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What's Missed About Halo's Classic Identity

OP Halo 117 Chief

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?
I do know that there was criticism of the 4th game's campaign, particularly on legendary. Many of the enemies fought, particularly on the promethian side involved battles with bullet sponge enemies. So many encounters were eventually solved by spamming shots from far away until the enemy was dead. Previously this was addressed in halo by having a system where weapons did bonus damage on the enemy and on giving you more firepower to deal with stronger targets.
In the halo 4 campaign, the most common promethian weapons (boltshot, suppressor) were ineffective and often super inaccurate.

This is an issue with gameplay that isn't necessarily involved with halo specifically but in games in general. Any game that is tedious or super repetitive will make it more difficult to play.

In halo 5, the gameplay in the legendary campaign was improved because they gave more weaknesses to the promethians and improved on many of the weapons. There was criticism for the warden eternal being a repetitive boss, but when treated not as a boss but more as a powerful enemy (much like the wraiths in 1, or the scarabs in 3) it is just another addition to the game to play, and once the proper strategy is discovered, can be fun. Halo was never really a game that had the appeal of boss fights.
While gameplay was improved, a lot of criticism was given to the story of the game, whereas in 4 I think it was received better. It can be said that the story changing in a new direction directly affected how halo 5 was received because stories are specifically connected to the franchise.
I would argue that going in a new direction may have changed the franchise towards going in a negative way. Some of the issues however isn't something that is specific to halo but something that is frowned upon in general. (Common flaws in games being boring gameplay, nonfunctional features, less content for the same price etc).
I would argue that going in a new direction may have changed the franchise as going in a negative way but some of the issues isn't something that is specific to halo but something that is frowned upon in general. (Common flaws in games being boring gameplay, nonfunctional features, less content for the same price etc).
I agree, many of Halo 5's issues are actually common to the industry as a whole. I would add to that list of common issues these: microtransactions (req system). Because I haven't even tried the free Halo 5 multiplayer even on PC, I'm not one to bash the gameplay. But from what I've heard through others who have played the game and felt disappointed, some of the gameplay decisions seem to have been made to cater to the competitive playerbase (esports). Perhaps if they had designed the system to be fun for casual play as their priority, the gameplay would have been more universally appreciated.
I miss how Halo used to be back in the Bungie days. Why fix what isn't broken? There was nothing wrong with Halo to begin with but 343 thought otherwise. Just because the industry changes doesn't mean everyone else has to follow suit. One of the few companies that I can think of that hasn't changed a game series after acquiring it from the original creator is the "Gears of War" series when The Coalition took control from Epic. Their first game was Gears of War 4 and its amazing! The Gears of War series was already amazing as it was so The Coalition took that and built on top of it. Something I believe 343 should have done with Halo instead of disassembling it and trying to keep up with trends in the gaming industry.
The Coalition took that and built on top of it. Something I believe 343 should have done with Halo instead of disassembling it and trying to keep up with trends in the gaming industry.
Exactly
I miss the huge community it once had. I am not saying the people here now are not good enough or anything of the sort, but back during Halo 2 it was such a huge deal. Everyone played Halo 2, and many people used their mics so it was easier to make friends and build up some custom games.

I think it has less to do with 343's direction and more with the introduction of party chat and gamers during that time getting older and having more obligations outside of gaming now. Party chat really did a lot of damage to the community in that aspect.
I agree, I think party chat may have made the games a lot more quieter now.
343 did an amazing job with the new and improved Forge, the Customs Browser, and Warzone (although Warzone does have its flaws and shortcomings, I'm just assuming it may be unsatisfactory in some aspects only because it's a new, untested gameplay concept to the halo games. If they were to try bringing it again to halo 6, for example, I'm confident that 343 would have learned from halo 5 and made an improved, perfect Warzone that's as epic as the first one).

However, in almost every other aspect they have disappointed me. When I try to compare halo 4 and 5 to the classic halo games, I see no resemblance to the game I grew up playing. It is possible that if I had never played Bungie's games, and only started playing halo games at halo 4 and 5, I would have seen the games as incredibly awesome and fun, but having prior experience playing the classic games, when I play 343's games all I can do is make countless comparisons between the two different properties.

It is hard for me to draw accurate comparisons between the Bungie and 343 games and state clear points on what aspects Bungie did better for some points, however, as I am constantly plagued by surrounding fans who keep saying that the 343 games were rubbish in every way, and thus my judgement is clouded by bias on this issue. I'll try to be as objective as possible.

One thing I feel very strongly about that Bungie did way better was, not the gameplay or the plot, but the games' soundtrack! To this day I can play any of the games' themes and different soundtracks in my mind at any moment, but when I think about halo 4 and 5 my mind turns up blank. Okay, I admit that halo 4 had a few goose-bump inducing tracks that just breathed emotion and weren't half bad to listen to, but for halo 5 I can't think of any distinguishable music that it can be recognised by. The other halo game themes very effectively directed the tone of the Canpaign missions and the emotions I felt while playing then, and they really enhanced the halo experience.

I would also argue that introducing Sprint to halo 4 and especially 5 was what radically changed the new Multiplayers the most for the worse, but all you have to do is bring up Reach, and you see that my opinion on this issue is going to be very confused. The Reach Multiplayer was good, even though they did have a sprint feature! They even brought in many other movement options, like the Jetpack and Evade, and yet I wholly enjoyed the multiplayer immensely. Bungie just had the touch that 343 lacks, it seems, to bring in new features but keep the core of the game intact and the halo experience fun and enjoyable.

As you others have said above, 343 regards halo as it's own property now which they will take in a complete new direction from its previous owner, Bungie. But if this wasn't the case, I genuinely feel that the halo franchise would still be as awesome as the classic games! Look at Halo Reach (like I've mentioned) and halo 3: ODST. Bungie brought in fresh mechanics and aspects to both games that made each very unique but yet each game still retained the halo identity. Maybe if 343 had done halo 4 and 5 this way, this thread wouldn't have to exist. Oh well.
I played every Halo since from the begining and enjoyed them all. Halo 4 seemed to be so much better than any previous Halo to me. I will talk more about Halo 5 and then get back to why I like Halo 4.
Halo 5 has a boring, repetative campaign. It seemed to ruin the end of Halo 4. Multiplayer is almost perfect. I honestly don't know why people hate multiplayer. Halo 5 went back to classic Halo with a few knew abilities to keep it fresh. I hate the armour selection in Halo 5; every piece of armour that is good is either from Halo Reach or Halo 4. Name a good piece of armour in Halo 5 that wasn't brought from a previous Halo?
What I like in Halo 4
  • From the begining of the campaign there is a more serious emotional story.
  • Sound effects are so much better. I am sorry, but Bungie's games(I'm looking at you Halo 3) have horrible sound design compared to Halo 4
  • Sprinting made me feel so much more like a super soldier than that painfully slow movement of Halo 3
  • I didn't mind loadouts in Halo 4. I think it is a knew direction. The argument that it appeals to casuals doesn't bother me. I consider myself a casual and have had so much fun in Halo 4(That's why I still play it years later). Halo MCC is frustrating because everyone playing Halo CE is really serious.
  • Finally the music. I actually like Halo 4 music. Look up "Arrival" it's my favorite Halo song.
What really makes me angry is when older players say, lets spank some noobs. They don't like the newer Halos but actively dislike anybody inexpieriwnced playing the older Halos. Halo 4 will remain my favorite Halo of all time.