I typically open up a fair number of tabs doing some quick research for any particular article, often in a new browser instance. As it so happens, I stumbled upon a video of Brandon Sanderson that I had clicked on when writing about the Jason Kehe hitpiece. In the related videos tab I saw one where Sanderson broke down his 10 favourite games of all time. That sounded like fun, so I clicked on it. I was not prepared to disagree with someone as hard as I disagreed with Sanderson here.


Number 4 [favourite game of all time], Halo 2. Telling stories about Halo 2 on stream is what made me think of writing this list.

I’m surprised that Halo 2 is Sanderson’s fourth favourite game of all time. It had a truly awful campaign, essentially being broken on legendary, so much so that I used the failure of the Halo TV show to write a piece on it because I had to get that rant off my chest.

Of course, I fully admit that the multiplayer was undoubtedly ahead of its time, and very fun. I would go over to a friends house and we would play, sometimes for hours. I’m just surprised to see that Sanderson is such a fan of multiplayer games, since I would have anticipated he’d be more of a singleplayer guy.

I’m sometimes surpised that this game isn’t talked about as much as it should be. Granted, the franchise is very popular. But people tend to love either Reach, or games 1 or 3 more than they do 2.

Halo:CE, has the best writing, simple yet solid gameplay, and no bullshit like the sniper jackals. It has a mediocre plot, that can be confusing to follow, and relies on contrivances, but excellent worldbuilding. The multiplayer is fun, but essentially broken. And it’s the OG, which adds a certain amount of panache.

Halo 3 has more spectacle – although I actually don’t particularly care for that stuff – better graphics, no Combat Evolved style repeating level layouts, and a fairly solid gameplay loop without to much extra fluff. The story is fine, considering that they had to accept Halo 2 as cannon. The multiplayer is undeniably great, and superior to Halo 2’s.

Halo 3

Reach is decent, although by then they had lost me. Too much extra stuff. Armour abilities, multiple sniper rifles, AI teammates that are far too chatty. Some people like the story, I didn’t much care for it. ODST is a wildcard decent entry as well, although like I said, they had lost me by then. I tapped out after Halo 3, when they decided that Sgt. Johnson was anything other than comedic relief, and that melodrama was more interesting than science fiction.

I’m still not sure how that guy made it off Halo. 

Halo 2 totally ruined the franchise in terms of story. It retconned the ending of the first game to tell a less interesting story that was less suitable for games. It made the world feel small and generic, ruined the mystery of the enemies, and was generally very gay.

And any campaign is better than Halo 2’s in terms of gameplay, where you have to deal with these insta-kill cunts letting you experience the glory of realistically simulating what would happen if you got instasniped with no warning on a real battlefield. I thought that I was playing as a bionic god, but apparently I’m just Jasper the Jackal’s little bitch. Maybe Bungie should have included a part where, after getting sniped, I have to spend fifteen minutes watching Master Chief call for a medic before finally bleeding out.

Halo 2 however is the only one I ever wanted to replay, and I’ve done so three or four times at this point.

Spoken like a filthy casual. This is a game where, on Legendary, you can die in the cutscene at the beginning of the Gravemind level. I’m surprised he likes Halo 2 because of the singleplayer, but I bet he completed it three times on easy, then bumped it up to normal to see how the real men play. At that difficulty level, a lot of the annoying – 

It’s also the only one I ever beat on Legendary.

Hold on a minute, Goyim, I’ve got some PTSD to deal with. 

Halo has some good campaigns, Halo 2’s Legendary is not one of them. The instakill sniper jackals are the most obnoxious enemies of all time, but every other enemy they added is also hot garbage. Even the existing ones got redesigned to be more obnoxious, and reliant not on movement, timing, or clever weapon utilization, but simply point and clicking.

I used to be a huge Halo fan, and even I had no idea what these obnoxious flying faggots are called. It’s “the Yanme’e” if you’re curious, and they are undeniable garbage. They zip around like jackasses, making aiming at them annoying with a controller, and they melt your shields all the same. Here’s that same part on Legendary, where you essentially need to first cheese by timing a plasma grenade in the right spot, then cheese again by abusing your foreknowledge of where they are scripted to go after they get spawned in. 

The flying faggots fire plasma pistol shots at you, which would be great except that Bungie massively upped the speed of plasma bolts in the game, so you essentially can’t strafe around them. They also decreased the time it takes for enemies to start shooting at you. This affects every enemy in the game, and makes the game almost entirely about cheesing your way through a certain area, typically by figuring out when and where certain enemies spawn and sticking a plasma grenade on them, at least on Legendary.

By the way, I’m not even getting into all the other problems with Halo 2, such as the flood being made a thousand times more irritating, or a plethora of new weapons that ruin the tight sandbox of the first game. In short, Halo 2 is an ode to shitty game design, and Halo 2 on Legendary is simply trash.

Sanderson isn’t done with his hot take. 

It made me think on why I love this one while so many others seem to just consider it one of many in a strong, but in many ways unexceptionable series of games.

I’m not sure I’d accept that characterization. Halo:CE was huge when it was released and for good reason. So were 2 and especially 3. Reach and ODST were respectable entries. It’s only since handing the IP off to 343 Industries that it’s been generally accepted that Halo is a merely average series. At one time, it was gold.

I think part of this is that I focused primarily on the singleplayer aspects of the game, which is why there aren’t many MMOs on this list. Others prefer Halo games with a more balanced and polished multiplayer, but I like to game by myself, and I don’t really look for a multiplayer experience, although this is changing as I game more with my sons. 

The beautiful ending of Combat Evolved.

Another thing that pisses me off about Halo 2, the deletion of the health from the HUD. Health is about 70% of your total health, shields being the other. In CE, you could see how much health you had. But then Bungie was like “why let the player know when they’re about to die, creating a really hype moment, when they could instead just have no idea and have master chief seem to randomly keel over?” So that healthbar UI effect got holocausted.

If I listed everything wrong about Halo 2 I’d put those annoying 4 hour long YouTube reviews to shame, so I’ll stop here.

I really like good writing, which I suppose you’d expect. But in games I specifically prefer writing which enhances the game that I’m playing. Just dumping a bunch of lore on me isn’t enough, it has to be suited to the gameplay and the feel of the game. 

Like I said, Halo:Reach lost me, although I accept the strong quality of the game.

All of what he says here is what I would have expected from Brandon Sanderson. It’s just that in the context of Halo 2 being his favourite it becomes bizarre to the point of confusion. 

In that context, I’ve rarely encountered writing as good as Halo 2.

Who could forget when the writers BRILLIANTLY had Sgt. Johnson say “it’s classified,” when asked how he got back to earth, thus removing the obligation for them to explain how we got from the ending of CE to the beginning of Halo 2. Or when the flood suddenly had a leader, who happened to be right under this one platform in a random lake for no reason and he said “I am a monument to all your sins,” because suddenly we’re in a comic book made by retarded children.

Wasn’t that amazingly idiotic and retarded?

From the opening, with the intercutting and juxtaposition of the two narratives, to the quotes barked out by the marines, the writing in this game is… great. 

Here’s what I said in my review

The first few minutes of Halo 2 absolutely destroyed the investment I had in this Franchise. At the end of Halo:CE, the Halo Universe seemed like this real place. Dangerous, hostile, but ultimately interesting and compelling. It had a unique feel to it, not being the grimdark of Warhammer nor the psuedo-intellectual dipshittery of Star Trek or Doctor Who. It wasn’t the pretend Sci-Fi of Star Wars, nor was it the pure horror of Alien. It was fantastical, yet grounded. Comical, yet serious. Science Fiction-y, yet plausible.

So of course the writers had to utterly destroy the almost limitless potential of the original world in the first 10 minutes. How else would they tell a more illogical and less compelling story?

I’m not even going to get into how dumb the story and universe end up getting, even just in Halo 2. Elites are misunderstood good guys. The Monkey-Dudes, the Brutes, are like Native American Space Shock Troops. The Flood has this leader figure called the Gravemind that’s underneath the lake of this random planet for no reason. 

It’s fucking retarded. But it’s not like it’s retarded, but good in some other way. It’s not like they sacrificed logic, to increase the mystery of the world. No one needed to know what controlled the flood, they were way scarier before we knew. But the developers just had to make sure that we know that it’s this weird tentacle monster guy who speaks really ostentatiously about how he’s a “monument to all your sins,” or whatever. So they in exchange for destroying your ability to think about the universe for longer than 5 seconds, they also ruin the evocative mystery of said universe, all to play some cringe-inducingly terrible dialogue.

Sanderson continues.

Yes, Halo 2 was a bombastic hero fantasy about a supersoldier stomping aliens, but it had subtle, yet powerful worldbuilding sprinkled all the way through it. 

Who could forget when the writers of Halo 2 made sure to Show, Don’t Tell us that the Covenant were absolute pants on head retarded by having them sneak a bomb onto a space station they wanted blown up, only to never detonate this bomb, and have their Elites sitting around playing cards while waiting for the Master Chief to arrive there and disarm it. It would have made far more sense to nuke the MAC cannon from orbit, but the literary masterminds wanted to hint at some rich internal Covenant politics, so they went with this instead. 

And who could forget when they Show, Don’t Tell us that the whole thing was a simulation in Cortana’s machine mind, since what was happening onscreen was far too illogical for any other explanation to fit. After all, Chief can’t really break the laws of physics, so that must be what’s happening instead. Truly genius stuff. 

The only complaint I have is that it’s only half a story. As in Halo 2 and 3 feel like they were one game broken in two places. While 3 is good, and reach does something different, of which I approve in general, neither did it for me the way 2 did, and continues to do.

Halo 2 is the closest I have ever felt in a game to not being a protagonist, and I mean that in truly the worst way. It’s a game where you get to take a break from the truly putrid story to star in the jackal named xxxNoScopexxx3883’s Master Chief kill montages. You just don’t know that the jackals are the actual player characters, and you’re just a nameless grunt who gets to play because the game is glitching a little bit. What a clever subversion of my expectations!

But when you’re not getting instagibbed from across the map by the leet noscope one man killing teams, you get to enjoy the idiotic dialogue, nonsensical plotting, and universe destroying contrivances that remind you, constantly, that you’re very much playing a videogame written by people not talented enough to land their careers in Hollywood. 

It’s like they took the rocket flood from Halo:CE and said “can we top that in irritating bullshit?” And they said “yes, now let’s also have more plot holes but in a more generic story this time.” The result was Halo 2, and Brandon Sanderson’s take here might honestly be the worst video game related take that I have ever heard.

Everyone who is popular on Reddit will inevitably disappoint you.

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  1. I liked Halo 2. Halo 3 was the best one though. It’s a shame what has been done to it though.

  2. I took a glance at Sanderson’s list, and I found his taste in video games to be infuriatingly bad. Who the fuck in their right minds ranks a Final Fantasy game HIGHER than New Vegas? I suppose it should come as no surprise that he also likes Halo (a series that I also despise with a passion).

    Considering how much of a huge Civ fan he is, Sanderson should under no circumstances play any of the Paradox strategy games. He’d sink so much time into them he’d probably stop writing.

    1. FF6 is a gem. FF10 is total nonsense, with an insane, cracked out story. For a guy who claims to care about story first and foremost, that’s a bizarre choice.

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