Fair warning: This is most likely going to be a massive wall of text. You have been warned.
I’ve been a fan of Halo since the very first, Halo 2 was pretty much my life when I finally got Xbox Live in 2006, I bought an Xbox 360 because the announcement trailer was pretty gosh darn amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a game in my entire life - the multiplayer sounded awesome (and certainly played awesome in the beta), the campaign was going to be amazing, Forge, Theatre, four player online co-op. Bungie really pulled out all the tricks on Halo 3, and it mostly lived up to my expectations - I’ve poured about 700+ hours in to Halo 3 (according to Raptr) so I’d say that speaks volumes.
ODST and Reach followed, and are both great games, though to me Reach felt a little half hearted in some of the decisions Bungie made - the addition of loadouts was kind of a cool idea, but its implementation feels a little flimsy, same with some of the armour abilities, some just didn’t feel that well thought out, and some were basically straight copies of the equipment that was in Halo 3. It sort of felt like Reach was trying to change things for the sake of changing, but was too scared to fully commit to those changes. I had lots of fun with Reach, but not as much fun as its predecessor - it’s still a very good game though.
Now 343 is at the helm and to be honest, I was a bit worried first. The franchise is firmly in Microsofts hands now - how is Microsoft going to milk Halo for all its worth? The quality of the games would surely decline so Microsoft can cash in. I was totally apathetic to Halo 4 for a year - I saw the E3 trailer, was curious but I didn’t venture on to the Halo Waypoint forums to speculate or have fun considering the “what ifs” of Halo 4.
Then E3 2012 came along with one of the slickest campaign demos I’ve ever seen. Dat live action segment, it melded in to the actual gameplay seamlessly, and the game itself? Gorgeous. It’s like Halo 3 on steroids, I didn’t realise how much I missed the bright, vivid colours of the past Halo games that we didn’t have with Reach. And the sounds and the soundtrack, everything was just so well put together that I couldn’t ignore it any more, I had to pay attention to Halo 4.
But it’s only the recent information that’s really got me excited for Halo 4 - the newest campaign vidoc has set my hopes quite high, because as well put together the Halo universe is, I don’t think any of the games have had a particularly interesting story to go with them (I realise many of you will contest that, but that’s a different thread entirely). I always thought the expanded universe in the books was more intriguing, though I haven’t read the newer books about the Forerunners (Grasslands I think?).
I’m excited for Halo 4 for several reasons:
1- An interesting dynamic between characters, and finally, some drama. Contrary to what a lot of people will think, “Oh Jeez, I don’t want to be bogged down with all this drama”, I think it actually makes a story more interesting. Cortana battling with her mortality raises the stakes not only for her and the Chief, but also for the player. You’ve been with her all this time, you don’t suddenly just want her to die do you? She’s a character the player’s invested in, it will make the campaign so much more exciting and emotional for the player, not just a standard run and gun, balls to the wall action game that saturate the market so much these days.
2- 343 is not afraid to make changes and commit to them. We’re seeing it with CTF (I think it looks great, by the way), we’re seeing it with players having loadouts they can pick for themselves, and most importantly: 343 is not afraid to be ambitious about these changes. Take a look at Exile, the newly revealed map. Apparently this is a “medium” sized map according to the latest Bulletin and yet in any other Halo game it could pass as one of the largest maps in the game. I’m excited for the possibilites of BTB now, and if the changes aren’t to your taste? I can point you in the direction of Halo 2 PC, Halo 3, or Halo: Reach. I’m happy that Halo 4 is its own game without being bogged down by gameplay mechanics that are over ten years old. It’s time to move on. I think that everyone saying that “Halo is ruined” are being incredibly hyperbolic.
Anyone else remember when Halo 2, 3, and Reach ruined Halo? The Halo fan base comes up with the exact same arguments for every release.
343 has come in to Halo 4 with a clear mindset of what it wants to achieve (at least that’s the impression I’m being left with), and they’re not just copying from Bungie, they’re grabbing the franchise by the horns and turning it in to something they can claim as their own. I have respect for that, and I can respect Microsoft for having the balls to let them do that. I thought Halo was starting to get stale (I haven’t played Reach for a while), but maybe a change in developers was all that was needed.
To 343 I say this: Keep doing what you’re doing, because you’ve obviously got this all under control. The game looks awesome, it sounds awesome, and it looks fun as hell to play.
TL;DR: Halo 4 looks like it’s going to be the best Halo game for a long time.