I Miss Playing Halo, But This Small Update Won't Bring Me Back

Once upon a time I would play Halo to the detriment of almost all other games. All I cared about was getting better at Halo. It was about learning maps inside out, memorising short cuts, practicing BXRs until it was imprinted onto my muscle memory. It got me wondering: what would it take for Halo, as a franchise, to bring me back to that level of commitment? In fact, let's scale back. What would it take to convince me to simply play Halo multiplayer again?

Today Halo 4 is about to receive an update, you can check out the details here. The update mostly involves tweaks to existing weapons, the biggest game changer I suspect will be the Battle Rifle's return to a four-shot kill weapon. The Carbine has also received a sizable damage upgrade and I suspect these changes are an attempt to nerf the overpowered DMR.

But it's hard for me to say, because it's been so long since I've played Halo 4, and I didn't really play it that much to begin with.

In all honesty Halo 4 was the game that killed Halo's multiplayer stone dead to me. In an attempt to cater to fans of Call of Duty and Battlefield the game made a number of concessions that actually ended up removing Halo's unique point of difference. Ordnance drops, upgradeable abilities — 343 tweaked the fundamentals of the game in all the wrong directions and flattened the skill gap in the least imaginative of ways.

It'll take a lot more than some subtle weapon changes to bring me back.

And saying those words is genuinely painful. I've spent a ponderous amount of hours playing the Halo series. Mastering the maps, the weapons, reading up on techniques, watching pro events — but Halo 4's multiplayer, almost immediately, felt like a waste of my time. And it's the game that put the final nail in the coffin for competitive Halo, a scene I was heavily invested and involved with.

With the next Halo game I hope 343 Industries has the personnel and the initiative to truly reinvent Halo's multiplayer in a way that respects its core audience a little more. Halo always felt unique, it had its own set of rules and a style of play that rewarded players properly, with skills and knowledge — as opposed to the gamified COD-style upgrades we have to endure now. Why not work more closely with MLG? Build a game that works for the people who will spend the most time playing? When a game feels balanced from the ground up there is a genuine trickle down effect. Even casual players, on some level, will feel it.

I noticed that Microsoft is currently hiring a new Multiplayer designer for the next Halo. Here's hoping the team strips Halo back to its core elements and creates something worth playing again. Because I really miss playing Halo.


    Kotaku writer in moaning, entitled shocker

      Kotaku commenter in whiny, complaining shocker.

        th & jem, Maybe the US writers/wanker/reposters/NOTjournalists but Mark is very level headed and writes great pieces hence the divide between the Aus and US audiences.
        I don't think this criticism to him is warranted as it is not a trend of his nor is it a bad piece of opinion in its own right.

    I completely disagree, Halo 4's multiplayer was the one I got most invested in. It still feels exactly like Halo, but with extra variables thrown in to re-master. There is most definitely skill involved, I'm not always in the top 3 in every game for no reason.

    And I do like the introduction of load outs, and the occasional ordinance drop; it mixes things up, and you adapt. Its fun. Thats what games are supposed to be.

    If the team 'strips Halo back to its core elements and creates something worth playing again', I believe it would feel painfully boring. Maybe you want to play Unreal or Quake?

      Me too if there's one thing I can't stand about the Bungie Halo games its the scavenging for weapons only to get killed by some punk with a BR and lose that shiny weapon and you can't remember where you put it. Think I might play some Halo 4 tonight in fact!

      You must clearly be tapped? Halo 4 has the worst multiplayer!!!! And I should know I hit 55 in one week played it at heaps of LANs and we all went back to play Reach! It's a strong tell that more people still play reach than halo 4 that the multiplayer sucks! They CoDified the best multiplayer shooter to appeal to dickheads who will just buy the next shooter that is released and don't have the strong loyalty that true Halo Mp fans have to stick with the same game for 3-4 years until a new one is released!!

      Good article kotaku! For once!

      And ps Unreal and Quake take a massive dump on all Cod and shitty bf games! Any day

        Yeah I liked Reach too, most people seem to hate it, cry that armour-lock is unfair and weep for the days of Halo 3 or 2. 4 isn't much different from Reach, it feels more polished, though. You're a raving lunatic, stop comparing anything to CoD, just because its CoD and by internet-rulez you must hate it. I've played my fair share of CoD, and its not bad; though you'd be an idiot to buy more after Modern Warfare 2. Have you played it much?

        I'm sorry if you don't like load outs, because it means something is 'CoDified'. Loadouts are a good idea, and I think putting another good idea into a shooter that was already great, is also a good idea. You've got the loyalty to stick with the same game for 3-4 years until a new one is released? But you've just stated you've abandoned it and gone back to Reach? Sounds hypocritical.

        Unreal and Quake are fun yeah, did I ever say they weren't? Did I ever mention CoD or Battlefield in my comment? Grow up man. Unreal and Quake are also very old games, and it shows. It shows in the older Halo games' multiplayer too. If you're anti-change and want to play the exact same game again, hey, you already own it mate.

    I actually really like the changes Halo 4 brought in. I like the fact that Halo exists somewhere between Quake and Call of Duty, and rewards skillful play rather than simply who saw who first. But in my experience most games are about whoring the power weapons and dominating sections of the map. Bungie weren't any help, actively programming in glitchy camp spots which people could exploit, for example climbing out of the map. The ordnance drops make it more mobile and dynamic and I found shootouts occurring in varied parts of the map not just the same heat zones every match.

    Having said all that, I've barely played it lately and I'm not sure why. I wish the online population was larger, as the lag can kill all the fun, for one thing.

    Maybe it's time to give it another go.

    Do they do double-experience weekends or anything? Because I've noticed that always gets a spike in the population.

    The bottom line for me is there's no good connection searching. Without this feature no amount of polished game play will distract me from the lag of playing off international hosts. I've played every Halo game since the beginning, I own the comics, books, audio books, controllers, figures, games. I adore the series, but I gave up on Halo 4 after about 3 months cause it was shocking. Halo 3 and Halo Reach didn't have these problems even years after release. I don't know anyone who still plays Halo 4 on my friends list. I want to play, I'd love to play. I don't mind ordinance or overpowered DMR or armour lock or armour abilities. But I can't stand teleporting enemies and grenades that don't appear until a few seconds after being thrown.

    The addition of a barebones mode (if there isn't one already) is in order perhaps? I can see the appeal of both modes as they appeal to different types of players. The original multi forces a player to genuinely improve and that is something that certain people definitely find more rewarding; but that is assuming you have the capacity for it. I know practice makes perfect but it's not the only factor that comes into play and some players can get swamped and left behind.

    Alternatively, COD style provides a simulated learning curve and the illusion of getting better at something which is a much more immediate and addictive way than the first to most people. This way everybody invariably gets rewarded and improves as a result of playing more and they can still get an upper hand even if they don't have the inherent skill to do so normally.

      You are a giant twat... Addiction? It's a game, It should be driven by passion, addicted games will drop Halo4 when a new CoD comes out, passionate gamers still play flawless games like Halo reach, the incentive for getting better? More kills not some shitty load outs

      What the f%#has happened to gamers ???? You all sold your soul!!!

    Well Mark, Reach is still on the table. I know I went back to it after Halo 4 couldn't deliver.
    It's still good! And fun!

    The only time I play Halo is locally, with people who don't own the game / an Xbox. So an online persistent levelling-up mode really, really ruined things for me :(

      I hear you. Halo LAN parties died for me the second halo 2 came out :(

        The PC release?

          We used to bring our Xbox to each other's house and play system link. Once Halo 2 came out no one was interested in doing that any more "because why not just go online?"

            Oh, I misread you. You see, I was having a laugh based on "the second Halo 2", instead of yeah

      +1 (local multiplayer is the very essence of Halo, Halo 4 is pathetic for LAN )

    The ridiculous lag killed the game for me. It became unplayable.

    I think Reach was what started the down-slope with Armor Abilities. But Halo 4 seemed to balance the game better. But I miss the little awesome tweaks instead of the big game-changing additions.

    I find it super interesting that you have this opinion Mark, as I am at the complete opposite end of the argument.

    I've never been a Halo fan, but I borrowed 4 from a friend and I was absolutely hooked on the Multiplayer. I have played plenty of Halo 3 and Reach with friends and online before, but with 4 I'm actually having a blast!
    I have to disagree about it being Call of Duty-fied. I feel as if 343 took a HUGE amount of inspiration from Unreal Tournament, especially in map design and the variety of gameplay options.

    To be fair, I'm not really an FPS gamer, so maybe my opinion isn't so valid, but I was always turned off the previous Halo's by how high the bar was set as far as skills are concerned. With Halo 4, skilled players still stand out, but less skilled players actually have a chance for once.

    hmm ... You've just reminded me that Spartan ops is a thing and now I can't remember what my spartan looked like.

    Guess I'll need to play through a few missions again. Thanks for the reminder Mark

    There are playlists where you DON'T have ordnance drops and custom loadouts...

    343i knew about the people who still wanted the same match types so they included it in launch.

      But you still have those specialisation things, instant spawning and drop in drop out matches. There is no true classic playlist.

      I don't think 343i anticipated Halo reach to still have more active online players either... the maps suck and those game types don't get played ever

    I haven't played Halo 4, but from what I've seen, its multiplayer looks atrocious. If I wanted to play Cawwadooty, I'd play Cawwadooty. Reach was bad enough with its loadouts. Everyone spamming Armour Lock was the worst. It's funny because Halo 3 had the best MP IMO, but it would have been way way way way better had the netcode not been absolute garbage.

    Why don't developers understand this whole Call-of-Duty-izing everything simply doesn't work when it has backfired for a few years now? Everyone loses because consumers are now fed up with being fed the exact same shit and publishers are continuously losing money because they spend so much on marketing to the point where it becomes impossible to recoup their losses. I'd go one further to say the atmosphere in the industry is a tad uneasy like it would have been 30 years ago because of all the cynicism and uncertainty of the Xbox One and PS4.

    Goes to show no-one has learnt the lessons of 1983...

    I've been saying it for months and I will keep saying it again, the lack of a local only search option is the first reason for people to not play Halo 4 and why the population doesn't exceed 30,000 anymore. Every other reason you can think of is missed to most non-US players, as the lag is too much for them to notice.

    Also, DON'T ask MLG how to "improve" multiplayer. They play an incredibly small, super niche varient of Halo that 99% of all players don't like. Get them to design it and there won't be a Halo multiplayer.

    Now is the time to revisit Halo 4. 343i have been inviting and hiring professional players and using their own talent, experience and launch mistakes quite well since the new year.

    Overall with this update they're returning to less randomness, on map spawns, faster movement and better gunplay. I played the changes last night and it really feels like the best of Halo 2 and 3 finally.

    If they can move more in the classic arena direction, include ranked vs. social playlists, create streamlined but varied settings, introduce BF3 style player toggles for matchmaking and leverage next gen X1 dedicated regional servers they have the potential to bring back the golden era of Halo 2/3 online. When they combine great developer maps matched to playlists and game types with servers, ranks, streaming, rendering, built in tournaments and customisable gametypes the sky is the lilt for Halo.


    I've recently gone back to playing Reach. 3 games in and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I'd missed it.
    Everything you've written in this article is bang on. The true thrill of Halo was the higher level thinking. Not just mindless shooting. Nothing beats the rush of being on the back foot and outsmarting the other guy.
    The lag that is present has put me off as well. I have 100 Mbps and no game I've ever played has had such bad lag. Maybe its an Australian thing.

    The Halo games just don't have enough features, gadgets and ways of defeating opposing players compared to Battlefield, or Team Fortress, or even Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. I like to muck around in multiplayer games and don't have any real interest in actually being competitive.

    The most fun I ever had with Halo multiplayer was in Halo 3 on the Sandtrap map, playing land pirates with the Elephants. 343's biggest error in design with Halo 4 was not featuring a land barge map/mode.

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