Press Start: Halo 4
posted on 06.28.13 at 10:29 AM EST by (@admeady)
It's a bit like Bruce Willis.

press-start-halo-4

Halo-the-one-after-Reach-but-not-Five is your favorite Hollywood actor. Solid, dependable, and handy in a fight. Like said actor, though, Halo 4 is so solid, so dependable that it’s impossible to see it as anything other than an upmarket version of itself from over a decade ago. Halo has become Bruce Willis. Logic.

And like any obscenely famous thespian, any attempt to adapt themselves to their latest role is mere folly, as the character they’re paid to betray becomes them. Halo’s sixth incarnation is Combat Evolved with some added twiddly bits and a gap between the front teeth. Uncle Halo – fun, entertaining, but rarely spectacular by its own standards.

But here, that’s pretty damn good. 343 Industries did a Bungie without actually being Bungie. To say they made a game that feels like Combat Evolved in an incredibly pretty stage costume is a triumph unto itself. No doubt, Halo 4 could’ve been a complete and utter calamity.

And for me to do a Bruce Willis, I would actually have to be Bruce Willis.

They made a few improvements a long the way, too. Guns – even the Covenant pew-pew weapons – have a greater sense of impact. They sound like arm-slung killing machines, and not the light-weight, pellet gun feel of yestergames. Not one of them is a chore – even that godforsaken Plasma Pistol. Achievement Unlocked, 343.

From now on, then, it’s hard not to shake the feeling that Halo’s future lies in arbitrary changes. And, of course, feature creep. New mechanics for the sake of change. For the sake of ‘depth’. No, Halo’s improvement lies in its narrative and its ability to portray characters – something 343 Industries has proven it can do marvelously.

So, as fantastic as these improvements are, it could be argued that they’re largely a matter of taste – they’re not pivotal to the success of 343’s fledgling efforts. They’re a component, of course, but they aren’t the whole story.

Cortana is key to the success of Halo’s narrative. 343 Industries’ decision to humanize her further, to give her elements of imperfection, elevates everyone’s favorite Purple Companion beyond precisely that. Indeed, Cortana’s face would’ve been a better fit on the cover. A machine with character – more character than the Chief could ever have. It’s by design, and it’s a master stroke.

Master Chief, a human with the exterior of a machine – more so emphasized by a ‘hardwared’ look – and Cortana, the artificial intelligence with a human exterior. The former, cold, calculating and relentless, and the latter, warm, considerate, adaptive and expressive. It’s this odd pairing, this unlikely allegiance, that is Halo 4’s most compelling aspect. That, and realizing that Chief can’t hold a conversation.

And it’s the interdependence between the two that makes their relationship compelling. Chief brings the brute force and the brawn to the party. Cortana is the brains, and, perhaps, Chief’s conscience. Like a couple meant to be, it’s impossible to see how one could operate effectively without the other. They need each other.

Mechanically speaking, then, Halo 4 is Bruce Willis. It does what it always has, and what it will always continue to do. But it does it so dependably, so consistently, and with just enough of a costume change, that it’s hard to find fault.

And so it’s Halo’s potential as a narrative – yes, as a narrative – and as a character-driven drama that position’s Bungie’s brainchild as one of the few high-profile shooters to tell a tale of people you actually give a crap about.

And that – that right there – is pretty damn good.

Press Start is a brief blog that talks about the games we’re playing and what we think about them. Share your thoughts about the game in question below.

  • Guest

    More like Halo Snore!!! Jk

    Seriously though, I don’t get the appeal, everything about it just looks so boring! Give me a good ol’ JRPG with cute anthropomorphic Anime girls in any day of the week.

    • MrRobbyM

      To be fair, what you described, a lot of people also find boring. IT’s just different tastes.

      • McPoo

        I know, I was just being an idiot :p

  • Skeletor

    Must be a slow news day b/c this isnt a day late, a dollar short and completely irrelavent nearly 10 months after the games release.

    Maybe an article about playing uncharted 3 would be good?

    Oh thats right, Sony releases more than 1 decent exclusive per year so there is always something up to date to talk about in regards to them.

    • Adam Meadows

      Hey. I’m simply looking at other ways to write about games. Experimenting. That’s all. I did not play Halo 4 until recently. Thought I’d give it a try.

      “Press Start is a brief blog that talks about the games we’re playing and what we think about them. Share your thoughts about the game in question below.”

      • Skeletor

        I appreciate your experimenting.

        My annoyance really wasnt meant at you and just more towards the fact that I am sick of Halo articles on gaming websites as if that franchise is an excuse for the stagnant tepid pile of feces that is MS.

        Your writing style is well thought out and I apologize if my dislike of MS made you think I disliked what you accomplished.

    • McPoo

      Hey Skeleton, I think you might have just OD’d on that hyperbolic needle jutting from your arm. Take a look at the big lists of exclusives sometime.

      And don’t be such an asshole, maybe then people would care about what you have to say.

      Yours lovingly,

      McPoo

      xox

      • Skeletor

        Judging by your comments in this thread and your extremely aggressive “tone”, I would say when it comes to being an asshole, it takes one to know one.

        Here’s some toilet paper chum. Try wiping yours first.

    • http://gematsu.com/ Sal Romano

      All due respect, read the blog next time, and read the description within it. Don’t turn this into some crap console battle. Adam was playing Halo 4. If Adam was playing / recently played Uncharted 3, he probably would have written about it.

  • karmacoma

    I was really excited for this game since I enjoyed the previous ones, but I got through the prologue and realized I just didn’t care. I think I’m completely over Halo, and that made me a little sad. I’ll try to get back into it someday, just to finish the story, but yeah. I wasn’t feeling it.

    • LastBoss

      Can’t go wrong with Common.

  • Elvick

    “Halo-the-one-after-Reach-but-not-Five”

    What?

    • Adam Meadows

      It’s a silly ‘pun’, that’s all. A reference to countless releases of titles and yet we’re only on ‘4’.

      • Elvick

        I think you tried too hard.

        • McPoo

          I think you’re at fault here if you’re too stupid to follow a simple joke.

          • Elvick

            I just didn’t think it was funny.

            I knew what he meant, but didn’t understand WHY he wrote it. Because it’s the kind of thing that seems like a good idea then you write it out and it’s awful, so you delete it and move on.

            But it’s still there.

            I think you’re a little too mad that I don’t like something.

            • McPoo

              Oh sorry mate, my bad. When you quoted the joke, followed by ‘What?’, I took it to mean you didn’t understand it! How silly of me.

              That’s the sort of thing you write out, realise it could be quite easily misconstrued, delete it and move on.

              Speaking of moving on, why don’t we all just kiss and make up? You didn’t understand his joke, that’s fine. It’s been explained, everybody’s happy, lets move on :) xox #yolo

  • EspadaKiller

    I find Halo 4 has the best story and enemies in the whole franchise. Pretty much the best single player among the whole franchise as well. It was fun. The forerunners are interesting enemies.

    Online multiplayer gets a little boring though, still sticking to Battlefield kind of gameplay when it comes to online multiplayer. Prefer the realistic feel and real bullets instead of lasers “pew-pew-ing” everywhere haha.

    • McPoo

      I’d like to try out the story, as I’ve heard it’s decent. I just don’t really like the gameplay that goes with the series >.>

  • Ace

    Haven’t gotten around to playing this game yet…

  • Budgiecat

    I don’t like Halo