfriend and frees herself from his abuse and control.

The Ending – In the end Cecilia finally gets revenge. She uses her boyfriend’s technology against him and makes it look like he killed himself. After this her cop brother-in-law covers it up for her and she is finally free from the man who had made her a prisoner.

Okay:

The Supporting Cast – The supporting cast is pretty unmemorable. I’m not putting them as a con as the performances aren’t bad…I just couldn’t tell you what the motivations were beyond base greed and control in regards to the antagonists. Her sister, her brother-in-law and the niece are all caring people but I don’t know what they do and what motivates their day to day. If this had been fleshed out it would have boosted this film higher in score.

The Cons:

The Tech. Company and Larger World – This is a film that misses a lot of details that would have made it a favorite film if they’d been explored better. We learn her boyfriend is CEO of a tech. company but we never see how the company makes so much money. It exists and is used like a prop when it could have been so much more and fleshed out who the character of her boyfriend and his brother were further.

If you are looking for a great horror film during this time of Covid-19 and quarantine I would highly recommend this one. It doesn’t feel long, it has a powerful message against abuse and Elisabeth Moss’s performance carries this film. I hope we see Blumhouse put out more films of this quality and that the other former Dark Universe films will realize how well this works and continue the trend of individual films that are complete on their own and not part of an extended universe. Any great story can stand on it’s own and doesn’t need to be part of a franchise.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Halo 2: Anniversary – Great Lore Caught in the Center of a Trilogy

Halo 2: Anniversary PC | Halo: The Master Chief Collection - YouTube

  “Halo 2” is another of the “Halo Series” I played back in High School but didn’t have the chance to beat until I bought the “Master Chief Collection” when it came out for PC. This game improves on the gameplay from the first game and adds a ton of lore (a lot of which is to explain the events of the first game) and overall it is good. The things that bring it down are some of the cliche story elements, some of the added story from “Halo 5” and the fact that it is clearly the middle of a Trilogy storywise so the ending isn’t as complete as it could be. Either way, if you enjoyed the first game and are invested in the lore like me this one is well worth your time.

The game was Published by Microsoft Studios and developed by Bungie, Blur Studio and Certain Affinity.

The story follows Master Chief who has returned to Earth when the Prophet of Regret of the Covenant attacks Earth. At the same time Thel ‘Vadam the Elite Commander who failed to stop Master Chief from destroying the Halo is made into the Arbiter as he begins to learn more about the internal politics of the Covenant and the truth behind the faith they follow.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematics – Blur Studio has created some of the best looking cinematics I have seen in any game. The Anniversary edition gives us movie level quality between missions and crafts some fantastic drama that fully captures the unique design of the Covenant species, the epicness of the ships and the personalities within the individual characters on screen.

The Soundtrack – The Soundtrack once again captures the epic nature of the events you are taking place in. This time it does some in a hard rock fashion, which I thought would be distracting but still work really well and gave an apocalyptic feel to some of the scenes. The sounds from Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori from the original game with Kazuma Jinnouchi using it in the new edition is simply handled beautifully.

The Gameplay – The gameplay does nothing but improve upon the first game. Vehicles are easier and actually fun to control. You can dual wield guns and you have the energy sword that is absolutely deadly, fantastic and fun.

The Covenant – The Covenant story is the most compelling part of “Halo 2.” Within the game we get to see the power struggle between the Prophets (Regret attacks Earth early in order to bring about the Great Journey and become a God) ends in failure and Truth lets Mercy be devoured by the Flood on their Capital of High Charity when the Flood invade. He also starts the Civil War by blaming the Elite’s for Regret’s death and being a major reason for the Brutes ascending to Honor Guards. This Civil War is what dominates the narrative and the historical records we get from the Terminals are fascinating as the Prophets go into how they came to dominate different species and brought them into the Covenant.

Tartarus and the Brutes -Tartarus and the Brutes are the new antagonist in the game as we see them become the new Honor Guard in the Covenant. They are large, gorilla-like aliens that take a lot of hits and can go into Berserk mode when enraged. Their leader Tartarus is clever too as he uses the Arbiter to get Guilty Spark to the Prophets and nearly succeeds in achieving Truth’s goals. They are a fantastic threat and were really fun to fight. After “Halo Wars 2” and the Banished faction it was really cool to see their origin in the Covenant and the Brute’s rise to power in this game.

The Prophets – The Prophets are one of the fascinating antagonists of the game. Regret acts quickly and ends up defeated by Master Chief and consumed by Gravemind and the Flood. Mercy is attempting to keep Harmony among the different species that make up the Covenant and Truth is ego and power and only sees others as means to an end. In the end he outmaneuvers the others, causes a Covenant Civil War and is on his way to Earth to activate the Ark and bring about “The Great Journey” which he believes will bring about his ascension to Godhood. This game made me appreciate the Prophets as antagonists.

File:H2A - Gravemind.png

Gravemind and the Flood – Gravemind is this lovecraftian horror made up of all the minds it has consumed. It is ancient and extremely intelligent as it uses Master Chief and the Arbiter as weapons against High Charity to weaken it’s defenses enough for it to invade. At the end of the game he has control over Cortana as well giving him control of the Forerunner technology, the Covenant (The Prophet Regret and probably Mercy at this point) and Cortana for humanity. It is extremely creepy and scary and the design for this being is nightmare fuel.

Attack on High Charity – One of the funnest parts of the game is the Attack on High Charity. Gravemind warps the two of them to the Capitol City of the Covenant as they seek to stop Tartarus from activating the Halo Ring and the Prophet of Truth from reaching the Ark. Tartarus is stopped but the Prophet of Truth escapes and in the chaos and destabilization of the Capitol City the Flood take hold and you witness their consuming of the installation over the course of both missions. It is horrifying as you witness a Civil War in real time when Truth blames the Elites for Regret’s death and call for their annihilation and of course the horror as the Flood arrive and consume. This whole segment is really fun to play and keeps the stakes high in a way the original game kept consistent throughout.

Betrayals – This is a game full of betrayals. Regret betrays Truth and Mercy when he attacks earth Early who in turn betray him. Tartarus and the Prophets betray the Arbiter have her gets them Guilty Spark and the Prophets betrays the Elites. On top of this Gravemind uses and betrays the Arbiter and Master Chief, though I doubt they ever trusted the creature at any point.

Thel ‘Vadam the Arbiter – Keith David is absolutely amazing voice the Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam. Vadam was the Elite who failed to stop Master Chief from destroying the Halo in the first game and is punished for it, being made the Arbiter which the Covenant have turned into their enforcer to send on impossible missions. His arc is realizing that all he learned about was a lie and in turn becomes a leader among his people when the Covenant turns on them. He is also the first to reach out to humanity after he defeats Tartarus and prevents the newly discovered Halo from being activated. This a character with self-hatred who finds his dignity once more and never stops fighting or caring about his people.

File:H2A-Arbiter&Co.jpg

Okay:

Master Chief and Cortana – Master Chief and Cortana are at the point where they can nearly predict what the other will do. They are the perfect fighting team so this game works hard to seperate them as in the end the only way to save the world is for Master Chief to get onto the Prophet of Truth’s ship while Cortana stays behind on the Covenant homeworld of High Charity as it is consumed by the Flood and she is captured by Gravemind.

Sargent Avery Johnson and Commander Miranda Keyes – Sargent Johnson and Commander Keyes are alright. Sargent Johnson has the “devil may care’ attitude and somehow survived the first game (2 only addresses as classified, which is lazy). Commander Keyes’s father Captain Keyes is the Captain consumed by the Flood in the first game and here she carries on his legacy in the fight against the Flood and Covenant. Like Cortana and Master Chief they never get out of the tropes but they were compelling enough to keep me involved.

The Cons:

Damsels to be Saved – Commander Avery is captured by the Brute leader Tartarus and it is up to Master Chief and Sargent Johnson to save her. Cortana is captured by Gravemind at the end of the game too. This is a shame as before this both characters have a lot of agency and drive the action. It is only turned around at the end the Bowser equivalents of the game capture them.

A Story Caught in the Middle of a Series – One of the biggest things that goes against the narrative and wonderful story we are given is the fact that it ends on a Cliffhanger so things can be concluded in “Halo 3.” Gravemind has captured Cortana and High Charity, The Prophet of Truth is going to the Ark on Earth (with Master Chief on board) and plans to activate the Halos to end the Universe and the Arbiter teams up with Johnson and Keyes. These are huge hanging threads which leaves the game feeling incomplete, unlike the first “Halo.”

The Added Content from “Halo 5” – There is an added scene at the beginning of the Arbiter talking to new Spartan who is hunting for Master Chief and it sets up the game as him recounting the story. I wasn’t a big fan of this as it took away of the stakes of the narrative of any major character being at risk. At this point the Arbiter and Master Chief are both confirmed alive at the beginning of the game. This hurt the stakes immediately.

Master Chief Rides a Bomb – Master Chief becomes God Level at this point and I was no longer afraid of him ever being truly at risk. He rode a disarmed bomb and destoryed a Covenant carrier and landed safely on an UNSC. The first “Halo” had nothing like this so within the game it still felt like Master Chief could get hurt or experience pain. After this act of insanity that he walks away from untouched he ceased having any kind of vulnerability.

The greatest parts of this game are the stories that come out of the Covenant. The Civil War that arises where we have Arbiter and the Elites with Hunters and Grunts on their side facing against the Prophets, Brutes, Jackals and Drones. The politics and how compalling Thel ‘Vadam’s arc is is what made the story work. The human story when Master Chief isn’t doing the impossible is fine but it never elevates itself. The characters are never as complex as the heroes and villains that make up the races of the Covenant and that is why I can’t rate the game higher. As an experience it is very well done and I still highly recommend it, especially the “Anniversary Edition.” This is a beautiful, fun and compelling game and I look forward to when “Halo 3” is released on PC within the “Mater Chief Collection.”

Final Score: 8.6 / 10 The human story never reaches the height of the Covenant story and the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger setting up “Halo 3” and the Trilogy of the war against the Covenant brings it down from feeling complete and from being rated higher.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary – Still A Great Space Opera and Introduction to an Awesome Universe

Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary HD Wallpaper | Combat evolved ...

“Halo” is a game that I played multiple times growing up, but never had the chance to complete until now. I remember playing it at friend’s houses in High School and College and each time found myself fully drawn and involved in whatever mission we’d do or if we’d start from the beginning. This is game is an epic space opera and the simple mystery and story serves it so well. The gameplay also holds up after all these years and the A.I. being strategic leads to some wonderful challenges during the missions. Without going into spoilers, this is a game that has been out for years and is one I highly recommend. I bought the “Master Chief Collection” on Steam and the Anniversary version of “Halo” gives you the fascinating option of tabbing between the original graphics that look like they are from an N64 in quality to the more beautiful modern graphics today. If you are a fan of shooters and science fiction games I’d say this one is well worth a buy.

The original “Halo” was made in 2001 with Microsoft releasing the “Anniversary” version in 2011. The “Anniversary edition was developed by 343 Industries and Saberinteractive, with Bungie, Gearbox Interactive and Westlake Interactive developing the original game with the publisher being Microsoft Studious and Macsoft.

The story follows Master Chief when he is awoken from cryosleep when the retreating United Nations Space Command (UNSC) ship Pillar of Autumn stumbles upon a mysterious Halo. From here Master Chief and Cortana must uncover the mysteries surrounding the Halo and what the enemy Covenant forces are seeking upon it.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Gameplay – The gameplay still holds up to this day. The enemies react and think strategically, with Elites jumping and dodging and the grunts who follow them panicking. There are also the Hunters who can only be hurt by being shot in the back and Flood who have multiple weapons and attack in hordes. You can use Covenant weapons and vehicles and the play very different from UNSC vehicles and weapons. The mission progression forces you to learn and get good with all of these things and rewards you for well done tactics against them. The game is so much fun.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack one of the best in any videogame. It has this gothic operatic feel to it that gives you the stakes and how epic the war to save humanity is. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori truly created a beautiful masterpiece. I’ve used this soundtrack in the past for creative writing it inspires so.

The Universe – This a fantastic universe we are introduced to. We have humanity on the run but still fighting against the larger Covenant forces that are seeking to wipe them out. Along with this we get the mystery of the Halo and with it the Forerunners and the Flood and hints at a greater world that we are a part of. I’m a huge fan of this universe and finally finishing the game that started it all showed me where it all began.

The Covenant – The Covenant as they are presented in this game are an Alliance of aliens seeking to annihilate humanity. They have advanced technology and are seeking power to end the war. I loved fighting them. The Elites have cloaked units, can ride vehicles and command Jackels (snipers) and Grunts (the main ground soldiers) against you as well as fielding large creatures called the Hunters who travel in packs of 2. When the Flood are released they are in the same boat as you as the Flood overwhelm both the Human and Covenant forces on the Halo.

The Flood – The Flood are a parasitic species who turn their hosts into zombies and seek to consume all life. They are so creepy and I loved their horror movie introduction and the fact that they send so many at you with such a variety of weapons that you need to always be moving in order not to get overwhelmed. This game is full of apocoylptic threats to Humanity…from the Covenant, to Guilty Spark and the purpose of the Halos and the most horrifying unending Flood.

The Mystery of the Halo – The Halo function a lot like the Reapers in “Mass Effect.” They are there to wipe out all organic life so that the Flood will not win as all it takes is one flood in order to spread and when they spread they cannot stop…so the Forerunner plan was to starve them and ending all life was the way to do so. We see this all through Master Chief and Cortana’s eyes as they learn about the truth of the Halo along with us. This was great storytelling and part of what makes the game work so well.

343 Guilty Spark – Guilty Spark is an A.I. who in has lost all contact with the other Halos. You get the idea it’s gone a little made in the time it has been and all it really has is the program and activating the Halo if the Flood ever becomes free. Guilty Spark is very matter of fact even while doing devastating experiments and even has nostalgia at the time before during the Forerunners, which you can listen to at Terminals. It really is a fascinating character and I liked the twist that in the end it was the main antagonist, not the Flood or Covenant who had been the main threats through most of the game.

The Rising Stakes and Ending – This movie has consistent rising stakes and in the end all the people Master Chief was trying to protect are destroyed by the Covenant, Flood or when Master Chief and Cortana destroy the Halo. The universe is saved but it costs everything. I felt that and the game handles the rising stakes so well. You begin saving squads to bring the fight to the Covenant but then your Squad releases the Flood and eventually they consume your boss Captain Keyes and most of the UNSC forces. Even at the end the dropship coming to save you is shot down by Covenant Banshees leaving you to make a last minute escape out of the Pillar of Autumn before you blow up the core and prevent Guilty Spark from activating the Halo.

Okay:

Master Chief and Cortana – Master Chief is alright. I appreciate how sassy Cortana is to him but I don’t know his motivation beyond the mission or why he was in cryosleep. They care about the crew and their fellow soldiers but I feel like the relationship could have been developed further. These were two minds that needed to depend fully on one another to destroy the Halo and stop Guilty Spark from destroying all life in the Universe. Again, they weren’t bad but the relationship was pretty basic compared to Jack and BT in “Titanfall 2.”

The Cons:

Defining Enemy Leadership – We have the Flood and the Covenant but in the first game we don’t really learn much about who are what they are or who leads them. We know both are aliens and the Flood are all about consuming everything but Guilty Spark has way more definition and clear goals than either forces. I know this gets rectified in 2 but if Halo 2 had never been made and this is how the world had ended the game would feel underwritten here. They all still feel like a threat and the stakes continue to rise, but I wanted more world building in this game. We see everything through Master Chief’s eyes but besides Cortana and Guilty Spark not many people answer his questions or give him information beyond the mission.

This is one of my favorite games and it does still hold up after all these years. If you are a fan of first-person shooters, epic science fiction space operas and want an introduction to one of my favorite science fiction universes you should check out this game. This game is a classic and was Microsoft’s way of selling their game systems for good reason. I look forward to beating the rest of the series.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great introduction to this fantastic universe.