Halo vs Call of Duty

All due respect to Battlefield and Medal of Honor, but Halo and Call of Duty are the undisputed kings of the FPS competitive console landscape.  Hey, at least Battlefield is good on PC.  First-person shooters are probably compared to their contemporaries more than any other genre, but which of these behemoths take home the console crown.  After spending some time with the recent entries in each series, we dig into five separate categories to determine which series is in better shape right now.  No matter who wins, though, we can all agree they are both pretty darn good, and much better than Medal of Honor.


Halo:  The Halo campaigns have always done a good job of presenting a variety of enemy-filled arenas cleverly disguised as battlefields.  Perfectly paced shootouts with ever-more-difficult enemy competitions and a few standout vehicle sections are Halo traditions, and the environments are usually worth exploring for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fascinating universe Bungie created.  Checkpoint balancing has been somewhat of a legacy issue, but Halo’s campagins are generally exciting affairs.

Call of Duty:  Call of Duty may get bought by the millions for its multiplayer now, but Infinity Ward proved that Infinity Ward knows how to craft a memorable campaign.  Call of Duty 2 ushered in high-definition with a solid, if unoriginal, World War 2 tour of duty.  The Modern Warfare series introduced us to the high-octane set-pieces we have come to expect from the series, and Treyarch has seen their efforts get better and better since World at War.  One of the only consistent knocks against them is their comparatively short lengths.

Edge: Call of Duty.  Halo’s campaigns are usually nothing short of epic, but going back and playing a pre-ODST campaign is an exercise in frustration.  ODST and Reach took steps to improve upon the storytelling, and 343 blew expectations out of the water with Halo 4, but Call of Duty’s explosive action and polished campaigns seal the deal for Activision’s darling.

The battle has been fought on more fronts than you could possibly imagine.


Halo:  Although Halo 4 switched up the formula a little bit, my favorite aspect of Halo multiplayer was that everybody started off on the exact same footing.  I’m not complaining about Halo 4’s multiplayer though.  I haven’t spent a ton of time with it, but it feels like vintage  Halo to me.  Halo has  (mostly) always featured an excellent matchmaking front-end, and the customization that has recently become a focus are two excellent positives for the franchise.

Call of Duty:  Let’s be honest.  This is why the majority of the people give Activision their money, and there is a perfectly valid reason for that.  Since Call of Duty 4 blew up the multiplayer servers, the two main developers behind the franchise clung tightly to the formula established in that title.   The progression based framework perfectly encompasses the in-game gunplay, creating an addictive loop that keeps players coming back for more…and more.

Edge:  Call of Duty.  It’s not perfect, but Call of Duty has created magic with their dangerously addictive multiplayer.  I’m a huge Halo multiplayer fan, mainly because I’m better at it, but it’s hard to overlook how fun it is seeing a friends list full of people playing the latest COD and jumping in.   I’m a huge fan of Treyarch’s interesting offshoot modes like Sticks and Stones and Gun Game, and mainstays like Domination and Search and Destroy offer vital departures from the norm.  I have to give Halo credit for its inventive game modes, but Call of Duty gets the nod…for now.

Other Modes:

Halo:  Halo didn’t originally offer much outside of its campaign and multiplayer offerings, but ODST introduced the stellar Firefight mode that went far beyond being another Horde clone.  Reach blew the concept to bigger propositions with its installments, while offering satisfying g Theater and Forge modes for the creatively inclined.  The alternative Halo Waypoint service is a cool, and free, way to get a clear picture of your overall Halo experience, as well as offer a prize or two.

Call of Duty:   The early Call of Duty’s, from CoD 3 and before, were purely straightforward affairs.  Treyarch added the fan-favorite  Zombies mode with their World at War installment, and since then each successive entry has offered some sort of extraneous mode.  Infinity Wards  Spec Ops were fun cooperative missions in their own right, and the ever-popular Zombies has a legion of fans all its own.  Call of Duty Elite is a nice tool for hardcore players, but doesn’t mean much to the rest of us.

Edge:  Halo.   As exhilarating as killing zombies can be with a group of friends, Firefight is a far superior mode.  The intricate points system, inventive  modes, endless customization options and the various ways it ties into your character progression are all major advantages over the competition.  Spec Ops is admittedly fun, but offers little replay once dominated.  Even MW 3’s Survival Mode, which was actually pretty fun, felt like a half-hearted effort.

Let me throw some numbers at you. 6! 19! 412!


Halo:  You can’t help but appreciate Halo’s soundtrack.  The beautifully orchestrated score has always been a huge selling point of the franchise, and it deserves every bit of the accolades it deserves.  While it may not get as much recognition, Halo has always excelled at gun sound effects as well.  They always have a satisfying pop to them, and few games do a better job at making you feel the explosions and destruction around you via sound.

Call of Duty:  Call of Duty has never wowed me with its sound.  Voice acting is rarely terrible, and the zombie characters are usually worth a chuckle.  Guns sound visceral enough, but clearly the score has never been a huge focus.  It’s never offensive to the ear or anything, but historically has done little to differentiate itself.  The series usually uses audio cues to great effect.

Edge:  Halo.  This is really no contest.  Call of Duty features solid audio, but it doesn’t even come close to Halo’s mastery of music and sound effects.  Celebrity talent litters both casts, but Halo is the true star of the console FPS realm.

Overall Story:

Halo:  The Halo mythos may be pretty complicated by now, but certain tenants of the fiction have transcended the game itself.  Reach and ODST both provided interesting departures from Master Chiefs story.  Spinoffs like the series of books and Halo Wars provided fresh glimpses into the expansive universe.  It has gone off the rails a few times, but is genuinely entertaining.

Call of Duty:  I’ll give Call of Duty credit because they probably could get away with totally phoning in a story, or perhaps even cutting it altogether.  Instead, both series (Modern Warfare and Black Ops) featured well-told stories that both provided thrilling conclusions.  The signature set pieces are enough to overlook the machismo dialogue and predictable narrative, which Black Ops has taken steps to negate, for better or worse.

Edge:  Halo.  Not to disparage Call of Duty, but the stories there are more like popcorn action flicks than Oscar material.  I mean, who really wants to dig that much deeper into the Call of Duty fiction?  Halo on the the other hand features an incredibly deep universe complete with alien races, intergalactic strife and a very devoted following.  A variety of media has dedicated entries in the Halo fiction, and it earns the clear victory here.