“We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter, beneath which it has prospered.”

HALO needs a major revamp

by | Jul 27, 2019 | HALO, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Seeing as how HALO Infinite is slated for release in 2020, a full five years after HALO 5: Guardians was released – which is by far the biggest gap between flagship HALO games in the franchise – here is an interesting perspective on the ways in which the current stewards of the series have “ruined” it:

I have to state right off the bat that I strongly disagree with a lot of the points made in this video.

For instance, I love the first 343i game, HALO 4.

Yes, they had huge expectations to live up to when compared with the Bungie games. Yes, they changed a lot of things in the art style and weapons design, especially relative to the the much more gritty and dark design aesthetic of HALO: Reach. And yes, 343i made a conscious decision to depart from the largely self-contained story and plotline of the first three main HALO games in favour of a more expansive multimedia approach to telling the story, which was damned confusing for a lot of people. It certainly was for me when I first played the game, because the storyline was hard to figure out without reading the Greg Bear Forerunner Trilogy – which was itself rather difficult to understand for the first two novels. (The third novel, though, was brilliant – in my opinion, of course.)

And yet… HALO 4 was a truly great game.

The combat was intense, enthralling, difficult, and engaging. The weapons loadouts were really cool – even if the Lightrifle was basically just a hybrid DMR/battle rifle with a lower rate of fire than the latter and a slightly shorter range than the former, and the Scattershot was basically just a really shitty SMG. The addition of integrated sprint made things more interesting, not less. The combat and gameplay felt far more like the original, classic, HALO: Combat Evolved than the immediate predecessor, HALO 3.

As for the story in HALO 4, yeah, there was a lot more personal melodrama involved. But I cannot possibly agree with the idea that the game made Master Chief out to be some old fart who was always wrong. The relationship between the Chief and Cortana was explored at a level of depth, and with a degree of sensitivity and care, that had never been seen before in any of the games. There was a real human element to the game, and I do think that 343i did an excellent job of balancing the desire of the hardcore fans to explore and understand more about who the Master Chief is and what turned him into the Galaxy’s ultimate killing machine, against the more casual gamer’s desire to don the Grim Reaper’s own party suit and go on a rampage without bothering with all of the little details.

H4 felt like classic HALO, updated with new ideas and amazing graphics and incredible vistas. Yeah, the quicktime event at the end of the game rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and it did feel kind of stupid to anyone who remembers that EPIC ending to HALO 3. But slating HALO 4 for having long cutscenes in between all of the action ignores the fact that this is exactly what happened with all of the other games after the original.

That, however, is largely where my disagreements end.

As I have pointed out for the past few years, HALO 5: Guardians was a massive disappointment, especially relative to its immediate predecessor.

When H5 was released, I initially gave it a very high score – 90%, or thereabouts, based on my initial impressions. And yet, even back then, I admitted that I was probably being overly generous – because I’m a massive fanboy, I love these games, and I was just over the Moon at the fact that a new game in the greatest FPS franchise ever had just been released.

Nearly 4 years of hindsight and perspective have shown that H5 was, at best, an 80% game – which makes it easily the worst game in the history of the franchise, worse even than HALO 2. I actually rate it even lower than HALO Wars, in terms of my personal ranking of the games – that is how big of a letdown it is.

Why?

Because the writing is terrible. Because the gameplay is idiotic – what kind of gaming studio makes the decision to force the player to be someone other than the iconic main character of the franchise for OVER 80% OF THE GAME?!?!? Because the music wasn’t that great. Because the combat mechanics are annoying and generic – Aiming Down Sights (ADS) makes HALO feel like… well, not-HALO.

Because… because… because…

We could go on all day long about why H5 wasn’t that good, but the fact is that the game’s writers, designers, coders, testers, and marketers were not dyed-in-the-wool fans of the series.

The people who developed that game came from very diverse backgrounds. Many of them had worked on some really cool games in the past, such as the Metal Gear, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Gears of War franchises. And that’s all well and good – those are great game series.

But they aren’t HALO.

The HALO series has a unique experience to sell. You are basically playing dress-up as an avatar of war clad in battle armour designed specifically to make your enemies shit their shorts the moment you stride onto the battlefield. You are a faceless angel of death, you are trained to fight with any weapon available to you, and your sole purpose is slaughter. Everything else is largely incidental to these things.

The combat is supposed to be balanced, intense, challenging, and immediate. You aren’t supposed to stop, aim, and shoot – you’re supposed to massacre on-the-bounce, quite literally.

And you’re supposed to be doing all of this in a truly epic Galaxy-scale sandbox that allows your inner 8-year-old to go absolutely nuts about how cool everything looks and how amazing the surroundings are.

That IS what HALO is all about – mind-bending science fiction combined with brutal, intense, and extremely satisfying combat.

And that is where HALO 5: Guardians, in particular, went spectacularly wrong.

Where the previous games were about just letting the gamer get on with the serious business of having serious fun, H5 just had to go and inject a lot of social justice bullshit into the game. And where the previous games maintained a great balance between epic world-building and keeping things tight and focused on the combat, H5 got it quite wrong by doubling the length of the campaign and putting the combat on like five different worlds or stages, and yet somehow completely missed the point about keeping the scale relatable to the gamers.

All of these problems simply have to get fixed in the next game. If they are not, then between them Microsoft and 343i will simply destroy the legacy of the greatest FPS franchise in gaming history.

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2 Comments

  1. Lynch

    IMHO Halo 5 is a mixed bag.

    The campaign was cool to play, although the fact that you can literally run around the triple warden encounter is kinda lame.

    I say it’s cool to play.. but it does shit on the last 15 years of story building. I sincerely hope they un-fuck it with Halo Infinite.

    So yeah, the campaign was kinda balls.

    But multiplayer? It’s fuckin awesome! Way better than reach, H4 or H3. The lack of BTB sucked at first but 343 did a decent job of bringing in good maps and eventually making BTB awesome.

    I am not a fan of war zone,but arena and BTB are great.

    Praying Infinite doesn’t screw the pooch… 😂

    Reply
    • Didact

      I'm a pure campaign player – never bothered with multiplayer – so I can't speak to whether or not the MP games are better or worse. But I can definitely state that the H5 campaign is the worst out of all of the games to play, and not just because the plot is totally stupid, disconnected from anything else in the actual game canon, and requires a huge amount of reading and investigating to figure out what the hell is going on.

      I found the actual gameplay to be severely irritating in a lot of ways. There was so much potential that went completely to waste. The squad dynamics came from the same guy who created STAR WARS: Republic Commando, which is one of my very favourite FPS games because of the superb squad commands and the fact that you cannot beat the game without intelligent use of all of your squad members. That game came out 11 years before H5 – and yet H5's squad dynamics were worse than SWRC, and offered no improvements whatsoever in terms of using the specialised skills of each team member.

      HALO Infinte has a lot of lost ground to make up. I really hope it manages to do the job.

      Reply

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