The Integrity of the Halo Franchise: A Cause for Concern?

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343i replacing the autonomy of a world renowned developer like Bungie is a huge undertaking. Implementing their changes to expand upon a beloved Halo universe is a monstrous one. From what small footage I’ve had a chance to see of Halo 4, many would unanimously agree that it is probably the prettiest and most glamorous looking title ever to hit the franchise. Looks, however, can be deceiving.  Forums, critics, and especially diehard Halo fans are concerned about the upcoming changes to the multiplayer, particularly revolving around the gameplay, specializations/perks, loadouts, and spawn times that too closely resemble elements used by Call of Duty and Battlefield. These changes, at this point, are difficult to fathom and have me worried about the integrity of what made Halo both distinctive and phenomenal.

Halo, from day one, has always been a competitive title popular with big leagues such as MLG. However, Halo 4 aims to ditch default weapon sets in favor of weapon loadouts that allow the players to customize weapons and equipment. This has me concerned primarily because it may undermine the even playing field that made default weapon sets work. Balance that has come to characterize Halo games is also left in question. Another new feature is 343i’s attempt to combine singleplayer narrative with the multiplayer. Some, such as myself, argue that the emphasis of a narrative driven multiplayer, like Max Payne 3, can undermine or overlook the competitive aspect of the game turning it into a mainstream shooter rather than skill-based.

Patience, timing and strategy have also been the name of the game of previous Halo installments. But from footage released in what many consider to be deliberate viral marketing campaign, Halo 4 is seemingly faster paced, perhaps to accommodate mainstream players who are loyal to common shooters that we are all aware of. An article on attackofthefanboy also makes a good point that adding specializations and weapon loadouts to the Halo formula, “breaks core aspects in an attempt to transition Halo into a position of mainstream accord.” Creative director Josh Holmes mentioned in an interview that Halo 4 includes elements that are familiar yet are adding mechanics that make the experience “distinct.” If this “distinction” is synonymous with adding features already utilized by CoD and Battlefield, I am reasonably concerned that Halo 4 will morph into something that will alienate faithful fans.

Currently, I believe there are too many so called “changes” to Halo 4’s multiplayer that break the core of what made the franchise unique and popular amongst its fan base. However at this point, its difficult to provide a solid consensus as to how much the game has changed and what has been left intact up until E3. I’m crossing my fingers that Bungie has left the game in good hands.