Halo 4 Broke My Heart

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#1 Posted by Darth_Mercer (65 posts) -

I've been writing this commentary for the last couple days, and now its finished. I did it more for myself than anyone else, but I figured I should give others a chance to read it too, just to get other peoples' feedback and opinions:


Let me begin by describing how important video games actually are. It is all too easy, from a distance, to dismiss them as a waste of time and of no particular value. But the truth is that video games are an entertainment, like film, like novels, and like television. As society advances, we come up with new ways to tell our stories. Games are a natural step in this progression, but they are unique in that they afford the audience the unprecedented ability of interaction. And like its counterparts, video games are prone to absolute trash. But there are good video games. And there are great video games. And there are even a few fantastic games, too. For my friends and I, Halo was always a fantastic series.

It was through Halo 3 that I met some of my best friends. Halo taught me how to truly have fun playing a video game, which is actually a rarity. The sandbox that Bungie (the original developer of Halo) afforded to the player allowed for unparalleled versatility and creativity entirely unique to the shooter genre. We edited maps, found out how to lag the game through excessive and never-ending explosions, but most importantly, we were having fun. Together. This is a series that has always brought people together. I suppose that’s part of the magic of Halo and, make no mistake, there is a magic about Halo.

It certainly has the deepest and most interesting fiction in the genre. Taken at face value, Halo is nothing more than a faceless dude in a suit of green power armor wasting copious amounts of alien fodder. But there is a depth to this universe. Master Chief is actually an intriguing character, having been abducted as a child and turned into a weapon to turn the tide on a growing insurrectionist war. He has never had a say in what he’s done as a soldier, and all those close to him have perished. All but one, and she’s not even human. Cortana, the most advanced AI ever created by humanity, has been Chief’s guide and friend since the beginning, and these two characters have become much beloved. And the aliens are in fact a coalition of many species, called the Covenant, unified by a zeal to collect artifacts left behind by the “Forerunners”, the oldest and most technologically advanced race to ever have existed. It gets much deeper, but my point is that there has always been more to this series than shooting things and drinking Mountain Dew. Halo is important, and it merits recognition for its contributions to video games as a whole. Bungie changed my life, and they did it through Halo.

The eventual exodus of Bungie from Halo was understandable, if not altogether sad. They are a talented group of people with an insight into making a damned good game, but Halo was always property of Microsoft, and Bungie certainly deserves to be more than a one-trick pony. The torch was passed on to the newly created 343 Industries, a team put together specifically to oversee and produce all things Halo after Reach. It consists mostly of fans of the series, presumably people who should have a good understanding of the IP. Their first act was the HD re-release of Combat Evolved, which had the prevalent appeal of nostalgia. After the complete of secession of Bungie from moderating Halo: Reach, 343’s incipient title updates tweaked the online experience in such a way, I thought, that made the game less fun to play. I shrugged it off, though, refusing to consider it an omen of things to come. 343 seemed competent and respectful of the series, and I felt that 343 could deliver and live up to the quality and soul of a series quite close to my heart.

For three years, my friends and I waited for a proper sequel to the game that made our very friendship possible. And once 343 began to showcase the game they had been working on for five years, it was difficult to contain my excitement. Mesmerized by all their “making of” videos, I had an eye and an ear on all things Halo. It is easily the best looking game to date on the 360. This game held so much promise; finally, I was going to see Master Chief and Cortana again. No more prequels, we were finally going to experience the future of Halo.

So important was Halo 4 to me, that I waited a full day to play it, because the first real friend I’d made on Xbox couldn’t get it on release day. Even Assassin’s Creed 3, the next numbered sequel in my all-time favorite series, had to wait, because Halo wasn’t just for me. It was for all of us. This was going to be our bread-and-butter for at least the next two years. We all even opened the damned case at the same time. But at that moment, I felt something was wrong. Something about it just didn’t feel…perfect, as it should have. I ignored it.

Upon finally playing Halo 4, I was excitedly impressed with the visuals and revamped, visceral sound design. What ensued, however, was a heart-breaking decent into unprecedented disappointment. My favorite online multiplayer has been utterly tarnished with ire-inducing impositions of Call of Duty tropes such as completely customizable loadouts, complete with perks and weapons camo. Weapons camo. In Halo. And on Covenant weapons too, no less. This fallacy, which has plagued not only the entire shooter genre, but others as well, is so tired, and got old years ago. Not only this, but 343 has seen fit to greatly increase the pace of a matchmaking game. No longer is there any time, nor patience for a coordinated, tactical approach. It has, quite literally, adopted the loathsome rhythm of “spawn, sprint, shoot, die, spawn, sprint, shoot, die”. Over and over again. The inclusion of armor abilities is nothing short of superfluous now. 343’s “groundbreaking Infinity Multiplayer”? What ground has been broken? All I see are elements adopted from other games! All my favorite game modes are missing; no more Lone Wolves, no more double team, no more multi-team, no more Invasion, no more head hunter. Oh, and the oddball ball is no longer a flaming skull, by the way. Their contextualized multiplayer only makes the whole thing less fun. And I cannot excuse the honestly stupid inclusion of the mech, or “mantis”. This is easily the cheapest vehicle in the game. Coupled with another player in a banshee, the team with both vehicles will win. All game-breaking aside, the introduction of a mech contradicts the established fiction of Halo. The entire purpose of the Spartan Project was to make a walking tank. It goes without saying that putting your walking tank into another walking tank is gratuitously redundant. As a whole, it would seem that the mantra of “all players are equal”, which was once a trademark of Halo multiplayer, has been completely deleted. There is no skill in getting a kill anymore.

But these thoughtless transgressions are only the tip of the iceberg. The campaign for Halo 4 was built upon additional fiction established in peripheral mediums, such has books and graphic novels, and otherwise never addressed in the games. This game essentially ignores any of the stories and resolutions established in previous games. The war with the Covenant ended, their leadership was decimated, and Elites seceded from the pact. Lo and behold, however, you are fighting Covenant. And there are Elites, too. Nothing, literally nothing, was done to justify their presence in the game. But there are new enemies, too. Halo 4 introduces the “Prometheans” along with the new villain, who is apparently called “the Didact”. (Can you say Tron?) Upon his introduction, however, the player doesn’t learn his name. The characters do, though, and refer to him casually. This is just one example of making the player feel like an awkward third wheel, and it is brutally annoying. The story is poorly told, and relies on hidden collectibles to brief you on important plot elements; this is just wrong. After having beaten the game, I still feel none the wiser. Who the hell is the “Librarian”? And who the hell is the “Didact”? Oh, and Cortana’s progressive degeneration? Her blatant and exaggerated embarrassment over her circumstances is honestly a misrepresentation of her bold and brave character. I won’t go into any more specifics, but the intimate story 343 tried to tell is admirable at the very least, but I found myself literally laughing at numerous points in the game. The campaign was a drag to play, with a crappy frame-rate, and potentially fun setpieces that, for lack of a better word, sucked. (Broadsword mission)

Adding to an overall lack of content, Firefight, Halo’s wave-based cooperative survival mode is nowhere to be found, but rather replaced by “Spartan Ops”. It consists of short missions recycled from the campaign. Pretty cool, huh? Firefight afforded players a fun replayability factor. Spartan Ops simply does not.

For all its visual prowess and excellent sound design, Halo 4 is a hollow attempt at a sequel to an amazing series. It is sorely lacking in any of the style, personality, and substance that its predecessors carried with such charm. 343 Industries deserves no impunity for their mishandling of a series quite sacred to the culture my friends and I have developed online; Halo is important, it changed our lives, and it taught us how to have fun. But this entire product feels like bad fan-fiction, and I am appalled that this is what has become of one of the most iconic series in video games, and for that reason, my investment in Halo, on emotional, spiritual, and monetary levels, ends with this offensive, soulless piece of trash. 343 has failed me, and they have failed Halo. Their bumbling impositions of shooter conventions and incoherent storytelling are indeed telling that this once fun and unique series has run its course. It was great while it lasted.

#2 Posted by big_jon (5723 posts) -

Nice opinion you've got there.

#3 Posted by Pinworm45 (4088 posts) -

The campaign was definitely pretty fucking awful, but this is by far the best halo game in terms of multiplayer, so whatever. Hopefully they step it the fuck up for the next game.

#4 Posted by AgnosticJesus (544 posts) -

You got bigger issues to deal with than Halo 4 not living up yo your expectations.

#5 Posted by MariachiMacabre (7077 posts) -

Haven't I seen this thread 15 times in the last two weeks? Yeah the story should have been explained more. I think 343 has a really cool story that they're trying to tell but I wish they were less afraid to make their cutscenes longer. Explain some of the stuff going on. Regardless I thought the campaign's premise was an excellent start to a new trilogy. The multiplayer also happens to be fantastic. Much more fast paced than previous entries and it's keeping me interested far longer than 2, 3 or Reach.

#6 Posted by Dad_Is_A_Zombie (1225 posts) -

I disagree with the wall of text.

#7 Posted by Demoskinos (14778 posts) -

Well hey aren't opinions a funny thing because this is the BEST halo in my mind. I feel that Bungie was just holding this franchise back.

#8 Posted by Pinworm45 (4088 posts) -

@Demoskinos said:

Well hey aren't opinions a funny thing because this is the BEST halo in my mind. I feel that Bungie was just holding this franchise back.

Serious question, do you feel the same way about the campaign? If so, what did you like about it?

#9 Posted by SlashDance (1814 posts) -

Halo 4 broke my heart with its kinda sad ending, but I liked it a lot.

#10 Posted by JasonR86 (9659 posts) -

Now you need to take it out fishing and shoot it in the head while it says a hail mary.

#11 Posted by laserbolts (5319 posts) -

Yeah the campaign is absolute shit but I don't mind the multiplayer.

#12 Posted by Eidderf (506 posts) -

@Pinworm45: I can't speak for the story since I'm only a couple of levels in but I'm enjoying the levels and various set piece moments, fighting through the jungle using the predator visor thing was pretty cool and the ghost escape through the collapsing valley was pretty great too. The levels generally seem well designed with a nice mixture of sort of tighter corridor sections and wide open areas. I'm not finding the story particularly bad so far but putting that aspect aside since as I said I haven't experienced it all, it's a solid paced campaign that plays pretty well, may not reinvent the wheel but it's still fun and the new enemies and weapons add enough to it to keep it fresh.

Oh and it all looks really nice too.

#13 Posted by Nightriff (5027 posts) -

@JasonR86 said:

Now you need to take it out fishing and shoot it in the head while it says a hail mary.

Is this from a movie? I've seen this type of set up referenced many many times before

#14 Posted by pandorasbox (303 posts) -

I personally enjoyed Halo 4 more than any of the previous Halo games. Everything from the story to the presentation was expertly done and infinitely more replayable. The only place i feel the ball was dropped is in the "spartan ops", which is a poor substitute for firefight.

#15 Posted by Demoskinos (14778 posts) -

@Pinworm45: I haven't played much of the campaign yet. I just fucking went straight into multiplayer. The other night when I hit the XP cap though I ended up fiddling around in the Single Player and did the first Mission Solo Legendary and had a pretty good time. From what I've seen i've enjoyed the dynamic between Chief and Cortana. Its sort of oddly sad to see Chief so emotionally invested in cortana. Especially if you view it from the angle that he has never had friends he was kidnapped as a child and indoctrinated and Cortana has been his only friend. Cortana's breakdown from the rampancy sets the stage for some interesting things. I'm hoping they pay that off but we'll see.

#16 Edited by Gantrathor (205 posts) -

I don't think that Halo 4 is a terrible game. It's very well made, for the most part. However, I did find it profoundly disappointing. I've been playing Halo since the beginning, and when booted up Halo 4, it finally dawned on me how little the series has changed over the years. The incremental improvements to the gameplay weren't enough to keep me interested. I was basically going through the motions while fighting The Covenant. Even just dropping The Covenant would have been enough for me to hang on to the game. But they're still there... Still there. I'm glad that people are enjoying it, really I am. But Halo 4 doesn't offer anything that I wanted out of a new Halo game. I would rather go back and play through the original trilogy again for the sake of nostalgia.

#17 Posted by Phatmac (5725 posts) -

Whatever dude, the game is great. This is coming from a guy that has played a lot of halo and loves Bungie. It feels like a Halo game and looks incredible. That is all I need.

#18 Posted by JasonR86 (9659 posts) -

@Nightriff said:

@JasonR86 said:

Now you need to take it out fishing and shoot it in the head while it says a hail mary.

Is this from a movie? I've seen this type of set up referenced many many times before

It's from the second Godfather movie.

#19 Posted by Nightriff (5027 posts) -

@JasonR86 said:

@Nightriff said:

@JasonR86 said:

Now you need to take it out fishing and shoot it in the head while it says a hail mary.

Is this from a movie? I've seen this type of set up referenced many many times before

It's from the second Godfather movie.

Dammit I need to rewatch it then, been years since I have seen it.

#20 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5353 posts) -

@Nightriff: Fredo, we need to talk

#21 Posted by Nightriff (5027 posts) -

@Fredchuckdave said:

@Nightriff: Fredo, we need to talk

Spoilers god dammit!

#22 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5353 posts) -

@Nightriff: It's okay, I know you want respect. You're smart; not dumb like everybody says.

#23 Posted by SuperWristBands (2266 posts) -

I agree with you on pretty much everything but the multiplayer gameplay as I haven't played it yet (though I feel that locking weapons is pretty stupid). Campaign was frankly boring and I laughed at some places as well. The new weapons are pretty boring and other than the boltpistol none of them seem to stray to far from their counterparts (light rifle is the god damn DMR mixed with a Battle Rifle). There are only three new enemies (watchers, knights, and crawlers) which you fight for ~50% of the game and only the crawlers feel good while fighting them. Knights have so little indication that I am actually doing anything and take way to long to kill. There are quite a few more things as well but I'll end the negative part of the rant by just saying how fucking dumb that door is when you have to mash the x button to open it. God damn. That shit wasn't interesting back when I first saw it in God of War and it is still really stupid now AND THEY NEVER USE IT AGAIN! I seriously can't figure out why that was even there.
Despite the above, I still think the game is competently made but it is definitely the worst Halo shooter I have played and I'm kind of surprised so many people don't seem to agree... oh well, nothin I can do about it. AlsoSpartanOpsisanawfulreplacementforfirefight.
There, all done. Feels pretty good.

#24 Posted by adam1808 (1457 posts) -

@pandorasbox said:

I personally enjoyed Halo 4 more than any of the previous Halo games. Everything from the story to the presentation was expertly done and infinitely more replayable. The only place i feel the ball was dropped is in the "spartan ops", which is a poor substitute for firefight.

I don't think we can judge Spartan Ops until the first season has finished.

#25 Posted by YOU_DIED (702 posts) -

@Nightriff said:

@Fredchuckdave said:

@Nightriff: Fredo, we need to talk

Spoilers god dammit!


#26 Posted by KaneRobot (1548 posts) -

I like Halo 4. Including the campaign. I don't consider it the best or anything, but it's a good foundation. Hopefully they come up with more stuff that is a departure from the older games when the new console shows up.

#27 Posted by TBird13 (107 posts) -

Personally, I'm liking Halo 4 a lot. Sorry it broke your heart though, that's a shame.

#28 Posted by mordukai (7150 posts) -

Personally I think the Halo games have always had a shitty sound design. This game is continues with that tradition.

#29 Posted by Aleryn (704 posts) -

While I don't agree with all your points of disappointment with the campaign, I have the same overall feelings about it. It's terrible and it's the worst by a long shot in the series. I don't think Bungie has a spotless record since I didn't like Halo 2 or 3's campaign all that much either, but 4's is in a whole other dimension of bad. Especially after the highpoints of ODST and Reach.

It's too bad you don't like the multiplayer, while I agree that it's very different from previous incarnations... I enjoy it. But heck, I like Call of Duty multiplayer about as much as I do Halo's. I just REALLY HOPE that Halo 5's multiplayer doesn't venture any farther into Call of Duty land. Better have Firefight though...

#30 Posted by Darth_Mercer (65 posts) -

I just think as consumers we should demand quality, innovation, and substance. I found none of these in Halo 4.

#31 Edited by pandorasbox (303 posts) -

@adam1808: Why not? It's the format i have an issue with, and they're clearly not changing that format. It's a crappy knockoff of "spec ops" from COD, and it's done poorly.

#32 Posted by adam1808 (1457 posts) -

@pandorasbox: Because all the content hasn't been released for it and it's all technically part of that package. It's a co-op campaign, you can't judge a single-player campaign based on the first level, same goes for the entire co-op experience.

#33 Posted by pandorasbox (303 posts) -

@adam1808: I don't think you understand my issue with it. It's a campaign, and a BAD one. I can totally judge it for what it is thus far, because it's clearly not what i am looking for. It's also an opinion, and you aren't going to change it.

#34 Posted by GetEveryone (4455 posts) -

@Dad_Is_A_Zombie said:

I disagree with the wall of text.

It's has paragraph breaks. It's a written, long form piece of criticism (not to say that it doesn't look horrible, but it's hard to make the written-word look attractive on a comments-board).

It's strange seeing such divergent opinions. I wonder whether, had you looked out all the extraneous details regarding the fiction (assuming they are collectibles ala Bioshock), whether you would have thought the plot was any more servicable than it was.

Having not played it yet, I'm not one to say. I'm still excited to play it. Reach felt quite dated, as far as the campaign was concerned, so I'm still interested to see where 343 have taken it.

#35 Posted by adam1808 (1457 posts) -

@pandorasbox: What it is thus far is incomplete. If you have a problem with it being a campaign then fine, but the jury's out on whether every single piece of it is objectively bad as it hasn't been released yet.

#36 Edited by BoOzak (908 posts) -

I agree with the story complaints. I enjoyed the campaign, but incorporating stuff from the novels without any explanation in-game was a bad idea. I like the Halo games, but it's fiction is fucking stupid.

As far as gameplay's concearned though, i'm enjoying Halo 4 more than Reach, and Firefight sucked in my opinion. I have yet to try Spartan Ops but if it's just a worse version of FF then i'm in no hurry.

Yes Halo has adopted the CoD formula but you can still make games without personal loadouts and fast respawn times. I am surprised that there wasnt a "Classic" equivalent in matchmaking to address this. Maby if enough people complain they'll do this. Personally i'm enjoying the new multiplayer it's not as if Halo 2 onwards were the most methodical games ever. I found the first Halo to be more strategic but that might be because I mainly played LAN 3v3 and over Xboxconnect. (56k dialup *shudders*)

#37 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@Darth_Mercer said:

It certainly has the deepest and most interesting fiction in the genre.

If by deep you mean a lot of convoluted nonsense tucked away in books that are barely mentioned in the games, then yes.

Otherwise, no. Also what genre? FPS? Deus Ex could be called an FPS in part and that's way better at storytelling than Halo has ever been, so is BioShock, Half-Life and well, I'm not going to list them all.

#38 Posted by WasabiCurry (422 posts) -

It is refreshing to see some negatives with any game. I may not be the person who necessarily will agree with your opinion on all the points given, but I have to say that I damn well respect your criticism of the game.

If people didn't get so offended about their favorite game / genre not being the pinnacle of perfection, maybe we could actually have a great discussion~

Kudos to you, Darth_Mercer, for making a good piece.

#39 Posted by Darth_Mercer (65 posts) -

@Sooty said:

@Darth_Mercer said:

It certainly has the deepest and most interesting fiction in the genre.

If by deep you mean a lot of convoluted nonsense tucked away in books that are barely mentioned in the games, then yes.

Otherwise, no. Also what genre? FPS? Deus Ex could be called an FPS in part and that's way better at storytelling than Halo has ever been, so is BioShock, Half-Life and well, I'm not going to list them all.

Yes; in retrospect, the phrasing of that particular statement was bold, but this piece, as should be obvious, was written in angst. I'm not certain you were paying attention to the games if you whole-heartedly disagree with a depth to Halo fiction. I've hardly had any exposure to the outlying mediums, and I understand the story of the Halo universe fine, but not only that, I find it interesting. But opinions are what they are. I never meant to convert anyone to my standpoint, just wanted to show fans of Halo 4 that there are those that won't be force-fed what 343 has served up.

#40 Posted by Lukeweizer (2655 posts) -

I've never given a shit about Halo campaigns. I only play it because the multiplayer has it's moments.

#41 Posted by believer258 (11814 posts) -

Couldn't help myself.

#42 Posted by TheSouthernDandy (3859 posts) -

Sorry to hear it was that disappointing duder. I'm gonna have to disagree completely, the storytelling in the campaign could have been handled better (Reach still trumps it for me) but all the Chief/Cortana stuff was really well done. And the MP feels better then it ever has for me.

#43 Posted by indieslaw (343 posts) -

Halo 3 was the best love story ever set within a head.

#44 Posted by Shaka999 (470 posts) -

Why do you people like the sound design? the guns sound fucking awful.

#45 Posted by TheSouthernDandy (3859 posts) -

@Shaka999 said:

Why do you people like the sound design? the guns sound fucking awful.

Are we playing the same game? The guns sound better then they ever have. A few like the Suppressor and the Storm Rifle sound a bit weak but the rest of the guns sound amazing. Assault Rifle, Beam Rifle, the Rocket Launcher, Railgun, those guns are beefy as hell.

#46 Edited by MideonNViscera (2257 posts) -

He's right about the shoot die respawn shoot die thing though. Instant respawns, everyone has sprint, everyone has a long range gun 100% of the time. Power weapons out the ass and you never know who has them or how many. It's pretty fucked up. It's fun to play, but it's not very Halo. It's far less strategic.

#47 Posted by Z3RO180 (230 posts) -

the campain was awesome and the sad ending was just epic.

#48 Posted by bigsmoke77 (788 posts) -

I COMPLETELY disagree with you about how it doesn't take skill to get a kill in multiplayer, Halo's TDM use to be about opening routes (which is still there) and then it was about staying in a group and then watching the clock so you could be the first to get the power weapons that respawned every 90 secs. Now its about building up points to get an ordnance drop, i.e. if you suck you will not get rewarded for being in the spot where the sniper respawns. The class creation is not that big of deal, your limited on your gun for like a match or two and it doesn't take long after that to have full fledged out class. They needed to create a multiplayer system that would keep people around, I remember after BLOPS came out everyone sold their copy of Reach because the used section for 360 games was packed with them. They needed to create a system like COD's where it would keep players grinding for challenges and unlocks thats the FPS multiplayer model these day. They also restrict the types of playlist at the start and eventually expand them. Your complaining about the lack of change and too much change at the same time, 343 created a HIGH production value Halo, what did you expect? They opened themselves up to create a more original game next time around, I hope they take themselves to a ODST type level of creativity and originality.

I found the ending really interesting because Spartan 2's are supposed to be messed up mentally, which is pointed out at the start of the game with the interview with Dr halsey. So how do you think Master Chief who suffers from Schizophrenia (i.e. Finds it hard to tell the difference between what is real and not real, has difficulty thinking clearly and having normal emotional responses) is handing the loss of the only person/ love that he ever really knew. If i was a betting man I bet Master Chief goes AWOL trying to finish off the Didact for ending Cortana because he fell but probably didn't die for some dumb reason.

#49 Posted by huntad (1931 posts) -

The only thing I agree with in this wall of text that I skimmed through is that Firefight is not back and that sucks. That is all.

#50 Posted by Masin (131 posts) -

I seriously don't get why everyone is complaining that Firefight wasn't included. Firefight was fun and everything, but is didn't have a certain replay value to me. The I view Spartan Ops is a whole other campaign that still sets me against waves of troops. Spartan Ops is probably my favorite thing about Halo 4 seeing as how I get the Halo 4 campaign and another campaign following the Spartan IVs. The story of exploring Requiem through episodes is definitely going to keep my playing and waiting for the next week to get another piece of the story. But, opinions are opinions, and that is mine.

The campaign for Halo 4 is the strongest in storytelling, in my opinion, Since Halo: CE. I'm referring to numbered Halos, Not Reach or ODST (Which is my favorite in the series) Halo 2's story was weak and Halo 3's, while enjoyable, didn't live up to 4. I guess I didn't realize that everyone else wouldn't know who the Librarian or the Didact was or how the Covenant was reborn. I'm heavily invested in the books with the Halo Universe being my favorite Sci-Fi universe next to Star Wars. But, reading these comments, I definitely get that people would get really confused.

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