If I had to review Halo 4 in one sentence I would say this: single player, brilliant. Multiplayer? Yeah, I’m still making my mind up about that…
First the single player.
Has there ever been a video game series as fundamentally misunderstood as Halo? With the exception of Metal Gear Solid, I’d say no. At times even Bungie itself seemed to misunderstand its own creation, layering its universe with an impenetrable sheen of pointless lore when all we wanted to do was look at the world and gape our jaws at the sheer size of it.
What made the original Halo so interesting was scale, and what cemented that experience was the core of Halo — the economy of its weapon structure, the mini eco-system of its encounters, how it felt to fire weapons. The balance of it.
It’s a difficult thing to replicate — to recreate that experience of wonder and discovery — and Bungie itself often struggled. So its very interesting to see a brand new development team, with a (mostly) fresh set of eyes, take to the task and do such an incredible job.
Halo 4’s masterstroke is to take The Covenant for granted, and confuse us all over again with a brand new type of enemy. The Covenant are familiar, doing battle with them is almost comforting. The Forerunners? They are a genuine shock to the system — new tactics, new weapons strategies — while most of us understand how to manage almost every different Covenant situation that could possibly be thrown at us, dealing with the Forerunners is completely different, and provides a whole new set of problems for us to solve. This is fun — rewarding in the way video games should be.
As a Halo veteran, as someone with thousands of hours of online experience behind him, Halo 4’s multiplayer has been… problematic. I don’t really mind the addition of loadouts. It’s been an adjustment, but I can handle it. I don’t even mind the idea of levelling up in order to upgrade those loadouts. I don’t necessarily like it, but I can bear it. Even if it does go against the idea of balance that Halo has always rigidly stood for.
What I can’t handle is the idea of Ordnance drops. Allowing the player to actually spawn power weapons on the map willy nilly.
Ordnance drops completely shatter the idea of weapon control in Halo 4. And in the process subverts the idea of map control, eliminating an entire layer of strategy from the multiplayer experience. In a sense Halo was the last arena type shooter — the kind of game that set its weapons on the map and had players fight over them. Towards the end, as Call of Duty and Battlefield became popular, this style really became Halo’s point of difference — a point of difference that made Halo the go to shooter for competitive players. Ordnance Drops ruin that balance by allowing players to access power weapons constantly, almost randomly, which removes the shape of Halo’s play, making it more chaotic.
I’m not really enjoying that.
But it could just be me, and what I’m used to as someone who has played an extensive amount of Halo. Plenty of people — including professional players — actually really like the new settings.
Me? I’m shaking my fist at clouds.
I’m really keen to hear everyone else’s thoughts. I’ve had my little rant — what do you guys and girls think of Halo 4?