Halo 4 came out 10 years ago today. What happened?
The game had incredibly big shoes to fill after the conclusion of the OG Halo trilogy. Passed down by Bungie to 343 Industries, it really marked the beginning of a new era for the sci-fi series. Bungie set out to work on a brand new universe (you might have heard about it) after completing its story with plenty of flourishes and bombast.
343 came in as a hybrid builder and interior designer, building an addition to a luxurious home and seeing if it could replicate (or even evolve) the entire structure. Who knows? Perhaps the franchise could shine in a whole decade if it does a good job?
Fast forward to 2022 and Depotstudio absolutely screwed it up. Admittedly, the campaign for Halo Infinite was a bold step forward into the open world. The last 10 years of 343’s narrative leaps come to an end as Master Chief embarks on his next great non-splitscreen adventure. Multiplayer is a different story altogether, with core gameplay of genuine quality but an overall package that’s lagging behind thanks to the dismal live-service hell it’s in and a money-hungry cosmetic ecosystem that constantly exudes frustration and depression significant updates starves user base.
So what happened to that energy? That glorious bridge between the old work Bungie had done and the new ideas 343 had, without giving up what made the original games great? This is best seen in the weapons, which have been massively expanded with Halo 4. Distinguished as a beefed-up assault rifle with much more power, the SAW fitted well into the existing arsenal of weapons. The railgun too – god, the railgun! This weapon has the same swing as the harpoon in Halo Infinite, but with more gravity and feedback.
That wasn’t the case for some of the other new additions though – notably the Promethean guns. Visually they were great; Elaborating on the Forerunner-style tech we’ve seen before, with bright oranges and all sorts of floating little things everywhere. It’s a distinctive look that stays eye-catching. In terms of what they added playfully… They got a slightly different shotgun that lacked that legendary pow, the boltshot that fell flat off the magnum in most cases, the suppressor that threw out uninteresting ammo bolts. You’ll have to give it up for the Promethean Sniper and Combustion Cannon though – they were radical, even if a bit redundant given the weapons already in place.
Campaign wise, 343 did a good job of introducing a new faction of enemies, trying to capture what a post-Halo 3 Covenant would do, and giving us fans a real reason to keep caring about what’s happening in the Halo -universe is going on. Post Bungie. The studio did this by addressing the great unknowns established in previous titles, taking Master Chief into unique worlds we’d never seen before, and (debatably) messing around with Cortana. How did I like it then? Mmm, it was fine. But it set the stage for a new storyline, giving Master Chief and players something to do other than wade around the stagnant world that Bungie already visits, explores from pole to pole, and blasts away from.
But the multiplayer was so good. The game introduced some really brilliant cards like Adrift, Exile, and Haven. God, Haven was so good. All the game modes that people loved – I remember losing days on SWAT or Big Team Battle. I remember building a massive collection of spartan armor, unlocked either by leveling up to obscene levels or by completing really arduous commendations that propelled you to accomplish unique goals that messed things up. Hey kids, back in the day, you could actually unlock stuff like this through in-game exploits. wild right? No Battle Pass in sight either, just DLC map packs that allowed you to spend money on new content – wild.
Spartan Ops was perhaps the first taste of live service hell in the Halo franchise. This replaced the firefight and was a series of weekly PvE content updates that you (and maybe some friends) could adopt to keep up for the post-campaign narrative. The Spartan IVs and Halsey were up to all kinds of nonsense. If you’d told people that this — a steady barrage of mediocre mulch that lacks the energetic pulse that made Halo special in the first place, that wears Halo’s aesthetic like a skinned face on a horror movie monster — better represented the series a decade later would line… Well, there would be calls to Lenny the Series, and I would stand up front with the shotgun while the once-shining gem in the Xbox’s emerald crown looks away and dreams of rabbits.
Fast forward to today and we don’t even understand that. And if we did, it would be released every two months, with each release fizzled out before our eyes as sacrifices on the altar of FOMO. The game also had Forge, which later iterations would ignore, as well as a general sense that the game wasn’t fighting for your time against an industry full of time vampires. For me, as a 14-year-old, it was the start of a really exciting time for Halo. A few years later I wouldn’t even finish Halo 5. A few years later I just look at Infinite sadly.
Looking back, Halo 4 was absolutely a starting point for what could have been an exciting new era for Halo. One with a new vision, fresh ideas and passionate hearts and minds behind the company.
With Halo 4, we see the glory in this endeavor. Back then, it really was like waving and smiling at the Titanic from the shore as she sailed gloriously into icy waters.
https://www.vg247.com/with-the-state-of-halo-infinite-now-halo-4-is-looking-damn-good-on-its-10th-anniversary With Halo Infinite as it is now, Halo 4 is looking pretty darn good for its 10th anniversary