Halo 4: Five problems that 343 can improve in Halo 5
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4) The Story
Halo 4’s story is a solid effort to humanize the Chief and Cortana. It forges a bond between the super soldier and his AI companion that comes off as heartfelt, without the questionable melodrama that Halo 3 drifted towards. That said, the overarching plot surrounding their relationship is riddled with plot holes, poorly explained, and dangerously cliched.
The Forerunner backstory has some really cool ideas, if you’re willing to dig to find them. Without hunting down the hidden terminals in the game and exploring the backstory of The Didact and The Librarian, it’s easy to play through Halo 4 with little-to-no idea of what’s actually going on. Some explanations are even locked away in a stack of novels. That’s not a good way to tell a story.
What’s worse is that the direction going forward seems to fall in line a bit too closely with other recent games. Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, and even Dead Space 3 all share a lot of the same story tropes, and that’s unfortunate because Halo has always felt like it’s own, uniquely weird sci-fi thing. I don’t know how you fix something that’s already in motion, but I’ll offer up a few ideas: run wild with the rampancy concept, go deeper into the digital world, avoid Master Chief as a Christ-figure, and fix the Forerunners, because The Didact was a chump.
5) The “30 Seconds of Fun” feels more like “25 Seconds” this time around
Halo’s campaign combat has always been centered around some simple tenants, like:
1) Smart, dynamic AI with strong relationships. Elites get killed and Grunts flee in terror, for example.
2) The gun/grenade/melee dynamic that empowers you with many immediate options.
3) The two weapon limit, forcing you to make tough calls on the fly.
4) Dynamic physics, from grenade chain reactions, to overturning vehicles and objects launched around the environment. An element of randomness that makes for some great stories.
Halo 4 makes some questionable modifications to these tenants. Some of the complaints come as a result of Halo 4’s impressive graphics. There were some clear sacrifices made for the sake of stunning visuals and a somewhat consistent framerate. Explosions are less impressive and there seems to be less debris thrown around in combat compared to the last few Halo games. What’s worse, dropped guns disappear so quickly that it’s impossible to manage your resources the way you could in previous games.
The results of Halo 4’s obsessive compulsive clean-up crew are encounters that are less dynamic and environments that feel sterile. Armor abilities, melee strikes, and grenades have been nerfed a bit as well, creating combat that emphasizes precision weapons over everything else.
Prometheans, billed as an entirely new class of enemy that would surpass the Covenant, are actually less interesting to fight. Knights are bullet sponges, while Crawlers and Watchers are mostly target practice for Battle Rifles and DMRs. That there’s only really only three new enemies only adds to the sensation that Halo 4 waters down the experience.
Most of these complaints go out the window if 343 forges ahead with a completely new vision. Halo thus far has been a lot like Mario, with it’s mechanics set in stone across so many games. I wonder if it really has to be that way though. Can Halo evolve into a very different shooter, or is it stuck in its ways? Halo 5 will either have to address these issues or toss them all aside in the name of innovation.
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