By Delta_Ass 122 Comments
Halo isn't a very good first person shooter. I know, I know. You're a Halo fanboy and you think I'm just a mindless hater. You think I'm just going along with the crowd. That I'm some sort of dude who enjoys hopping on bandwagons. Well, no... that's not really the case. I've thought about this for a long while. I've never liked Halo. Even back when it first came out in 2000, it didn't impress me. I'm not a guy who likes to be counter-culture, or go against popular opinion for its own sake. There are many popular games I do enjoy. It's not that at all. And here right now, I'm going to explain in detail why Halo is terrible, so you can't accuse me of being a mindless hater.
The HUD of Halo is just annoying. Instead of being like other contemporary FPSs, Halo insists on representing all of its ammo onscreen as lots and lots of tiny bullets, instead of simple easy to read numbers. This is lame. There is no need to fill up the top corner of the screen with rows and rows of bullet symbols, just show us a fucking number. Like... if it said 60 in the corner? That would be fine, that would work for me. I can read and count, I know what 60 means. 60 means that there are 60 rounds in my magazine, I don't need to see a ton of tiny fucking bullets up there.
Halo's universe is a complete ripoff of Aliens and various other scifi properties. This shows a startling dearth of imagination on Bungie's part. Seriously, it's not an homage, it's a straight ripoff. This is not subtle, this is hitting you over your head with a sledgehammer. The right way to do it would be something along the lines of Mass Effect. With ME, you can tell that the creators at BioWare had an appreciation and respect for scifi and were influenced by all those works, while creating their own unique and imaginative new universe. They had influences, they did not outright copy. Halo does not do this, Halo is the result of Bungie ripping off other scifi works and cobbling them all together. I find this deeply objectionable.
Let's look at Master Chief. Master Chief as a super soldier is a ripoff of a lot of stuff like BattleTech and Warhammer 40K. He has been surgically engineered to be a superhuman warrior, just like the Space Marines of the Imperium in WH40k. He is physically much larger then a normal human being and possesses much greater strength and athletic capabilities, just like Space Marines and also the genetically engineered Clan Elementals in BattleTech. Then he dons the advanced Mjolnir power armor. This power armor further enhances his strength and survivability in combat, just like Space Marine armor and Elemental suits. Starship Troopers is another example of scifi power armor. His training and origin story in "The Fall of Reach" novel even reads just like Robert Thurston's classic "The Way of the Clans" BattleTech novel. In the Halo novel, the Spartan program takes children and forms them into training cadres to teach them how to become highly capable and skilled soldiers. Their sole purpose is to become the best warrior mankind can produce. This is almost identical to the sibkos, or sibling companies, that the Clans use in BattleTech. If you liked The Fall of Reach, I recommend you go and check out "The Jade Phoenix Trilogy" omnibus edition, which contains "The Way of the Clans." You'll find that The Fall of Reach is simply a pale shadow of Thurston's work.
Most of what Halo rips off is Aliens, however. That's really the core complaint. Bungie just decided to watch Aliens a lot and uh... rip off the entire film. If they were making an Aliens FPS, this wouldn't be a problem. In fact, that would be great. However, I find it appalling that they ripped off this great film to create their brand new IP. That's incredibly distasteful. And no, it wasn't just ripping off the vague concept of a "space marine." Doom did that and that was fine. There is nothing wrong with taking a general concept like a "space marine" and doing your own thing with it. However, Bungie went far beyond just using that idea. They ripped off almost every element of Aliens. Let's take a closer look at the stuff they ripped off.
Master Chief's cryo chamber at the beginning of Halo is a ripoff of the cryostasis chamber in Aliens. Same exact design and function. The Pelican dropship is a clear ripoff of Aliens' UD4L Cheyenne dropship. In Halo 3, there's even a cinematic cutscene that shows the cockpit layout of the Pelican, which has two seats, one lower down and to the right, with another elevated position on the left. This is almost identical to the cockpit positions on the Cheyenne. I'm not sure if any dropship pilot in a Halo game ever uttered the line, "We're in the pipe, 5 by 5." but it would not surprise me at all if they did.
UNSC Marines in Halo look like Colonial Marines in Aliens. They're both wearing brownish body armor and helmets. Marines in Halo get eyepieces that drop down from their helmets, just like how Colonial Marines in Aliens have eyepieces. The Assault Rifle in Halo is similar to the M41A pulse rifle in Aliens, with both having an ammo counter and an underslung accessory, grenade launcher in Aliens, flashlight in Halo. Both pack rather substantial ammo in a single magazine, 60 in Halo, 99 in Aliens. Master Chief possesses a sort of radar that shows him nearby hostiles, just like the motion sensor in Aliens. Sgt Johnson in Halo is a ripoff of Sgt Apone from Aliens. Both are black non-commissioned officers who like cigars. Cmon, you can't deny this sort of blatant plagiarism. It's just so fucking obvious.
Aliens isn't the only scifi property that Bungie ripped off. Let's take a look at the Elites. As I see it, Elites are a ripoff of Predator. Elites carry energy swords, which are vicious dual pronged melee weapons, just like wristblades in Predator. Elites can cloak themselves, just like a Predator. Elites have four mandibles on their mouth, just like a Predator. It seems clear that Bungie apparently desired to make something like an Aliens vs Predator game, but couldn't get the license, so they ripped off all the concepts and called it Halo. Elites and Predators are both warrior societies that emphasize skill and a certain alien sort of honor code. Elites and Predators both use plasma energy weaponry. About the only thing that distinguishes Elites from Predators is that Elites pack personal shields.
I'm not even gonna go into Ringworld.
Okay, so we've covered everything that Halo ripped off. That's pretty clear, Bungie really enjoys copying other people's work. Well, now let's talk about the actual game itself, the gameplay and how it's good or bad. The most basic enemy in Halo are Grunts. Grunts are lame. They sound comedic. They spew gibberish in high pitched voices. Why would you rip off Aliens and Predator, while giving us these incredibly pathetic and amusing opponents? It doesn't make any sense. There's supposed to be a desperate struggle for mankind's survival against the Covenant, right? Aren't they glassing our colonies, searching for Earth? We're all trying to save ourselves from galactic annihilation. So... why the short waddling idiots with the wacky voices? The whole thing doesn't gel right. The grunts just kinda ruined whatever Bungie was trying to go for with their atmosphere and lore and whatever. They shot themselves in the foot.
In my opinion, Halo is a bad FPS because the weapons suck. They are pretty awful. The Shotgun sucks, because it has no range. Past ten feet or so, it's completely useless. But that's okay, because it's a shotgun. Surely there are going to be other weapons that can function at longer ranges. Well, let's look at the Covenant weapons. Well, the Covenant weapons suck, because they too have no range. Needler, Plasma pistol, Plasma rifle... they're all quite short ranged. None of them have much reach. You can fire at far off targets if you want to, but the spread and inaccuracy means you're not gonna hit anything. Their crosshairs are simply enormous. There's no targeting lockon for the Needler at anything beyond short range.
The other thing about weapons in Halo is that they abide by a rather strange design decision. See, human weapons are supposed to be less effective against shields, while being more effective against flesh. Covenant energy weapons are more effective against shields, while being less effective at damaging flesh. This dichotomy makes no sense at all. You're telling me that this sort of intense plasma weaponry that burns its way through shielding so quickly, will somehow prove to be ineffective against biological tissue? This high energy bolt can slice its way past advanced shields but won't be all that great at destroying mere flesh? I find that very hard to believe. It's a game balancing decision that just doesn't make any sense when you really examine it. If it's powerful enough to demolish your shields, it's probably going to be powerful enough to burn up your fragile tissue in horrifying ways.
Let's continue with Halo weaponry. The human Assault Rifle frankly sucks. This weapon is supposed to be the mainstay of the UNSC Marines and Master Chief for the entire game, but uh... it's actually awful past 15 feet. This Assault Rifle has terrible spread for a two handed rifle. It's like a shotgun, only in rifle form. The crosshairs for this gun are fucking huge. I'd played PC FPSs for many years and had never seen a crosshair as big as the one for the assault rifle in Halo. What the hell is the point of this thing? It carries 60 rounds in a magazine, which sounds very impressive and bountiful, but you're still probably going to be reloading more often then you want to, because of just how inaccurate this rifle is. Most of your 60 rounds are going to be wasted with the kind of spread it has. Unless you're firing at point blank range, anyways. And of course, each individual bullet is incredibly weak, meaning you'll need all 60. This just makes for a frustrating weapon to use.
Let's say that the spread is due to recoil from the weapon firing on full auto. Let's just say that's what the problem is, the recoil of the gun. Let's think about this for a moment. If Master Chief is super strong with his superhuman strength and enhanced power armor, why is there so much spread due to recoil on the assault rifle? Can't this super strong soldier in power armor control the recoil of his rifle? If the recoil is so strong that it's causing this ridiculous amount of spread for a super powered Spartan II, just imagine how terrible it must be for a regular UNSC Marine to fire this thing! It'd be incredible, right? Almost unusable. Or does the super strength of Master Chief extend only to his melee attacks and absurd ability to floaty jump everywhere and flip over Warthogs and tanks?
If the spread isn't because of recoil, then it must be the gun itself. Specifically, the barrel of the gun must be terrible, thus causing the inaccuracy. Well... why is the barrel itself so inaccurate? Isn't this the future? Shouldn't they be able to craft really accurate gun barrels in the future? We make lots of assault rifles these days that're accurate to hundreds of meters. Why do they have assault rifles in the future that are only accurate out to 15 feet? It doesn't make much sense.
The design of the assault rifle itself is quite terrible. This rifle has an ammo counter taking up the entire top portion. That's all there is, a giant housing that gives you the current ammo count, and some kind of weird compass. Now, doesn't it seem strange that that entire attachment is devoted to just counting ammo and giving a compass? Isn't that something that could've been made really small and not taken up the entire upper portion of the gun? I mean, I think it could probably fit on someone's watch, right? Isn't this the future? Mankind has advanced and learned how to master interstellar travel, but has to have ginormous attachments just to count ammo and give a compass bearing?
Also, it should be pointed out that the assault rifle has no sights at all, iron or otherwise. There's nothing up top but that ridiculous digital screen telling you how much ammo you have, and a compass in case you get lost in the woods. No iron sights at all. No red dot sights, no sights period. Now, obviously... people can point out that there's probably an uplink from the gun to Master Chief's HUD. Master Chief doesn't need sights on the gun, he just aims the gun using the crosshairs projected on his helmet HUD. Well, okay. And I guess this could also work for UNSC Marines and their helmet visors.
But wait a minute. How the hell do you aim if you aren't wearing a visor or eyepiece? You still need some basic iron sights for those times when you aren't wearing a visor or helmet, right? Is the UNSC confident that anyone who ever needs to use an assault rifle is always going to be wearing some sort of advanced digital display? That seems a little foolish, don't you think? If you're unlucky enough to get caught without a helmet or eyepiece, you're just gonna have to settle for firing from the hip? Really? Is that really what they expect people to do? Wouldn't it make more sense to give the rifles an iron sight? Would that really be too much to ask? All it requires is getting rid of that fucking retarded ammo counter/compass display! Given the choice between being able to actually aim accurately, or getting to see my ammo count, I'd take the former over the latter every time. This is just ludicrous.
On the bottom of the rifle is this huge fucking flashlight. And doesn't Master Chief already mount a flashlight on his power armor? It's like, mounted on the right side of his helmet, right? Couldn't the Marines also fit small little flashlights to their helmets? Why the huge flashlight on the bottom of the rifle? Seriously, look at this thing, it's big as hell. Why is the flashlight so goddamn big? It's the future, shouldn't they be able to make smaller compact flashlights? Wouldn't it have made more sense if they had fit a grenade launcher on the bottom of the rifle? They should've just taken off the ammo counter and flashlight, and replaced them with a scope and a grenade launcher. That would've actually made sense.
So... I've been complaining about all the short ranged weapons in Halo, and how short ranged weapons aren't very good. Now, Halo does have the sniper rifle. The sniper rifle is a long ranged weapon. I do like the sniper rifle, it's very powerful. But unfortunately, the sniper rifle is quite rare in this game. Ammo is very rare. So... it's not usually an option.
And finally, we come to the pistol. This pistol apparently has a scope for no reason. Why does the pistol have a scope on it when the assault rifle doesn't? I have no goddamn idea. However, it does, and this makes it a superior weapon to the aforementioned assault rifle. However, while the pistol is a much better weapon then the rifle, it also has its own problems. The pistol has some spread at medium range. Even if you can clearly sight in on your target with the scope, there will be some inaccuracy in the shot pattern. Also, the pistol has a weakness in the form of its small magazine, meaning that in many situations, you'll need to reload right when you knock the Elite's shields down. I found this pretty annoying.
In conclusion, most Halo weapons are short ranged, and this sucks. Fortunately, Halo 2 and 3 gave us the Battle Rifle and the Covenant Carbine, and those games are quite a bit more enjoyable. Seriously, did anyone not use the battle rifle/carbine combination in Halo 2 and 3? It was a godsend. Finally... some reasonably long ranged rifles!
Halo only allows you to carry two weapons. This seems to be a nod to realism. However, it doesn't make any sense. Why does Master Chief only get to carry two weapons if he's super strong? Now, this is actually a pretty nice limitation in most first person shooters. The fact is, a real person is not really capable of lugging around an entire armory. Real soldiers will only carry their main weapon, usually a rifle, along with a sidearm pistol on their thigh. Perhaps a LAW on their back, so that's three. A pretty low amount compared to the days of Doom, where you could collect 7 to 10 different weapons, and all their ammo. That was just silly, if you value some form of realism. And I think we all do, silly bullshit and unrestrained fantasy whoop-dee-woo doesn't generally go hand in hand with sophistication and good design. So the idea of making you choose your favored weapon loadout instead of having access to every gun laying on the ground is pretty awesome.
Now, that said... I think this weapon limitation is bad in Halo. Why am I stating this after having just said that I think limits on carrying guns is a good thing? Well, because Halo is not like most first person shooters. In most FPSs, you just play a regular human dude. With regular human limitations. The character you play in Halo is not just some human dude. The character you play in Halo is Master Chief, a super enhanced human being who has superhuman abilities. And that's before he dons his famous shiny green power armor. You see, this is why the weapon limitation is a bad idea... Master Chief is uniquely gifted and fluff-driven to be the sort of super soldier who would be able to carry an entire arsenal of guns. He *should* have the strength and power to lug rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, and a gazillion grenades. After all, this is a guy who can flip tanks over if they fall on their side. A great feature that most other FPSs should have is sadly something odd and unnecessary in Halo.
Halo's lore might be okay, some people think it is... but it's never told well in the actual game. You play through the game, and there's very little conveyed to the player. It's out there, but you have to be obtain it from the novels. This is just silly.
The Library levels are complete shit. Everyone knows this.
So this is really everything I dislike about Halo. But to be fair, there are also some good parts to Halo. It's not completely awful in every respect. Even though I think it's quite poor compared to a lot of FPSs, it did do a few things right:
The music in Halo is quite good. I've never said anything bad about the orchestral score for Halo. It fits well with the game and uh... yea. The music works fine, no complaints.
Halo made throwing grenades actually fun and useful. No need to actually switch to the grenade and leave yourself vulnerable. You just press the throw grenade button and it goes flying. This was a great choice and made grenades a much bigger part of combat, whereas in most other FPSs you probably wouldn't bother with grenades. Also, aiming grenades was fast and simple, avoiding much of the obscure aiming in other FPSs that would often lead to your grenade bouncing right back and exploding at your feet.
The vehicle handling and combat in Halo was fine, I thought. Even though driving vehicles in FPSs had been done before Halo, notably in Tribes, it was quite enjoyable. Obviously, the Warthog had a nice loose handling style that made for some fun romps around the terrain. Flying the Banshee around was very liberating, while the Scorpion tank gave you a very real sense of dominance and power. All the vehicle sections in the campaign were a delight and gave a nice change of pace from the usual FPS combat.
Enemy AI in Halo was very impressive. Almost a bit too much at times, considering Elites had their shields. I'm not entirely sure if Halo's AI was as good as Half-Life's enemy AI, but it was very good compared to a lot of other FPSs. Kudos to whoever designed the AI.