So these are some honest and constructive thoughts I’ve had in my head for a while now, pertaining to aspects of Halo’s identity that Microsoft and 343 seemed to overlook, which could explain the divided reception of 343’s direction with Halo among classic fans including me. This isn’t to start a flame war, or to hate on 343 or Microsoft, but an honest discussion of why I think there is a divided community and fans constantly brining up the classic games in discussions. And I’m hoping to get honest, constructive feedback from classic fans and new fans alike.
Let’s be honest: video games are a business. As soon as Bungie left in 2007, Microsoft wanted to continue making business with the Halo brand name. They wanted to make sure that Halo 4 was popular, by catering to what they thought people wanted, looking to popular gameplay/mechanics of other shooters (CoD, whose influence is clear on Halo 4). This I believe is one significant factor for Halo changing/losing it’s original identity with Halo 4. Another factor of this change comes from 343. If you look back at the 343 ViDocs, before the release of Halo 4, the developers kept saying they wanted to take Halo in a new direction and make it “their Halo.” I mean at one point, during Halo 4’s development, 343 was considering replacing all the original voice actors (Master Chief, Cortana, Announcer); this is according to Jeff Steitzer himself, the guy who voices the Halo announcer (in a youtube interview with Ultimate Halo). This mindset is why I think Halo 4 underperformed (relatively speaking). It seems Microsoft thought fans just loved the franchise in general, not necessarily for its specific gameplay or other artistic aspects. So they assumed fans would buy and love anything with a Halo skin on it. And 343 wanted to essentially make their own game with the Halo moniker and lore; they wanted to implement their own creative game ideas even if it meant distancing themselves from, or even breaking, the original formula.
So 343 and Microsoft collectively missed why fans absolutely loved Halo: the entire package of unique and quirky music, distinct gameplay, and an inspiring and captivating lore and story. If “weapons, grenades, and melee” are the golden 3 things of Halo’s gameplay, then 1) Gameplay 2) Music and 3) Story are the golden three things of Halo’s original identity. You can’t just radically change the gameplay and atmosphere of Halo, and expect established fans to love the new games just because it has the same lore/story. We loved the entire package, as a wholesome work of art.
This is why I think whenever new developers pick up a series, they have to respect and continue what the previous developers did and keep developing in that established direction, if they wish to retain the old fans and continue their identity and legacy. If that is not a concern, then they should let themselves do whatever they want to, it’s their intellectual property. But what this means is that, among fans who love the classics, no one wants zero change. We like positive change, which builds on earlier work. Halo 2 built on Halo 1, it wasn’t the same. Halo 3 built on Halo 2, it wasn’t the same thing. I and many others wanted Halo 4 to build on Halo 3 in just the same manner, but instead 343 and Microsoft wanted to change directions completely, as if they wanted to use the Halo brand to do their own thing. Until recently, it truly seemed as if 343 did not want to build on the previous trilogy. But there are some recent signs that they may finally be looking back at the classic games with due objectivity and introspection; we might see more classic aspects of Halo’s identity return in future installments. Let’s see what happens. What do you folks think? Might this explain the difference between the first trilogy and the second and their receptions among the community?