Well, from "why change anything? " to "why stray too far?" there's quite the difference. It is a mater of interpretation, many fans see the old Halo games and see a cartoony game, but when I see the old Halo games I see an attempt to make a realistic game holded back by dated hardware. With the exception of Halo 3, it looks like to me that all Bungie's Halo got progressively darker and darker, and always more detailed and complex in art style. That may likely have been caused by advancements in console technology and game development. If you interpret Bungie's path in that way, it's almost expected to make the seequels darker, more detailed and realistic. (Halo 4 was not darker than Reach and that's a very good choice imo) . With the more realistic art style, the designs had to be more realistic too, so 343 tryed to design things in a more grounded way, almost like if those designs were taken from what they would looks like if they were present in real life. Did they take it too far? Yeah, a bit imo, but the direction was good. The biggest mistep was the design of the Prometheans. By the way Halo Reach designs were already quite different from classic designs. Change is always needed in some capacity unless you want the new game to be a copy of the previous one. A 19 years old design, held back by technology, kind of begs for some innovation.
Instead of the approach I’ve been taking, which is defending my position, let me try to communicate the idea to you by instead asking you a question, which is : Why change anything or stray too far from the Bungie era designs in the first place? 343 picked up a continuation of a series but treated the art, gameplay, music, and story almost as if it were a reboot, which it’s not. I can’t think of a any reason anything should’ve been that drastically overhauled in the first place. And it would seem 343s only reasoning was “they didn’t want to be Bungie,” but that’s a rather conceited way to enter into a project where you are carrying on with what some other studio started.
If you don't care about the lore, why do you care about the campaign at all? You should just play the multiplayer and enjoy older Halo campaigns, not hold back the new Halo for some nostalgic reasons. Imo Halo Infinite souldn't keep looking and feeling exactly like it's a game from 2006, there's already Halo MCC for that.
I preface this by saying, even though I already made up my mind and won't buy, nor play Halo Infinite, I still have cared about Halo for the longest time. One of the many different reasons I won't play HI is the character design. I am not the biggest expert in design, but I like to think I know a thing or two, and one of the things I know quite well is storytelling is a fundamental aspect of good design. In particular, the old Covenant design was simple, purple and shiny because the religious cult of the Covenant values uniformity, rules, rigor, elegance, luxury and power (and things like that). The Banished are a high-tech, brutal, tactical coalition that uses rough edges, scrap metal and red color (if I'm not mistaken). The old design is out of place and confusing in this context. The old design tells the wrong story. This is bad design, it's fundamentally flawed. As much as you don't care about the lore, it's wrong and disrespectful to completely ignore it and tell a different story with your design. I'd like to hear from another concept artist or a character designer their take on this topic.I don’t give a -Yoink- about the lore, the game looks like it’s supposed to, and it looks fantastic and not whatever the -Yoink- the last two games were supposed to be, so I plan on buying it unless some other horrible news comes out regarding multiplayer or micro transactions
I understand your logical progression but Bungie never let the cartoonish element go. They just got better at stylizing it and adding grit to appeal to both younger and older audiences. I don’t think they were ever held back, I think that CE and 2 looked exactly how they intended and ODST, 3 and Reach just improved on the formula.
If you want an example, and just imo what I think Halo should look like, let me point to Forge World on Halo Reach, along with that style for the covenant and UNSC. I think that is the ideal Halo look. And I don’t think I am alone in that regard at all.
I think to start there and take it forward with small details in Infinite would be the ideal. Brutes need details like skulls hanging from their armor, broken or dirty armor pieces. Beards, goatees, Mohawks, etc.
I think the classic style was intentional and it’s evolution was great all the way up until 4, at which point I think it completely jumped the shark. If you took Halo off the box art and title, and took out the characters of Master Chief and Cortana I don’t know if I’d even recognize it as Halo, I would probably think it was a fan made knock off in a call of duty engine.