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Out Of Every Halo Game, This One Stands Above The Rest

When it comes to a video game series that transcended its genre and set the tone for any and all games that would follow, Bungie's "Halo" certainly fits the bill. Released in 2001, "Halo: Combat Evolved" was one of the Xbox's first exclusive titles. To that point, Microsoft's first foray into console gaming had gone terribly wrong, with the Xbox losing out to Sony's PlayStation 2 at almost every turn. Upon "Halo's" release, however, new life was breathed into the Xbox console, allowing it to build momentum and become viable competition for the PS2.

Following "Halo: Combat Evolved," the series went on to become one of the most influential first-person shooters in recent times, and its competitive component via the Xbox's 'system link' — still in its infancy and not truly online just yet — was easily the genesis of the eSports craze that has dominated the modern gaming landscape. However, one entry in the series definitely stands above the rest.

Halo's story is one of the most celebrated of its time

Outside of the multiplayer, the story of "Halo" has been one of the most lauded in gaming history. Taking place in the distant future, its plot centers on an interstellar war between humans and an assortment of alien beings, known collectively as the Covenant, who possess multiple superweapons — known as the Halo Array — capable of completely wiping out their foes. The player assumes control of Master Chief, a human war machine and Spartan (this universe's equivalent to a supersoldier) responsible for helping the human race fight against the galactic invaders.

The impactful story and multiplayer of "Halo" has seen it yield massive success since its original iteration back in 2001, spawning 11 games — not including remasters — that include an assortment of both dedicated sequels and spin-offs. With such an extensive library, players and critics often debate about which entry is "Halo's" magnum opus. While this argument will likely rage on throughout time, there's one game that stands above them all.

Halo 2 is undoubtedly the best of the series

"Halo: Combat Evolved" is often thrown into the conversation as being the best of the series, mostly due to the fact that its gameplay is incredibly balanced, and because it's what started it all. However, being first doesn't guarantee being the best.

When judging what is the best and worst "Halo" game, many things must be taken into account, such as the game's overall quality when it comes to story and gameplay. Nostalgia always has its place, but should never the defining attribute that sets a game apart from its successors. With all of that said, it's hard to say any game in the series tops "Halo 2" when it comes down to overall quality.

"Halo 2" took the brilliant blueprint put forth by its predecessor and improved upon it in almost every way imaginable. The sequel to "Halo: Combat Evolved" greatly added to its lore and story by introducing a second questline in which players became the Arbiter, a Covenant soldier of the Elite class destined to die on the battlefield due to his failure to prevent the destruction of one of the Halo Array's 'rings'. While the game also included a Master Chief storyline, the juxtaposition of the two quests made the game even more nuanced. It's safe to say that "Halo 2" changed gaming entirely.

Halo 2's release changed gaming forever

In addition to this ambitious story arc, and some improvements to gameplay, "Halo 2" represented a cultural shift by cementing the concept of blockbuster video games, and being the turning point in which the video game industry had officially overtaken Hollywood in terms of generated revenue. Prior to release, "Halo 2" had a record-high 1.5 million pre-orders. Within 24 hours of its release, well over 2 million units had been sold, grossing over $125 million.

"Halo 2" was also warmly received by critics. To date, the game holds an impressive 95/100 critics score and an 87/100 user score on Metacritic. The sequel to "Halo: Combat Evolved" got perfect or close-to-perfect scores from major publications, with a perfect 10/10 score from Game Informer, a 9.8 from IGN, and a 9.4 from GameSpot.

Outside of its rave reviews, "Halo 2" redefined multiplayer games as we know them. The game was among the first to implement random matchmaking as opposed to custom lobbies, giving "Halo 2" a huge competitive base that was the genesis of the modern eSports blueprint. An online component helped "Halo 2" maintain popularity as the world's most loved online video game until being overtaken by fellow Microsoft-exclusive property "Gears of War" in 2006.