Love it or hate it, I can guarantee you've heard of the Halo franchise, and can probably recognize our favourite Master Chief Petty Officer. The power-armour clad SPARTAN-II has reached almost iconic status.
Let's start at the beginning: Halo: Combat Evolved and (and later Custom Edition).
The Xbox version was released in 2001 and the PC (and vastly superior version) was released in 2003. Halo was unique at the time because you had recharging shields on top of your health, and a lot of people blame Halo for the recurring (and I'm betting temporary, but that's another article) regenerating health in video games. I think it really worked in Halo CE, though. The (in-universe) technology behind it, coupled with your health being very fragile in-game ginal Halo featured the best level in the franchise: Assault on the Control Room. The level had an absolutley fantastic mix of on foot and in-vehicle action. To date, I still enjoy playing through it (I always steal a Banshee on the bridge)
Now, some of you may be Xbox loyalists, jumping when I said "vastly superior" PC version. I hate to pick sides, but Halo PC had new maps, new weapons and new vehicles. It's also capable of supporting much more then even the Xbox 360 Halo games. Case in point, on a fully stocked Death Island there are 6 Scorpion Tanks, 4 Warthogs, 4 Rocket Hogs, around a dozen Ghosts and a pair of Shade Turrets. To emphasize just how much I enjoy it: I still play regularily and actively to date. That means that I've been playing for seven years (Heh. Seven). There's only one other game that I've played longer, and who doesn't love Dark Forces II?
Halo 2 (and the vastly inferior Halo 2: Vista)
I remember seeing that guy role up his sleeve, and freaking when the release date was soooo close. At the time, I'd just recently gotten Halo: CE and was playing online. I'd beaten the campaign from the original Halo with my buddy, several times. I was super-psyched I wasn't sure I could handle it.
What I got was a mixed bag. Campaign was an interesting experience, it seemed to be almost a cliched sequel. It worked well, and it had some of the magic. I think the level in Halo 2 that I enjoyed the most was the level where you start by dropping onto Delta Halo. It had some of the magic I remembered from Halo: CE, but reeked of being rushed out the door. The game is criminally short, and ends almost mid se
See? I didn't like it either. Rumour was there were supposed to be two additional levels (that got cut) after the famous "Finishing this fight" line
Halo 2's multiplayer was pretty good. Barring a few major mistakes. The most apparent being the Battle Rifle. It's a spray and pray precision weapon. I can't be the only one who thinks that's a bad idea. Battle Rifle was also a major part of gamebreaking button combos that could be used to cancel an animation, instead proceeding directly into the next action. It was kind of like the unbeatable button combos from the old fighting games, where you can trap someone in a sequence of moves and perfect them.
This led to a pretty bad multiplayer atmosphere. My best memories of Halo 2 multiplayer? Honour-based games of infection and BTB with a full party.
Halo 3 was an interesting game. Campaign was longer, and didn't end on such an abrupt notice. The big problem I had with Halo 3 was that over the course of the entire campagn I never felt the same as I did during Halo CE or the better parts of Halo 2. Gunplay wasn't bad, but it just didn't click.
The multiplayer was pretty good. There weren't any particularily broken staregies and I had a good time playing but it felt....watered down.
Now, ODST or the Halo 3 expansio.........well, nevermind. Remember what I said about Halo 2 being criminally short? I take it back. ODST is probably five hours long. The gameplay was more of the same (except instead of being able to see your shields, and not being able to see your health, you can see your health and not your shields) but the music is FANTASTIC. Halo has always had some seriously fantastic music, but ODST went off on a tangent with some..."noir" (sort of, anyways) music. The game did a really good job making sure you knew you were alone. Needed to retail 40$ cheaper then it actually was.
The most recent entry, and I have to say, I'm impressed. Reach returned to the heavier and more powerful physics of Halo:CE. Armour abilities have some great griefing capabilities (I can't count the number of times I've feinted a tank or a sniper or rocket wielding spartan with my holographic friend) and thank goodness for Firefight matchmaking.
The feature I adore the most is the carry over of your online Spartan to single player. Too cool.
I plan to add more for this, but if you want the quick version, here's how I feel about the Halo series.