In this Halo: The Master Chief Collection Beginner’s Guide I go over the various difficulty levels and what kinds of players I recommend play on them. This guide is by no means objective, but I’ve been playing Halo for sixteen years now and have a fairly good understanding of the mechanics of the game.
Hello all! Perhaps you are new to Halo as a franchise, new to video games, or a returning fan who just hasn’t played in a while, this guide is a detailed description of the various difficulty levels in the series.
The amount of options can be intimidating to someone inexperienced with the franchise as the difficulty in-game descriptions are, at best, vague. But I hope to use my experience to help clear up what choice someone may want to make.
Halo Combat Evolved
Halo Combat Evolved is the first game in the franchise and is, by far, the best balanced and therefore has the most “fair” difficulty of any of the games. For this reason, my recommendations may vary from future games. I will be listing bullet points that indicate reasons you may wish to choose a difficulty in question, as well as a brief overview of what that difficulty is like.
Easy’s name says it all. In this mode, enemies have very little health, and do far less damage to the Master Chief. This allows for an experience that is not punishing even for those without technical skill at video games. There is, contrary to what a toxic community may have you believe, no shame in playing on Easy. Easy is a good choice for people who are new to video games in general and thus may need a mode that is very forgiving. It allows accessibility to the game for those who otherwise might not be able to play it.
The main reasons to play on Easy are:
-Speedrunning for the par time achievements
-New to video games as a whole, particularly if someone is either very young or very old.
-Learning the controls/mechanics
-Being drunk but really craving some Halo while blasted
Normal is the next difficulty up from Easy and is set as the “standard” by 343. Bungie considered Heroic to be the way the games are meant to be played but 343 seems to have chosen to balance around Normal, so for this reason you will find playlists for the games are often set to this difficulty.
Normal is not an overly difficult experience and will become very easy once someone is familiar with the game’s mechanics and controls. Despite this, there are perfectly valid reasons to play on Normal no matter what the skill level of the player is. Damage to the player is at it’s default value and enemy health is reasonable. Normal is more forgiving of mistakes than higher difficulties but you will find yourself dying if you make mistakes that Easy would allow.
The main reasons you may choose normal are:
-Playing the playlists built into MCC
-Trying to get through levels at a reasonable pace. Normal is a good choice if you want to play some Halo on a lunch break from work, for instance.
-Being a first time player of shooter games but not of video games as a whole. If you’re already comfortable with a keyboard/mouse or controller but don’t have experience with the shooter genre, Normal may be a good starting point.
-Wanting to learn strategies for approaching enemies. Normal is a good tool for learning enemy weaknesses, i.e. practicing snap headshots on grunts and jackals or sidestepping elites.
As Heroic’s description in-game says, Heroic is the way Halo is meant to be played. It is a decently challenging experience that will still forgive minor mistakes. Heroic is my personal favorite difficulty as I find it has the best balance between feeling like a badass supersoldier and difficulty. There’s nothing wrong with playing on Heroic even if you’re very experienced, either.
Enemies have slightly boosted health and do a bit more damage. Some weapon combinations that were feasible on Normal or Easy are not as valuable on Heroic. The most obvious example being the needler which will be practically useless within a larger crowd of enemies due to the Halo CE needler being the slowest and arguably weakest in the series.
On Heroic, enemies of higher ranks become somewhat more common and you will at times face more enemies than you would on Normal or Easy.
Many of the achievements for different in-game feats require you to play on at least this difficulty.
Reasons to play on Heroic may include:
-Bungie’s intent was for this to be the default experience and thus for the sake of artistic intent you may wish to play this.
-This is a good choice for first time Halo players who have experience with first person shooters as a genre as it provides a fine amount of difficulty.
-It’s fun as hell.
Legendary is the highest difficulty included by default. One could go higher and do LASO but that’s a subject for another time.
Legendary is the least forgiving difficulty. Enemies do much higher damage, have way higher health, and there are more of them. You will find that marines are even more useless than ever before as they will struggle even against grunts.
However, since Halo CE is well balanced Legendary is firm but fair and you will not find yourself dying to unreasonable things very often. Almost all mistakes can be avoided by correcting your approach to scenarios.
Legendary is a rite of passage in the community, so to speak.
Reasons to play Legendary are:
-Good for those seeking a challenge.
-If you have something to prove.
So, you’ve made it through CE and are onto Halo 2. Halo 2’s development was quite a mess, and there are many documentaries on it should you be interested. But for the sake of this guide the only thing you need to know is that Halo 2’s balance is….poor, at times.
For that reason, you may find yourself enjoying Halo 2 on a lower difficulty than you did Halo CE. The specific reasons for which will be delved into in each section.
Easy remains more or less unchanged from Halo CE. And therefore my recommendations for why you’d play it are more or less unchanged. This mode is still good for beginners to video games as a whole and for those looking to speedrun.
You may choose Easy in Halo 2 if:
-You are going for par time achievements
-You are new to video games as a whole, especially if you’re very young or very old
-Only care about the story and not the gameplay
This is where the guide changes from the Halo CE section. Halo 2’s Normal difficulty is only slightly easier than Halo CE’s Heroic difficulty. For example, elite melee is an instant kill even on Normal and you will likely find yourself still dying on occasion, moreso than on Normal in Halo CE. For that reason, my list of reasons to play on Normal will be slightly different than for CE.
You may play Halo 2 on Normal if:
-You are displeased with the imbalances of Halo 2 but still want to enjoy it’s story and gameplay
-You are new to Halo as a Franchise but have experience with video games
-You hate Jackal Snipers as much as the rest of the community does
-Brutes are as annoying to you in Halo 2 as they are to the rest of us
Heroic in Halo 2 is where things start to get a bit..different. Enemies do far more damage and at times can melt you in seconds, making this difficulty far less forgiving of mistakes than Heroic on Halo CE.
You will find yourself dying on occasion to things that seem entirely contrived. Jackal snipers are far more common and have many more spawns on Heroic than on Normal. Brutes are bullet sponges unless you bring a precision weapon, and elite melee is, as you guessed, still instant kill.
You may play Heroic on Halo 2 if:
-You enjoy the core gameplay of Halo 2 despite it’s quirks and can forgive occasional BS.
-You want achievements locked to Heroic or higher
-You want to respect the artistic intent and play Halo 2 “as intended”
-You find Normal not challenging enough but don’t hate yourself enough for Halo 2 Legendary
This is the section most of you were waiting for. Halo 2 Legendary is best described as a joke at the expense of the player. Jackal snipers are almost always instant kill and will snap shot you in under a second if you are not careful. Brutes are essentially invulnerable except for headshots. Elite shields feel like they’re powered by nuclear generators, allowing them to survive direct rocket launcher shots. Ultras and zealots are everywhere.
The Iron skull is also forced on meaning if you die in solo the entire level resets. It’s not uncommon for people to take hours to beat a single level.
You may play Halo 2 on Legendary if:
-You hate yourself
-You love jackal snipers
-You want the Legendary achievements that definitely aren’t worth the suffering
-Actual war wasn’t challenging enough for you.
Halo 3 returns to normalcy after Halo 2. The difficulty imbalance is addressed and overall the game is incredibly polished. I will say it’s not AS balanced as CE but it’s still quite fair. Three is a fan favorite gameplay-wise for a large section of the community.
Difficulty wise it’s easier than Halo 2 but has less balance than CE.
Easy on 3 is probably the easiest in the series. You could probably play this in your sleep. Still, it has some value to it.
You may play Halo 3 on easy if:
-You only care about the story
-You are missing one or more limbs
-You are new to videogames as a whole
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Normal on Halo 3, it’s about as average as possible difficulty wise. For an experienced player it will likely prove too easy. Still, it’s a fair pick for your first time playing Halo 3.
Normal on Halo 3 may be for you if:
-You are not new to video games but are new to Halo
-You are going to play one of the default playlists
-You wish to get through levels somewhat more quickly
Heroic is extremely well balanced on Halo 3 and my personal favorite way to play it. The game is still somewhat forgiving of mistakes but isn’t too easy.
Heroic on Halo 3 may be for you if:
-You are new to Halo but used to shooters
-You are a returning player looking for a more casual experience
-You wish to play the game the way Bungie intended
Bungie learned from the mistakes they made in Halo 2 and have crafted a more well-balanced Legendary in Halo 3 that is far fairer. Make no mistake, it will still be extremely difficult, but many of the issues that made Halo 2’s Legendary unfun have been corrected. Iron is no longer forced on and Jackal snipers are hard-coded to miss the first shot and are much more visible.
You may choose Legendary in Halo 3 if:
-You are looking for a challenge
-You wish to get Legendary-exclusive achievements
-You wish to get the last terminal’s full message
Conclusion (For now)
I hope this guide has been helpful. I’m going to leave it here for now. If you’d like an expansion of this guide covering Reach, 4, and LASO difficulty for all games, just let me know in the comments.
Thank you for your support.
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Also, we would like to thank Colt. He is the one behind this wonderful guide.