A new release always brings a league of troubles, but Halo 4 is a special case: a beloved franchise from a new studio. Thus, the challenge lies in bringing in old fans whilst establishing an identity. In that, 343 has some glaring issues that need addressing.
For Microsoft, continuing Halo was out of necessity. The series’ overwhelming popularity is undeniable, as it continues to perch toward the top on Xbox Live’s most played list. And the top playlists housing 50,000 at primetime–around 10PM–is not too shabby either.
But Halo 4 is Microsoft’s experiment, not Bungie’s. What some fans saw as meddlesome brought a new studio, 343 Industries, to instant spotlight and scrutiny–the cost of maintaining one of gaming’s popular franchises. In that comes a skyrocketed level of expectations, to match or exceed the mastery of Bungie in redefining competitive multiplayer on console.
All the tricks of the trade cannot prepare for demanding fans who are unabashedly prone to criticize and moan. It is in their right to want the strongest game possible. While Halo 4 presents a challenge to newcomers and Master Chief-playing veterans alike, it has its faults, and fans have protested loudly and proudly. 343 listened in terms of changes to Spartan Ops, an episodic series admired by the community, but there are more glaring adjustments which need fixing.
Horrible connectivity: On most multiplayer modes, especially the populated ones (Big Team Slayer, Infinity Slayer, SWAT), match lag and slow connection times are consistently an issue. On occasion it can take close to five minutes to find 16 people, and as long to connect even when a match is found. Beyond that, playing a game can be flawless one second only to suffer from connectivity breaks second later. For a high-profile title with an active online component, so many connection lapses discourages play and makes Halo less accessible.
Spartan Ops is boring: The game’s alternate mode, a series of missions set six months after Halo 4, is tiresome and repetitive. The same landscapes are used repeatedly and missions don’t mold a story as previously advertised. It’s just a bunch of random objectives mysteriously set in identical locations that makes only for good experience farming. Which is to avoid the chaos of multiplayer.
However, the latter half of season one commenced yesterday, and 343 has promised noticeable changes. For one, more varied battlegrounds allow for open-ended gameplay, feeling properly like a Halo add-on. An emphasized plot intertwines more cutscenes and mid-game radio chatter to make the story flow better.
(Spoilers) We don’t want to see Chief: This enters spoiler territory, so read on further if you have yet to beat the campaign. The Legendary after-credits scene provides an interesting nugget: the camera pans to Master Chief slowly lifting his helmet to reveal just his eyes. And that is too much.
Master Chief’s appearance is a topic of much speculation. Keeping John 117′s identity hidden is a trademark of the series, first displaying after Combat Evolved when the camera pans away. Fans have wondered about the MC’s look, though apparently he is vividly described in the novels. Franchise development director Frank O’Connor caused a stir in October when he hinted that the MC is a redhead:
“If you went down into that line and found a nerd with a deep canon Halo t-shirt and said describe the Master Chief to this police sketch artist, that police sketch artist would then produce a perfectly accurate rendering of an older man, almost painfully pale, almost albino white, with pale blue eyes, reddish hair, close cropped to a skin head, and maybe the last remnants of freckles he had when he was a kid.”
(Spoilers) Not enough Requiem: Two thirds through, Master Chief and Cortana leave Requiem to board a space station. It’s understandable that they rush due to Cortana’s rampancy, however it would have been amazing to explore more of this mysterious Forerunner planet. Not just to have Master Chief conveniently crash land on a planet of theirs only to escape later. Give players a chance to learn about Forerunner culture and architecture, inasmuch as the first Halo trilogy taught about the Covenant and Flood.
Requiem will likely come into play in a later game, or something like the MC has to visit another one to find a solution to stopping the Didact. Either way, the next Halo trilogy could do better in letting the player investigate the Forerunners if they’re to be a main enemy going forward.
More variable playlists: Halo 3 shined for its sheer amount of playlists, while Reach faltered somewhat in the category. Halo 4 is incredibly limiting in its playlist choices, and even more so with the Infinity contest playlists. That might be due to the Christmas lull.
Though, 343 did bring out one long-desired system: Community Forge Test. Picked by members of the studio, the six maps are fit for four-on-four game types with more battlegrounds to be added later. Players can then access Halo Waypoint to give feedback and suggest changes.
Added playlists usually stay for a week until 343 switches for another mode, but a week is not enough to get new players interested in other modes. Team Snipers, a beloved playlist, was there only a week when many feel it should be a mainstay. Same with Grifball, which 343 announced is coming soon as part of a rotational update. Two weeks is a more appropriate period to gauge levels of popularity and time spent playing, to confirm what must stay. (Personally, I have the time of my life hammering enemy Spartans in Grifball and would prefer to do so at my leisure. It’s Halo at its finest.)
Through this list, undoubtedly I missed some. The File Share system is a gripe among many but 343 has pledged to fix it along with a swarm of other hot issues. Leave some of your problems with Halo 4 in the comments below.
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