It is one of gaming's great debates: Call of Duty or Halo? Which FPS is better and why? Most of the time you just have fanboys on both sides saying one game totally rocks while the other completely sucks. Well, I find myself in the Halo camp, but perhaps this blog entry should be titled "Why I like Halo more than Call of Duty" as it simply reflects an individual's opinion.
First of all, the fact that these two shooters get compared at all is somewhat perplexing as they are completely different in almost all respects. One is an epic sci-fi tale set hundreds of years in the future while the other takes a more realistic approach to war and is set in the not-so-distant future. It is only natural that the two titles would appeal to different crowds. Now that we've established the inanity of comparing the two games, let's go ahead and do it anyway!
Space is cooler than Earth Not only is this a climatically accurate statement, but Halo's space age setting is just more appealing. It offers much more room for creativity and creates a grander scale for the action. The unique architecture of the alien structures and Halo itself are wonders to behold. How could you not love looking out at the horizon in the original game and seeing the world curve up and over on itself?
Only a hero can save us The Master Chief is hands down one of the most badass characters ever to grace the virtual landscape. His armor looks cool, he's not afraid to blow shit up and he takes on an entire alien armada...and wins. When playing as the Chief, you feel like a badass. You'll get cocky, you'll jump into a wave a menacing foes, you'll kick ass and you'll come out the other side feeling like a hero. And it's not just the Chief, the Rookie in ODST was no slouch and Noble 6? Come on, the guy gets picked up off the floor by an 8 foot tall alien and doesn't give a shit - he punches the bastard square in the face. That, my friends, is badass.
Like a boss
What about Call of Duty? Well, on about half the missions your character ends up getting double-crossed or killed at the end...not very badass. It makes it almost impossible to feel any sort of connection to the character because you don't spend much time in his boots. In fact, I've played through both Modern Warfare single player campaigns in their entirety and I can't recall the name of anyone I controlled during that time. I remember some supporting characters - after all, how do you forget someone like John "Soap" MacTavish or "Ghost"?
The bottom line is this: in Halo, you're fighting to save the entire universe. In Call of Duty, you're fighting to ensure the safety of a handful of countries at the expense of others.
Variety is the spice of life As mentioned, I believe that Halo's setting gives the developers much more freedom for creativity. This translates into a more varied game with distinct locales, characters and weaponry. Each enemy race of the Covenant army is easily distinguishable from the others. You have grunts, jackals, elites, brutes, prophets, hunters, the flood and more. These enemies have not only distinct looks, but varying AI as well. In Call of Duty, the terrorists all look alike; they don't behave in any distinct manner. Shooting some generic guy in the face over and over loses its appeal pretty quickly.
Enter generic terrorist...with shades
The variety of Halo shows through in the guns and vehicles as well. Ok, I could do with a little less purple, but the elegant lines of the Covenant ships and weaponry provide a nice contrast to the bulky, hard-edged equipment of the humans. In Halo, its very clear what is and what is not enemy technology. With Call of Duty, this distinction is pretty much non-existent. CoD may indeed feature more weapons than Halo, but its hard to tell the difference between any of them - a machine gun with a little recoil feels pretty similar to a machine gun with slightly more.
90's flair One of my pet peeves with the CoD franchise is that the developers are content with simply spawning infinite enemies out of thin air. This is an archaic approach to game design that might have been acceptable in the mid-90's, but comes across as rather lazy today. I'll never forget one incident in particular in the first Modern Warfare title; I cleared out an area in one of the later stages and backed myself into a corner so that I wouldn't have to worry about getting hit from behind. A few seconds later guess what happens...an enemy spawns directly behind me...in a corner. Where the fuck did he come from? Is there a secret hatch in the wall? Weak. Sauce.
In Halo, enemies don't just appear. They inhabit the world or are brought in via ships. You can clear an area of all enemies and explore it without worrying about an enemy suddenly appearing out of thin air.
Ladies night Are there any female characters in Call of Duty? That's a serious question - I honestly can't remember any. The Halo cast has a number of memorable female characters that span a variety of positions. How about Miranda Keyes, Dr. Halsey/Cortana, Cat, Dare or Professor Anders? All of these women played large roles in the Halo universe. I get that a military shooter like Call of Duty may be designed primarily with men in mind, but does it take place in a world devoid of female life? Or just one where women serve only in behind the scenes roles?
Dare - not content with a non-combat role
Track this The stat tracking in Halo is quite simply unmatched. If competitive multiplayer is your thing, there's nothing that compares to Bungie.net. It tracks every kill you've ever made, with every weapon and on every map. It keeps track of all the medals you've won in combat across multiple game types and even multiple games!
Call of Duty has nothing even close to the detailed tracking of Bungie.net. Sure it has upgrades that can be unlocked and no doubt that Bungie copied that feature for Reach, but they did it better. The upgrades in CoD can make the game horribly unbalanced whereas the Reach upgrades don't affect the game mechanics.
That's all, folks As a space nut, I love the Halo franchise...well mostly, Halo 2 pretty much sucked. However, to dismiss the Call of Duty franchise altogether would be a mistake. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the developers of that series. The technical prowess behind the games is unrivaled in the industry. The Call of Duty games look better, and run better, than even the mightiest of graphical powerhouses such as Uncharted and Gears of War.
Whether you agree with me or not, I hope this has come across more as a presentation of what makes Halo a better franchise to me and less of a Call of Duty sucks rant.