4 days ago, I beat Halo: Combat Evolved (The Xbox Originals release, available from XBL).

I’m a Metroid guy, so the general immature gaming public probably expects me to rip the game to pieces with the sheer hate of the Other Platform. I’m picturing myself as a bit of an intellectual and a snob, so people would probably expect me to hammer the game heavily, verily, for being an Average And Overhyped Example of its Kind.

You know what? To hell with all that. I had fun.
I think I might as well analyse the game from those two viewpoints. How much, really, can a Metroid fan like Halo? For all these long years, I’ve been a big fan of Metroid Prime games, and all these long years, Metroid Prime has been contrasted and compared with Halo, and rabid fan-masses have been going at each other’s throats. If we ask fans, we’ll never an impartial analysis of who would win if Samus and John-117 (or any other Spartan) fought.

I can now pretty definitely say that I liked both Halo and Metroid Prime - though for different reasons. There’s just too many differences between the two series to make a meaningful full-on comparison. However, if you pick a random representative moment of gameplay from both games, you’ll probably see me shooting up baddies with same sort of joy and enthusiasm. They aren’t that difficult in that respect.

But there are so many little differences. A lot of fanboys get stuck on comparing which series has better music. In my opinion, Halo has an excellent soundtrack as far as incidental music goes; the composers apparently decidedly made the entire soundtrack situation-based rather than going to the “Peter and the Wolf” direction (...though what's wrong with wolves and horns? nothing! Absolutely nothing!). Metroid Prime, however, revels with leitmotifs; music is largely locational rather than situational, and only bosses tend to get their own themes; the musicians purposefully reuse old themes.

weird-halo-omissions.jpgThe ways the games present stories, and how the missions are laid out, are vastly different. Halo uses what I’d describe a “tried and true linear media approach”. The story is organised into levels that are dotted with scripted events and cutscenes. The story is told to you in form of direct conveyance; you’re essentially watching a film where sometimes you have to do something. Metroid Prime games, however, decidedly don’t organise the story in any way: The only times when story is directly conveyed to the player is where the environment really needs the player’s attention. For vast majority of other material, Metroid Prime uses similar technique as is used in the Thief series, just that instead of random letters and books, you get random data analyses in form of scan visor scans; you’ll get the backstory bit by bit and need to put the pieces together in your own head. In my opinion, this makes MP much more game-like what comes to narration structure; you can watch films and cutscenes all you want, but you’re not really doing anything new and “game-like”. This could be a matter of taste, but one must always remember why you are playing the game; one could chastise Halo for the same syndrome that some people accuse the newer end of Final Fantasy series and especially the Metal Gear Solid series of: they’re pretty good as interactive movies, they have great stories if you are just there to follow the story, but nothing to write home about specifically as games… You could say the game is nothing but a few epic SF story cutscenes plus a few severely cloned pipe-run levels. Metroid Prime, on the other hand, treats the major points of the story and further details as something that’s pretty inconsequential and can be ignored; I’m sure the mating habits of Sheegoths is quite an interesting topic, but that sort of stuff is better relegated to the data banks and requires further study when you’re not being currently mauled by one.

As a final note from preliminary Halo/MP comparisons, I have to say that Metroid Prime developers kept the graphics style admirably consistent; MP1 had very good graphics (much better than Halo, in my opinion - everything polished, more neat little effects), MP2 had similarly good graphics, MP3 kept the style despite the higher CPU power in the Wii. By comparison, Halo: CE looks horribly dated compared to Halo 3.

Then to the snobbery claims - is Halo an actually good game that deserves the title of a definitive classic?

Not necessarily, but it’s definitely in my list of really fun games that accomplish their goals and surprised me.

The early levels were good examples of this. The basic premise is the same as always: Go shoot the bad guys. Then you get teammates. You get vehicles. Camaraderie. Adventure. Steel on steel. The stuff of legends.
Then you get spookies that scare no one and basically a remake of Doom for the last few levels. sigh

In conclusion, I think Halo looks like a game that I like. I’m now playing Halo 2, and playing Halo 3 on multiplayer.