Halo 4 has no soul

With Halo 4 about 3-weeks old at this point, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that Halo 4 just has nothing really special going for it like past Halos did. The Campaign was lackluster, the Multiplayer component is fundamentally flawed and other parts of the game like Forge and Theater are pale shadows of their former selves.

Campaign

First let me start with what 343 did right with the Campaign. They did great things with Chief’s character and his relationship with Cortana. It tended to move towards the romantic more that I liked, but they felt like real people and not two machines, though arguably Cortana is still a machine. Now I didn’t cry like some people did, but it was satisfying.

My problems occur with the pacing of the story and treatment of the expanded universe canon that was included in the game. Let me start with the Big Bad of Halo 4, the Didact. He was the villain, but he wasn’t a very good one. His motives are relatively vague and his character in the games does not align with his character in the novels. His motives boil down to “Grr, I hate humans!” and to achieve his goal he wants to use a Forerunner superweapon. Where have we seen this before except in every Halo game ever? The Terminals, which I’ll cover in more detail, didn’t help matters either. No doubt he was bitter after the Human-Forerunner War shown to John by the Librarian, but in Cryptum 1,000+ years had passed since that event and he didn’t start ripping humans to shreds the moment he got out of the Cryptum on Earth. So why exactly is he peeved now? I would’ve prefered the Master Builder, an already established bad guy in the Forerunner Saga who hated humans and other non-Forerunner races. He would employ torture on his enemies, he repeatedly violated the Mantle and constructed the Halos. The Didacts goal of having the Forerunners rule the galaxy again would be better suited under the Master Builder.

Now let’s talk pacing, events just happened way too fast for my taste. So Chief and Cortana crash on Requiem, okay that’s fine and expected. Then within minutes the UNSC Infinity tries to contact them. I get the Infinity found Cortana’s signal, but it seems like a pretty big coincidence that they just happened to be that close to the Dawn and Requiem. Soon after that, we are introduced to the Didact. Now I wouldn’t be disappointed in that if there had been some build up, maybe have some references somewhere about a “prisoner”. But it just happens and nothing much is done with him. He is an unseen presence for most of the game and only comes out to just Force choke Chief and talk -Yoink-. And then he falls off a bridge at the end of the game like a punk.

As for the Terminals, the first problem with them is that they require me to sign onto Waypoint just to view them. I take it they were last minute ideas, but it is inconvenient since they apparently tell the story of the game more than the game does. However, the Terminals aren’t exactly clear in terms of where they stand within the lore. The first few are fine, but after that it gets weird. But then we see two Terminals with seemingly conflicting timelines. We see humans in their de-evolved state on a Halo ring and then we go back to Charum Hakkor and see the Lord of Admirals before he is Composed by the Composer. Shouldn’t these be switched? Up next we see the Librarian and Master Builder working together despite being foes for quite some time, she had to fight tooth and nail to put humans with the Composed memories of some of ancient humanity on some of the Halos and yet here they are as chums against the Didact. And speaking of the Didact, which one is in Halo 4? The Terminals make no mention of the Ur-Didact being forced into exile by the Master Builder, make no mention of Bornsteller Makes Eternal Lasting, makes no mention of Bornsteller finding the Ur-Didact, no mention of the Ur-Didact being cast into a Flood infected star system by the Master Builder, none of that.

Yet we see the Didact, whatever one it is, Composing humans on a Halo ring in the midst of the Forerunner-Flood War. Yet at this point, weren’t the remaining humans taken off the rings and put back on Earth? Perhaps light will be shed in Silentium, but it still stands at a weird spot in the lore. Other curious things missing that bugged me was the exclusion of the Primordial and Mendicant Bias among some things.

So in conclusion, I think the Halo 4 campaign suffered by being too dependent on the expanded universe yet bungles the connections and making it a schizophrenic mess. The other Halo games, quality of story notwithstanding, at least had core narratives and didn’t expect you to read every book and comic before playing.

Multiplayer

As for the multiplayer and other features, I do enjoy it in general, but it is just not up to par with previous Halos. I think almost every problem with Multiplayer, Custom Games, Forge and Theater is that everything is so limited. Halo 4 has to be the most restricted Halo games ever. Time Glitches thread really hits the nail on the head about Custom Games, as seen here. The lack of a ranking system, though something I may not care about, is pretty messed up. I’ll be honest, most of my complaints here have been made already, but better, so I’ll just summarize my main issues.

Custom Games: As mentioned above, there are just no options. I used to play a ton of Infection variants in past games and now I am essentially unable to create them properly. The widespread problems of not being able to take off Sprint, not being able to drop the Flag and gametypes just straight up gone, Assault and Race to name a few, just hurt the game for me.

Forge: Now I may not have been a high profile Forger, but I created quite a few maps in Halo 3 and Reach, but I find it hard to get inspiration with the Forge pallets with have now. The Forge environments are too small for my liking and the prefab structures ruin any ideas I have since I now have to try and incorporate or block them off. Knock Forge World for being bland, but it gave me options, heck you could even Forge underwater with some trickery and that is impossible at the moment with Halo 4 Forge.

Theater: The lack of Campaign Theater is headscratching. I get there were probably issues, but Bungie made it work for their games. True, they cut down the ability to view with Friends, but at least you could watch any game mode in Theater. This sucks because I’ve have plenty of sweet moments in Campaign and Spartan Ops that are now gone forever because I can’t save and watch them.

Sorry if this list is shorter than the Campaign one, but as I said the multiplayer issues have been brought up before, but better that I could present them.

So that ends my “rant”. The gloss of a new Halo game has started to wear off and while I will keep playing and having fun, this new Halo is just…something else. The Halo soul is absent from this one.