Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Halo Bashing --- Ryviews Ryport

Halo 5 was recently given an official title (Halo 5: Guardians). That announcement was accompanied by a flurry of speculation and guesswork about what's to come in the latest Halo adventure. However, the news also came with large numbers of people complaining about how disappointing Halo 4 was, how the series has gone downhill ever since Halo 2, or how little they care about Halo 5. In fact, at the time of this writing, on Game Informer's reader poll for "Are You Excited For Halo 5: Guardians?", only 45.8% said "yes".


So what's with all the Halo bashing?

If I'm candid, I was reluctant when becoming a Halo fan. I was mostly exposed to the game by my friends in high school who owned an Xbox (I did not). And I didn't like it one bit, because they always wanted to play multiplayer, and with no experience I was terrible. It was an unbearable, torturous experience for me, and it definitely didn't make me seek out the games.

I eventually did buy Halo: CE for the PC, and when I finally purchased an Xbox 360 a few years ago I fell in love with Reach. Since then, I've been a devout Halo fan and I for one am eagerly awaiting the Halo 5.

Now, am I surprised by the level of negativity associated with Halo news? I must say I've experience this kind of thing before, being a big fan of the Simpsons. Any kind of long running media, be it a 25 year old show or a decade old franchise, people always long for the glory days. Pessimists complain that the true nature disappears and the fans are left with a shell of the former perfect vision. And I think usually, this boils down to rose colored glasses for the past.

I, for one, do not miss dual wielding. I like my grenades and melee attacks.

Most Halo fans I've met who have been around since the beginning will tell you that Halo 2 was the best game for multiplayer. Having not been around for those days, I can't personally comment on it. But it seems to me that most people see that as the best because it was the first. It was a pioneer for Xbox Live matchmaking and for multiplayer FPS gaming in general. I'm not saying it doesn't deserve praise, but I highly doubt that it was significantly better than the multiplayer in Halo 3 and Halo: Reach.

I know, for me, Reach is my favorite multiplayer experience. I enjoy it more than Halo 4. But guess what? It was my first exposure to Halo matchmaking. I definitely think that contributes heavily to my enjoyment of it. To this day, Goldeneye is my favorite James Bond film, and I think it's because it was the first one I saw. That's a pretty common occurrence, where a first experience becomes overly hyped in your mind. And I think that's the problem people have with 343's stewardship of the Halo franchise.

Halo 4 was, at its core, a story about two partners past their prime but still fighting. Cortana is descending into rampancy and Master Chief is a relic of an old era, now being replaced by new leagues of spartan soldiers. And I think it's a very powerful, emotional story. And if you look at the nuances that 343 put into the game, from new audio to a new faction of enemies and weaponry, it's pretty impressive.

Plus, did you see his visor in this game? It's bitchin'...

Some fans and critics complained that there weren't enough new enemies in the game. There are only 3 types of prometheans to fight. But guess what? Halo: CE didn't have much enemy variety, either. Since then, the depth of the covenant has expanded significantly, and The Flood was comprised of reskins and they didn't have their own weapons. Not to mention the fact that the fighting style of the Knights is a serious divergence from any other enemies previously seen in the Halo franchise. It was new, it was innovative, and it was impressive.

Now, we have another game on the horizon, which promises to deliver something else. It could be a rehash of what's come before it, but I'm guessing there will be a fresh mixture of new features and old favorites. Every game in the main series so far has introduced new weapons and new enemies. I don't see any reason to believe that Halo 5 will divert from that pattern.

I understand that people want a return to the grandeur of Halo 2 and Halo 3, but if you get right down to the details, I don't see a dip in quality across the games. I see a constant upward trend of refinement and a constant mantra of introducing fresh multiplayer modes to keep players engaged.

If you aren't excited about Halo 5, I don't think you're giving 343 Industries enough credit.

Please comment to let me know your own thoughts!

Until next time,

Ryan




Pictures courtesy of Microsoft Studios

25 comments :

  1. Well written and thought out analysis.

    I would add two (2) things:

    1) Halo 2 introduced a significant speed up in the overall pacing of Halo multiplayer experience. Halo: CE multiplayer was, as I remember it, much more methodical and resulted in a slower experience when compared to any of the later Halo titles; it was still wildly enjoyable at that pace.

    2) Halo 2 had some weapon balance issues. The energy sword on Lockout comes to mind; you could hold the high ground with very little issue and the sword never ran out of energy. I think that unbalanced multiplayer is preferred by experienced players because it allows them to dominate a game, and that's fun to do. Later installments of the Halo franchise did a better job at balancing the whole multiplayer experience, which means the casual or new player has a better chance at winning an encounter with an experienced individual, which said experienced player doesn't find as fun.

    -JC

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the input!

      Since I was a latecomer to the Halo franchise I never experience Xbox Live multiplayer on any titles before Reach.

      I'm definitely someone who hates it when the players who know where all the drops are can dominate a match, and I've experienced that first hand. That's why I personally play lots of SWAT, it levels the playing field.

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