Maroon and Gamer: Criterion Corner of Halo 4

Disclaimer: There will be mild story spoilers included in this article. So go finish Halo 4, come back here and see if you agree or disagree with me.

Apologies to my readers who were breathing heavily at the computer and refreshing their page all day, while screaming at the computer and themselves, “When is the next post?!” I was sewing my arm and leg back onto myself after this weekend’s Black Friday deals. Also there was Thanksgiving. So after all the holiday time has passed, what is there to talk about?

Well, a wealth of things but I am going to tear Halo 4 a new one. This will be an exercise in tough love as I have been a Halo fan for the majority of my gaming career.

Starting with Halo 2 in 2004 and then circling back to Halo: Combat Evolved, I’ve kept a pretty consistent path as I’ve run parallel to the release schedule of the Halo games. I bought the Halo Graphic Novels and the novellas that expand the universe of Halo.

Then Bungie (the developers of the Halo franchise) moved on to bigger things but Microsoft was not letting that cash cow go. They built a studio for the specific purpose of making Halo games. Sure, there were some guys from Bungie who stuck around but Bungie largely had moved on. I’m just going to jump right into it with no clever segway or smooth transition.

The plot of Halo 4 is a mess. It picks up where Halo 3 left off. Master Chief is falling towards a mysterious planet to fight some ancient evil…thing. What Halo 4 fails to do is explain anything to the player.

Who’s the Didact? Why does he hate humans? There was a human-forerunner (the race of superior beings in the Halo universe that went extinct) war? When? The Librarian (another character who dumps a phone book of exposition onto the player half-way through the game) and the villain were husband and wife? Halo 4 does what Gears of War 3 did. It’s a good business strategy but a mistake for the narrative.

It assumes that you’ve done your homework by reading the novels and extra stuff. It just places characters and history in the game that has had no introduction or build-up. It’s just POOF! and everyone knows who they are.

In the other Halo games, the plot was clear: “Kill aliens until dead and save universe.” Reading the expanded universe was encouraged but not required.  Not only is the narrative a mess but the mission design was repetitive. “Chief you have to push this button! Whoops! I’m sorry, you need to go to three similar locations and press three more buttons.” Repeat ad nauseum. This doesn’t happen consistently throughout the game but when it did, it grated on my nerves.

I will say one positive thing, the Cortana and Chief storyline is masterfully brought to its most logical end after you get through one of the worse boss fights I’ve ever had the misfortune of participating in. Halo should just stop doing boss fights altogether and stick to what Halo: Reach did and just kill everyone and leave them in the desert in a hopeless attempt at survival.

Speaking of hopeless attempts at survival, the multiplayer is a chore. Not only are there ten maps released – with advertised $25 map passes that you can acquire right now to receive the maps at a later date – but loadouts ruin the game.

I’m cool with the sprinting, the hit markers and even the kill streaks. But giving every player a medium to long-range weapon turns Halo into an awful Battlefield-Call of Duty hybrid.

In previous Halo games you had to find long-range weapons, which meant only one or two players, were using them while other players had to find alternative ways to get kills. When everyone has them, you’re getting shot ALL of the time. And since everyone has medium to long-range weapons and drops ammunition for them, your gun is never empty. 343 Industries clearly played it safe and took a kitchen sink approach to what weapons were in the game and would worry about balancing never.

That’s my coin purse full of complaints that I have with Halo 4. To me, it is the weakest entry in the numbered Halo saga. But I’d like to know if you agree or disagree with me.

 

Follow me on Twitter @MaroonandGamer or send me an email to shfawcet@asu.edu