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The Unreasonable Stance: Nostalgia aside, Pac-Man still beats Halo in every category

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541px-pacmansvg.pngI don’t know why people even bother with Halo when all it’s done is rip off Pac-Man. Furthermore, even though Pac-Man predates Bungie’s lauded trilogy by more than two decades, it still trumps it in every gameplay area – all retro nostalgia aside. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some cold, unyielding facts:

Pac-Man controls better. With zen-like simplicity, the control scheme of Pac-Man is simultaneously restrictive and liberating, like a haiku. A chimp can and has learned to play – and well! – but only a master can grasp the subtleties so cunningly hidden beneath that 4-way joystick. Meanwhile, the nightmarishly complex interacting analog motions of the Xbox’s control sticks, combined with a virtual candy store of colored, lettered, and numbered buttons, makes control of Mr. Chief an inexact science at best, and a sloppy art at worst.

Pac-Man looks better. Take a gander at this screenshot – I dare you to count the objects on screen. The pellets alone defy enumeration. Notice, as well, the vibrant and well-chosen color scheme and (if you can) imagine the smooth animation giving life to each character. Halo, by comparison, is mostly green and gray, the diluted colors of diluted art direction. Not only that, but your viewpoint is limited to what is in front of you, while Pac-Man lets you enjoy the entire game world at once.

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Which has better graphics? Ummm… Pac-Man is in color! Duh!

Pac-Man plays better. What is it exactly that Halo‘s much-touted AI allows its 3 types of enemies to do? Hide behind rocks? Shoot in your general direction? Bravo, Bungie! The mental capacity of a caterpillar, brilliantly emulated by the wonders of modern technology. Pac-Man, however, not only boasts more kinds of enemies (4), but a greater variety of behavior. Each ghost has its own personality, offering both varied gameplay and food for deep thought: Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde each represent a different fundamental philosophy in the face of danger. Who do you identify with? The warrior? The copycat? The lurker? Or perhaps… the coward?

Is there anything at which Halo betters Pac-Man? I will admit that in its storyline, Halo approaches this. But the skill with which Pac-Man completely, but almost undetectably, lampoons the modern human condition is too much for Halo‘s space-opera yarn to aspire to, despite its epic scope. Pac-Man established video games as serious narrative art, and when Ms. Pac-Man was released in 1982, it showed they could be sexy, too.

But let’s be even-handed here; what are some of the criticisms of Pac-Man? “It’s the same level, over and over!” Oh wait, that’s a criticism of Halo. “The main character doesn’t have a face!” Oops, Halo again! You see, you can’t fight it. Even after 20 years of “innovation,” Halo can’t take on Pac-Man on a level playing field.

Unreasonable Stance is a column in which on CrunchGear writer tries to argue for the other, not usually accepted, side. Sometimes it’s satire, sometimes it’s trolling, sometimes it’s gibberish. Most importantly, however, it is an attempt to see a technical issue or product from another perspective, something we rarely do in our compartmentalized, partisan world.

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