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.