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Halo 4: The Disappointment
by Joshua Sterns on 11/28/12 10:12:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Fans, friends, and foes alike know how much I love the Halo franchise. The first game blew my mind, and gave me a new perspective on the first person shooter. Halo 2 and 3 were fantastic upgrades that, particularly for the multiplayer segment, raised the bar significantly for all contenders in the genre. 

Not many titles provides a map maker; campaign mode with four player co-op options; amazing multiplayer; and a recording system that captures the fun in every match played. They also provided numerous DLC packages, for a cost of course, and unprecedented website support that tracked an insane amount of stats--something previously excluded from console players. The folks at Bungie could do no wrong!

Then, years later the contenders challenged that notion. Today Call of Duty and Battlefield reign supreme for action packed shooters. The latest Call of Duty's also provide a theater mode, but still lack any map builder options. Other games like Left 4 Dead and Mass Effect 3 provide alternatives to the more traditional route that provide unique on-line co-operative experiences.

The Halo franchise responded to these changes with ODST, Reach, and now Halo 4. The first introduced a non-spartan perspective, and a new mode called Firefight. This co-operative game pitted players against unending waves of enemies. ODST was overall a neat game, but couldn't compare to the previous tittles.

The second response was Reach, a prequel to the events in the first game, which really tried hard to deliver a compelling story. I think to a certain extent Bungie succeeded. Unfortunately, by this time, the changes to the gameplay felt like a vain attempt to catch up to the new contenders.

Reach introduced armor abilities, which is arguably the most significant upgrade to the franchise. Players can now activate a variety of power ups like invisibility, or equip a jet pack. Oddly enough sprint was also an armor ability; a standard for most shooters on the current console generation. Another important feature was the pregame load outs that became available for multiplayer games.

Just like Call of Duty and Battlefield, Spartans can now sprint and pick which guns they start with. Just like Tribes there are now jet packs. The Halo franchise has an odd habit of borrowing ideas from other games, and making them a new feature. Hoping the extra topping on that old pizza makes it more appetizing.

Now there is Halo 4. The culmination of years of catch up. A new studio gave me the naive impression that something new, bold, and exciting would be produced. Especially with the big bucks from Microsoft funding this project for years. Yet after three levels of the campaign, an hour of multiplayer, and thirty minutes of the new mode Spartan Ops; I was already sick of the game.

Mind you I played many more hours since that moment and writing this post. Trying desperately to find something that I found fun and addictive. I couldn't. After playing other modern FPS games I just couldn't find the fun in Halo anymore.

Halo 4 was advertised, like all the big blockbuster games, as a the next new adventure for the Master Chief. What's so new about this game? 343 Industries took away multiple enemies, weapons, and multiplayer game modes. Guess they thought removing some of those old toppings would make that decade old pizza look tasty again.

Players face off against a Covenant force that excludes Brutes and Drones. The Flood is also absent from the campaign. To make up for their absences the developer added Promethean's (cough Mass Effect cough), which includes three new enemies. There is the flying unit that buffs allies, the fast enemy who runs in packs, and your standard strong solider. Sorry to say these additions aren't enough to make up for the subtractions, and the encounters get boring quickly.

Changes to weapons in Halo 4 echoes the issues with the enemies. The new weapons from the "new enemies" amount to nothing but clones of what was already available. A sniper rifle is a sniper rifle no matter what reload animation the game displays. I cannot think of one new weapon that was significantly different then any of the previous titles. Additionally some really awesome guns were excluded from Halo 4 like the Needler Rifle or the sticky grenade launcher.

Then there is multiplayer. Gone are such MP modes as Free for All Slayer, Firefight, and Invasion. The only significant changes to gameplay are the mech vehicle, a sprint button (finally), and strike packages that are awarded for kill streaks in certain game modes. Spartan Ops, the new co-op experience, is like CoD's Spec Ops with more cut scenes. Overall the MP was the most fun, but it also reaffirmed my disappointment with Halo 4.

Finally there is the story. The plot to Halo 4 makes Halo 2's annoying cliff hanger look awesome. Why do I have to watch hours of video, outside of the game, to understand the convoluted plot presented to me? Where's my action packed experience? There was nothing gripping, or exciting, about the campaign in Halo 4.

All in all, if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm over the Halo franchise. Short of an epic movie, I do not feel compelled to buy anything Halo for a very long time. I love the universe, but I'm sick of being disappointed. Which oddly enough reminds me a lot of the Matrix. 


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Comments


Greg Quinn
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I never ever understood the hype about Halo.

Unreal Tournament and Battlefield have always been the premium multiplayer shooters for me.
Halo IMO never came close to either.

Luis Guimaraes
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Hm, it's the first Halo I'm ever interested in...

Joshua Sterns
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Luis, if you haven't played many of the previous Halo games, then you may enjoy Halo 4. I definitely feel like I'm in the minority with my opinions about the game.

R W
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343 had some experience handling the Halo properties with the map packs for Reach in addition to having some Bungie employees working on Halo 4 so I was somewhat surprised by my dislike for the game. It felt like a watered down experience compared to previous installments.

The story reminded me of the newest Star Trek movie towards the end with a very similar battle above earth though nowhere near as interesting. I'm glad they didn't answer some questions if only to drive home the fact that Chief was out for four years but certain things were overlooked (when he rides another ships slipspace jump or why a crashed Infinity wouldn't suffer more structural damage) screams fridge logic and ruins the experience. A character comments on the history of humanity gives you a power up and never appears as if the only thing she was good for is a deus ex machina. The boss battle is less fun than fighting Tartarsauce in Halo 2 and is pretty much a recreation of the Modern Warfare 2 boss fight. A minor nitpick is how linear the jungle level was when that was the one level they could really have gone to town on to make something unique with branching paths.

Assault was something from Unreal Tournament that I really enjoyed and was ecstatic when it was included in Reach only to have it missing. Most of the maps this time around don't have memorable landmarks so I don't really have any favorites or any to get me excited enough to hop onto multiplayer. In Reach maps like Boneyard had easily recognizable and fun to fight over territory but now we have grassy knoll 74 in yet another Blood Gulch appearance.

Spartan Ops continues the trend of mediocrity and gives us the same recycled maps (in the same order) for each episode. It gives us new cutscenes and narrative but they don't overcome the repetitiveness.

The weapon set has all the staples (as far as I'm concerned the minimum they could put in) making all the previous excluded weapons a missed opportunity to provide variety that is desperately needed. Grenades seem to always get weaker with each new title and this time around they even give you a skill to make them weaker still. Its a balance issue but poorly done when you consider that a grenade is a devastating weapon rendered impotent. I'm probably most annoyed that the Thruster in multiplayer is so much weaker compared to campaign's version. You wouldn't make the warthog faster in one mode over the other so why anything else?

I really hope later titles include ideas from previous games and assorted media (such as the ODST, weapons, possibly different ammunition types) so that instead of borrowing from other games they can borrow from its predecessors to maintain some sort of cohesion between games.

Michael Joseph
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Joshua Sterns wrote:
"I found myself thinking of other games while playing Halo 4. Look that's like CoD. Hey this reminds me of Deadspace. Hmmmm now I'm reminded of Mass Effect. It's part of the reason I found the game disappointing. I didn't want to play more Halo. I was actually more tempted to replay the old games 343 borrowed from."

--

This has probably been done before but I'm not familiar with such a title, but why not a LAMPOON/PARODY/SATIRE SPACEBALLS NAKED LOADED WEAPON SCARY MOVIE version of FIRST PERSON SHOOTER.

Rip off all the other shooters, have a wide range of player characters, and just go nuts. Choose from characters like Juke Dukem, Space Marine, Laura Cross, War Mallet39.9K, Master Cyborg, Jordan Freeboy, and save the world from the invading communist terrorist aliens from hell, space & time and dreams.

You get to free the gameplay from the burden of a crappy, overly derivative, video game story and concentrate on gameplay.

Players optionally get to design their own avatar similar to one of those super hero games... design your own weapons while you're at it. Time to bring back the BFG. The game's difficult level then is a matter of how powerful your character is.

Hrm, not sure how you would anchor such a game though so that it's not completely nonesensical or disjointed. Maybe add a paper thin storyline "You are an escaped mental patient who thinks he is _________ and who sees ______ out to get him everywhere."


Joshua Sterns
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So like Bulletstorm, but funny?

Love humor, and if you have some good writers behind it....oh man that could be fun. Can the main character be called Protagonist?


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