'An intriguing mess': the Halo TV show reviews are in

A screenshot of Master Chief in Paramount Plus' Halo TV series.
The Halo TV series lands on Paramount Plus on March 24. (Image credit: Paramount)

Given our passion for gaming here at TechRadar, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Paramount Plus' Halo TV show – and the initial critical reactions are in. 

Suffice to say, the first bona fide small screen adaptation of the beloved Xbox franchise hasn’t set the world alight. Among a smattering of praise for the show’s action sequences, most outlets have suggested that a pre-existing knowledge of Master Chief and company is a necessity for its narrative to make any sense to viewers. Conversely, though, it seems like existing Halo fans may not find enough here to warrant the time investment, either.  

Below, we’ve rounded up the critical responses to the first episode (and in some cases, first two entries) of the Halo TV show. We’ll be publishing our own impressions of the series very soon, too, so stay tuned to TechRadar for the low-down. 

Let’s kick off with The Hollywood Reporter. Eager to assess how Halo “functions as a television series, nothing more or less,” reviewer Daniel Fienberg said the show “has a generic story, limitedly engaging characters and a clearly high special effects budget that yields respectable but unremarkable results. In the absence of prior attachment, that’s insufficient for ongoing interest.”

Even on the matter of special effects, Fienberg wasn’t bowled over. “If you’re making a sci-fi world-building comparison, there isn’t a second here that comes close to what something like Apple TV+’s Foundation delivered on a weekly basis,” he wrote.

Variety’s Caroline Framke was a little more forgiving, leading with the opinion that Halo “feels less awe-inspiring than familiar.” 

“It isn’t the fault of [the show],” she wrote, “that it comes on the heels of a plethora of TV and streaming options that look and feel similar enough to lessen its ability to shock and awe.”

Still, Framke had kind words to say about certain camera techniques used: “Director Otto Bathurst periodically swoops behind [the Spartans] and into their helmets [...] This viewfinder perspective mimics that of what Halo players have seen for more than 20 years now when stepping into Master Chief’s enormous, armored shoes, and is a clever way for the show to bring in the look and feel of the video game without losing itself inside of it.”

Pablo Schreiber stars as Master Chief/John-117 in the Halo TV show

Pablo Schreiber stars as Master Chief in the Halo TV show. (Image credit: Paramount / CBS)

Polygon’s staffers had a particularly interesting take. Initially, the team were critical of the show’s haphazard connection to its source material: “Halo is like an adaptation of a video game series as handled by someone who played a few levels of it once in college.” 

But one Polygon reviewer suggested Halo could actually benefit from ditching the big-budget facade and becoming a full-blown CBS-style show. “This is not the Halo show I expected, but it might be the Halo show I keep watching, in hopes I latch on to the characters and the low-key plot-of-the-week drama of it all,” they wrote. "The story is a bit fuzzy early on, but one can imagine Halo clicking into a SWAT mold, or even becoming truly deranged in the mode of Paramount Plus’ Evil.”

Both Collider and IGN, however, were more optimistic about the show as it exists now. “Halo doesn't reinvent the wheel,” the former’s Chase Hutchinson wrote, “though it is solid enough to break the video game adaptation curse.”

Similarly, IGN’s Jesse Schedeen said the show “doesn't disappoint,” though added that “this isn't to say the series sets out to dramatically reinvent every facet of the Halo mythos.”

And finally, Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich published perhaps the most damning take of the lot. “I don't know what I expected from Halo,” he wrote, “but this drama comes on strong with ambient techno-babble and bureaucratic realism. It's as thrilling as a meeting.”

“Everywhere looks like green screen,” Franich added, “It's like The Mandalorian without the pucks. What is The Mandalorian without the pucks?”

So there you have it, folks. Again, it’s worth clarifying that the above reactions were all based on the show’s earliest episodes, so none should be taken as totally indicative of the quality of Paramount Plus’ Halo series overall. 

Still, it’s not a promising sign that almost every reviewer had more bad things to say than good. Here's hoping Master Chief ups the ante as the Halo TV show heads towards its conclusion. 

Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.