Halo 4: The Halo Killer?

With the current iteration of the powerhouse Halo franchise nearing its two year anniversary and the announcement earlier this summer of its sequel, as well as the Master Chief Collection, I felt it necessary to analyze where Halo stands today, as compared to before the release of Halo 4, and why many people are not as receptive of the current path that new studio 343 Industries has taken the franchise.

Yes, I know many people have already had comments on this topic, especially since the game is nearing the one year mark, but I have some opinions that I feel need to be addressed and that may help explain at least some of the reasoning behind the negative response Halo 4 has garnered.

Halo was long considered the gold standard for FPS games. It was the most popular, the best looking, and played the best. It was a game that many other developers wished to emulate, they wanted to make the elusive “Halo Killer”, a game that would finally topple Halo and become the best. Many developers made massively successful titles that people gave that title, but Halo endured and thrived all the same.

I could go on, but the point is, even after five games spanning almost a decade, Halo always stayed on top. No game ever claimed that “Halo Killer” title, even though many came close and some even outperformed a Halo game. Part of that success was the consistency of the franchise. Spanning all their titles, Halo maintained a familiar feeling that complimented the changes that they administered to the latest iteration. Be it the fantastic score by Marty O’Donnell, the familiar cast of characters, the tight controls, or the deliberate and methodic pace of gameplay, they always remained constant. I feel that this is one reason Halo stayed so prevalent for so long. That’s where Halo 4 comes in…

Halo 4 is the most recent title for the main Halo franchise, now developed by 343 Industries after the departure of Bungie from the Microsoft fold. This title still was a massive success in terms of critical reviews and financial success, despite the helm change, but this success was short lived, as months after the games release, the player population dropped dramatically, and the view on the game shifted negatively. Today, Halo 4 sees very low server population for a game of its caliber, and even has fewer players than its predecessor Halo 3 since its release as a free title.

So why the change? I believe Halo 4 is so disappointing in its performance and public image because of how much changed, and how the game is trying to emulate the games that once emulated Halo. Changes such as the ability to sprint for all characters, and an “ordinance drop” point-streak system similar to Call of Duty, as well as a class creator system for weapons. This set of changes completely altered the pace and feel of Halo, and so much so that it was dropped from the pro gaming circuit because of how random the gameplay became. This style of gameplay isn’t in traditional Halo style, and many players were upset by the changes.

Other changes such as visual aesthetic changes to the main characters, the departure of Marty O’Donnell for the score, a lack-luster single player campaign, the removal of the popular Firefight co-operative game type, and the changes to the UI that made it difficult to find players and friends in a lobby also divided the fan base. Thus, the game fell out of favor with many players and the game suffered as a result.

I believe that we have finally found the elusive “Halo Killer”, ironically from within its own franchise. Halo 4 was a definite success, make no mistake, and was a good game on its own, but a game in the Halo franchise has to be more than that, otherwise look at the result. Even Halo games that were considered poor by their standards fared better then Halo 4 has, because of the radical direction that 343 has taken the franchise.

I don’t believe that Halo is “dead”, per se. I feel that it has just become a different game, and that the old Halo will never be able to return as a result. So yes, Halo is, in a sense, dead and we need to accept that as the next generations of games evolves, Halo will as well, no matter how much we don’t want it to.

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