I wrote a pretty long response, so I thought I’d copy it here.
I don’t make any bones about my preference for Halo over GoW, so I agree that Bungie’s universe offers a richer opportunity for cinematic quality. Bungie made their name in the 1990s with the Marathon trilogy of games, which was not only the Mac alternative to Doom but also the alternative for those who wanted a little story with their shooting. As complicated as Halo 2‘s storyline is, it doesn’t even come close to the criss-crossing timelines of Marathon: Infinity.
As I said in a comment on Sean’s blog, Epic sacrificed a lot of the story elements to make room for graphics and gameplay. And Epic isn’t exactly known for its storytelling (their former most-popular product, Unreal Tournament, doesn’t even have a campaign mode). Bungie, on the other hand, made their name with story.
I’m not saying GoW’s story isn’t interesting. It’s just a bit too derivative (really, what major sf franchise doesn’t it poach from?) and, as I’ve written several times, somehow manages to be both convoluted and thin. What bothered me most, though, was how little I cared about the characters, particularly Marcus—despite the fact he was voiced by Bender. The only characters I liked were Dom (“‘Sup bitches!”) and Cole (“The Train’s at home on the rails!”).
Somehow Bungie made me care more about a faceless guy in armor and an AI construct.