7 minute read

I have a confession to make, when Halo originally released in 2001, I dismissed it out of hand without giving it a chance.

You see, I was strictly a PC gamer back then. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. The first FPS I remember playing is Spear Of Destiny, a prequel to Wolfenstein 3D. Naturally, I only used a keyboard to control the game. Next up were Doom, Doom II, Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem 3D, and others. Still only playing with just a keyboard. Then along came Quake. At first, I persisted in my keyboard-only ways. Until my dial-up internet provider started hosting a QuakeWorld server and I got my ass handed to me. Some players were pulling off moves that I couldn’t do. So I asked them. You see, back then people were still (mostly) nice to each other online and using the Quake chat system to talk about gaming and stuff wasn’t uncommon. A kind soul told me to use the mouse-look and taught me to circle-strafe and rocket-jump.

From that point onward, keyboard and mouse was the way to play a first-person shooter, at least for me. I was playing Half Life, Soldier of Fortune, Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force and having a blast when I first heard about the new Microsoft console and Halo. I thought simplifying and watering down the shooter-experience was the only way to make a shooter playable with a controller. I eventually got an Xbox, but never tried Halo or its sequels. Basically, I avoided all non-PC first-person shooters.

For me, a keyboard and mouse is the best way to play a shooter. Even though the majority of players have a different opinion. I’ve played some Call of Duty on my cousin’s PS3, but that has only proven my point. I’m terrible at playing shooters with a controller. And I don’t feel like investing the time to learn a new control method. I’ll just play them on my PC, thank you very much.

Game Pass Infinite

Let’s skip ahead twenty years. Halo Infinite is nearing release and the gaming podcasts I listen to are really hyped about it. I already have Game Pass for PC, so I know I can try it out on day one. But I don’t want to go in blind. The Halo Master Chief Collection is also on Game Pass, it seems silly not to try it.

The Halo MCC has six Halo games, all of them except for Halo 5 which isn’t available on PC (side-note: what’s up with that, Microsoft?). After installing Halo MCC the next conundrum pops up. In what order should I play these? The MCC start screen suggests: Reach > Halo CE > Halo 2 > Halo 3 > Halo ODST > Halo 4. But that isn’t the order they were released in. What should I do?

This is the age-old chronology question that has been discussed (to put it mildly) in Star Wars circles for decades. But for Star Wars, it’s easy. You endure Star Wars (A New Hope), enjoy The Empire Strikes Back and finish with Return Of The Jedi (try to ignore the Ewoks). And you’re done. Cover your ears and hum the Imperial March loudly when anyone tries to tell you about the existence of the prequels and sequels. Keep the first season of The Mandolorian ready should the urge for more Star Wars become uncontrollable.

Ok, that was a tongue in cheek over dramatization, of course. I do always suggest following release order. Especially with games, the way they are played has evolved a lot in the last twenty years. Combined with the visual improvements over the years, jumping around will be extremely jarring.

Halo: Combat Evolved.

After a small adjustment period, I started really enjoying my time in Halo. You can definitely tell it’s a bit archaic by current standards. A lot has changed in game design over the course of twenty years. But I can see why there was so much hype around Halo in 2001. The story really pulls you in and makes you want to come back to continue the fight against the Covenant. The transition between on-foot and vehicle combat would have felt revolutionary to my younger self.

A few minor complaints, though. I got lost a lot. Part of that was me being navigationally challenged, but the repetitive nature of some levels didn’t help. It got really confusing in the Convenant spaceship near the end of the game, where you go from one identical room to the next. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was going forwards in the level or backwards. Cortana did try to give pointers from time to time: “Chief! Defuse the bomb!” and I would be like: “Sure, lady. You’re an advance AI living in my helmet. Maybe put an arrow up in the HUD and guide me to the bomb?”.

And then the Flood level hit. After getting slaughtered a few times, trying to speed-run the level, I was ready to give up. Without the help of online strategy guides, I would probably never have gotten through it.

But these are just minor gripes. All in all, a promising start of my MCC journey.

Halo 2 and 3

I’ve bundled these together because my experiences with them were similar. Good shooters, but I had no idea what was going on half of the time, and became more and more frustrated with Cortana. My biggest issue with these installments is the lack of subtitles during gameplay. I’m not deaf, but English is not my native language, and subtitles help when there’s a lot going on or when the Elites speak with distorted voices. I basically never understood what the Arbiter or his companions were saying, and eventually just starting ignoring them. Fortunately, going old school and just keep going forward while shooting everything that moves, worked wonderfully.

With Microsoft’s focus on accessibility, it’s surprising that subtitles weren’t added in the MCC versions of the games.

Halo 3: ODST

If I’d have to plot my enjoyment of the Halo franchise on a graph, this is where the curve start going upwards again. I enjoyed being a marine, not a spartan, trying to survive the battle against the backdrop of a Covenant assault. Subtitles make a triumphant return. Furthermore, I’m a big Firefly fan, so I’m biased to anything with Captain Tight Pants himself playing a role in it.

Halo: Reach

Hmm, a prequel. Not a thing I usually enjoy because you already know what happens to the characters. In the majority of cases, no good things or happy endings here. Alright, I know what you’re going to say. I could have played this one first. But can you imagine jumping back 10 years from Reach to play the original Halo. That would have made CE feel even more archaic and less enjoyable.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the interactions with the Spartan squad and the story was well told. Combat also felt more modern. Good stuff.

Halo 4

Finally, Halo 4, the first Halo developed by 343 Industries. Some will find this a controversial statement, but this was my favorite installment so far. It looks stunning, even today, and it plays great. The interaction with Cortana feels so much better than in the prior games. She’s more than just a voice yelling in your ear. You really get the sense of working together towards a common goal. Maybe the story line is a little out there, but that didn’t bother me. It’s the backstory for a shooter game, it’s not supposed to be classical literature.

Halo 5

I could have played this in the cloud, but I really don’t want to reiterate all the keyboard+mouse versus controller statements from earlier. I watched a summary of the story on YouTube. Long story short: Cortana bad!

Halo: Infinite

And then we have the reason I started this journey through the Master Chief Collection. Halo: Infinite, the first open-world installment. And in my humble opinion the best installment in the series. It feels like a brand-new game, but still familiar at the same time. I was skeptical about the grappling hook at first. I mean, you’re supposed to be a tank, not an itt-bitty-spider-man swinging around the battlefield. But it feels so natural. I can’t imagine going back to earlier Halo games and moving around without the grapple hook.

The balance between comedy, action and tragedy feels just right. The Banished barrage you with bullets and one-liners. The Weapon is a worthy successor to Cortana. She’s naive, yes, but witty with a great sense of humor.

I’m not a hundred percent sold on the open-world aspect. It does feel like a way to prolong the game between story missions. Then again, sometimes you just want to fight some banished. Who cares if it’s another banished base, identical to the previous three you’ve liberated. As long as it doesn’t become a chore. I’m not a completionist, so I didn’t bother finding all propaganda towers or tablets. If you want to 100% it, this can become quite the task.


I’m glad I finally played Halo. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even with the gripes I mentioned before. I don’t really regret not playing it earlier. I played other great games instead, so I don’t feel like I lost anything. But I am looking forward to Campaign DLC for Infinite and future installments of Halo.

For now, it’s back to my Game Pass backlog.