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Why I hate… Halo

I say goodbye.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

In this new series of opinion pieces, some of Eurogamer's favourite writers reveal how they really feel about some of the world's most renowned, or most reviled, videogames.

To kick us off, Will Porter explains why he hates Bungie's blockbuster shooters - and why he can't stop playing them. (NB: If you're still working your way through the series, beware of spoilers.)

Hate is a strong word. I can't hate a series when I've played all of its games and, moment to moment, enjoyed myself. I love that tank level they always do. The bit where you're going around in a Warthog or stealing those purple Ghost things is amazing on grass, snow or even in an oddly sterile futuro-city.

The guns are great. The engine gets ever more impressive. The character design is top-notch. The alien worlds are utterly beautiful. The wonky gravity is oddly appealing. I can see the multiplayer appeal. I also really like the way Cortana is simultaneously purple, see-through AND sexy.

So why does Halo make me so angry? Why do I bang on pub tables and shout at bemused Wetherspoons patrons about it?

Well, because I never know what the hell is going on. What's more, this otherwise remarkable game never tries hard to enough to make me care about what the hell is going on.

Say what you like about Halo, it ain't half purdy.

I've completed every single Halo game but I couldn't really tell you what the Covenant's beef is, apart from being holier than thou. I have no idea why the Arbiter turns goodie or what a Halo is really for.

At no stage of playing Reach did I understand what was going on, apart from the fact my increasingly meagre squad had been given a magic doofer by a bit-part scientist and had to carry it somewhere iconic.

Remember Reach? Well Bungie, you'll have to explain to me just what Reach is beyond a couple of casual cut-scene mentions a couple of games back. Perhaps over an intimate Powerpoint presentation. Then we can talk.

And no, I won't read the bloody books.

I think the problem with Halo's story emerges after the first game. For those who don't dedicate themselves to a lifetime of Halo-related pursuits, and who might forget plot details from game to game, there's no discernible beginning, middle or end to the story proper.

Master Chief: all Spartan and, deep down, all heart.

Throughout Halos 2 and 3, and to an extent ODST and Reach, a splurge of linear events unfold in a game with level patterns hugely reminiscent of earlier warthog forays, Scorpion battles, Banshee flights, descents into alien installations and surprise appearances from the one-trick pony that is the Flood.

Sure, sometimes there are two Scarabs (!) or there's a neat-o bit in space - but everything else feels like slipping into a nice warm gameplay bath before donning a pair of comfortable slippers.

The old Bungie adage of Halo gameplay being the same 30 seconds of brilliant action continued ad infinitum is fine and everything, but that rinse and repeat cycle plays havoc with the brain. Halo is built on familiarity, and familiarity is not conducive to memorable moments or intriguing plot points.

Halo is vast, confusing and messy. For some reason, exposition goes out the window when each game gets up to speed - unless that exposition is to do with taking down shields, blowing stuff up, fetching something or moving something from geometrically designed alien outpost A to exploded spaceship B.

The minutiae get attention, sure. But no-one ever thinks to slow stuff down and explain the current state of the Halo Universe to newcomers, or to people who completed the last game while drunk.