Onward to a Brighter Future for Halo
By Nick Henderson on August 8th, 2012 (17 comments)
To me, Halo is a series that catapulted to the forefront of FPS popularity and revolutionized the genre but failed to ever deliver a very powerful entertainment experience. The plot, while trying its best to stand among the other science fiction epics, never actually felt mature or impactful. I never connected with the central protagonist because for all intents and purposes, he was an empty vessel for the player to control. The franchise always lacked the human element that I find necessary to create a memorable conflict. I am sure that the idea of an elite super soldier such as Master Chief was once considered a novel idea but those days have passed and audiences deserve better. Without the proper conflict or motivation, Master Chief is as mundane as any other faceless hero that carries the flag of mediocrity while firing guns and tossing grenades.
To make matters worse, the meat of the Halo universe has been withheld and disseminated to the fans in just about every other entertainment medium other than video games. The history behind the Spartan program and the children who were thrust into this violent and unforgiving conflict have been overshadowed almost entirely in favor of a story that seems more about the feats of heroism and intense gun-play, an element that is fun to watch but far less enthralling. The original Halo Trilogy started down a certain path that was established in the original Halo and I can hardly fault Bungie for following through with their initial plan. Fortunately, as soon as they had wrapped the story they wanted to tell, other glimpses of the rich universe began to shine through in games like Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach.
A Certain... I Don't Know What
After being disappointed by the original trilogy, it is hard for me to imagine committing to another. This is especially true if the masters of this universe continue to lock the truly interesting material away in books and animated movies. After playing through Halo 3: ODST, it became clear to me that good stories could be told within this universe. One of the best stories I remember from that year was found in the elusive audio files that were scattered throughout the beautiful and haunting world of Halo 3: ODST. It was at this point that I realized that something about the Halo universe appealed to me. Something that is not immediately apparent when playing the game was staying with me for hours after putting the controller down. Even to this day, I am not sure what it is that has reinvigorated my faith in the franchise.
Maybe it is because of the tightly tuned shooting mechanics that have made this franchise a major contender since its debut or perhaps it is thanks to the technical polish and beautifully crafted musical score. Still, these are elements that have been present since the beginning so they are clearly not solely responsible. Could it be that the series has really made forward strides in storytelling since abandoning its "glorious hero" in the far reaches of space? If so, why am I so excited for Halo 4 which will bring the long-awaited return of Master Chief? I can't deny my love for the last two entries in the franchise but now I find myself stuck somewhere between anticipation and skepticism going into this new trilogy.
An Uncertain Future
In my opinion, Bungie left their mark on Halo by doing what they do best; they crafted an extremely polished, unrivaled gameplay experience. With that said, other very important aspects of this series seemed neglected or in some cases, rushed. With Bungie now working on an unseen project with Activision, 343 Industries, the internal Microsoft development team, has stepped up to the mantle in hopes of redefining Halo for another decade. This all sounds incredibly promising to me given my disappointment with the original trilogy. 343 Did a great job with Halo Anniversary and has certainly demonstrated that they are comfortable and effective at working within the Halo universe. My brief time spent playing the Halo 4 multiplayer has already assured me that the game feels as nice as it looks. With such a solid foundation already in place, I don't see 343 taking many liberties with the mechanics and instead focusing more on the presentation and story.
My exposure to Halo 4 thus far has been pretty positive but I also cannot shake the feeling that 343 might be making a mistake by pandering to the demands of their fan base. Halo is a universe that has come so far and become so much more since the creative minds behind the series started exploring other aspects of the mythos. I was actually excited to witness the events that unfolded on Reach that led to the war against the Covenant threat. ODST shined light on some of what it meant to be human in a war between super powerful beings. Is bringing back the silent hero such a great idea? I admit that I choked up a bit when Master Chief awoke from his slumber in the debut trailer but I hope that 343 is bold enough to spend some time in the game developing something that resembles a personality. Perhaps by diving into the character's history (through flashbacks) and fleshing out the "relationship" between him and his partner-in-crime, Cortana. In other words, I can only hope that he amounts to much more than a glorified super soldier this time around.
With only a few months remaining before the "second coming", one thing is certain: Bungie is out and Master Chief is back in. Could it be that Master Chief's true potential could only be realized after a decade of mediocrity? Is his re-awakening somehow suggesting that he can rise from the ashes and finally establish himself as the video game icon that he was destined to become? All I know is that 343 appears to be taking steps in the right direction. If Halo 4 lives up to the hype, I might just come out the other side a true Halo fan. Would that really be so terrible?
I have been around since the very early days of 4Player but you may know me as “the short one” or the guy who is really into Dexter and that sweet new DmC reboot. I am a gaming enthusiast at my core and I love sharing my opinions on the subject with anyone who will listen. I am a cautious optimist and will try any game at least once. When it comes to gaming, I prefer to leave no stone unturned.
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