I’m one of Halo’s biggest fans, I wrote Why I Fell in Love with Halo sometime back. but I could never get behind Halo 4. I mean, there is absolutely nothing redeemable about the game. Halo 5 may have also had a shaky story. Still, the gameplay was much better, and at least the Covenant were themselves again. Hopefully, Halo Infinity continues on the path of returning to a true Halo game. Until then, let me outline a few points of why I dislike this game so much.
Halo 4’s Enemies are a Step Backwards
All the enemies are lifeless robotic, incoherent drones with no personality. This applies mostly to the Prometheans but can be applied to the Covenant as well. The Prometheans are nothing more than bullet sponges. They hop or transport (cheap sci-fi strikes again) here and there and run around like moving targets, not beings with life. They express nothing when you fight them. They don’t verbalize clues as to their motives, express enthusiasm in fighting you or fear when you have them outmatched.
When you got the upper hand on a Covenant unit, the Grunts run away in panic, uttering words of fear while the Brutes would go “berserk” when they notice you killed one of their pack. The Elites in Halo CE were just as lively even though they didn’t speak English. They uttered the classic “Wort, wort, wort”! That utterance was a source of endless memes today.
It was amazing to hear the Brute leader say, “Hmmm, go see what’s taking them so long,” or an Elite says, “For the great journey!” or “Get up, so I can kill you again.” These quotes not only elevated the stakes, but they gave you insight into your enemy’s military ranking, tribal interworkings, and motivations. You were emersed in each encounter. Even dying was fun. I can’t count the number of times I laughed out loud when an Elite killed me, stood over my body, continuously shot my dead body, and talked smack.
Most importantly, the AI for Halo 1 – 3 were much, much smarter. They ducked and dodged, used the vehicles, torrents, and the environment to gain the upper hand. When an Elite’s shields were low, they chased you, same with berserking Brutes.
The Prometheans are by far the worst enemies in the entire Halo series. They actually ARE lifeless robots. The only difference is that they are tough to kill. You have to empty entire clips into them, just to kill one. There’s no fun to killing Prometheans, and there is no fun in being killed by a Promethean. They don’t even know why they’re fighting you. Killing Prometheans feels like you cleaned up spilled milk, no reward or relief; you just did something with no meaning. Like why am I fighting these guys again?
The Elite’s armor, outfits, and bodies make absolutely no sense whatsoever. I think 343 was going for the “big, scary, monster guy” effect. What we ended up getting where laughable boarish-looking behemoths that made no sense biologically. How can they logically move with those overweight 700-pound bodies? But the thing is, they move quite well. You know why? Because this is a video game. And that’s how it feels as this biological accident glides across the screen like an action figure, enough to take me out of my suspended belief.
There is no excuse for this as the Elite is one of the core components of the game. We have at least five games with various design styles that are different but harmonious when it comes to communicating the Elite’s character. Why are their arms exposed with what looks like a metal tank top? Why do their teeth almost touch their eyes? Why do they now look like overweight, slumbering turtles and not the well respected, agile, cunning, and ruthless Elites we used to know?
Halo 4’s Weapons and Game Play
The weapons feel like plastic toys, and they all feel the same. This disappointed me since I enjoyed the variety of weapons from previous Halo games. The ingenuity and balance of each weapon allowed you to defeat enemies in a variety of different tactics and strategies, depending on how you were feeling any given day.
Halo 4’s weapons end up all feeling like the same annoying weapons to fight the same annoying enemies. I loved playing with Brute weapons, but their weapons didn’t make the cut, being replaced by the dull, forgettable Promethean weapons. My guess is that they didn’t fit with the futuristic aesthetic. What replaced the Brute spike grenade and the brute shot? The most egregious offender is the absolute worst grenade in Halo history, the Promethean grenade. It’s basically a blow-up globe that bumps you if it expands in your general vicinity.
To add to the horrific gameplay, it is almost impossible to get through an encounter without emptying about two or three weapons. The action to weapon ratio is severely flawed. Too many times, I often find myself scavaging for weapons, especially playing against the overpowered Prometheans. Since the enemies are nothing more than cheap bullet sponges, most of the gameplay is hiding behind cover and scavaging for weapons or ammo.
This is a huge problem because one of the differentiating factors of past Halos was the fact that there was a strategic element to attacking enemies. You had numerous ways to attack them with a vast array of weapons and angles of attack. It was fun seeing how a different strategy would work against skittish grunts or angry Brutes. This made for hundreds of hours of replayability.
Think about it, the flying Prometheans capture grenades you throw at them and recharge the Promethean Knights. Knowing this, your only viable strategy is to take out the flying knights first. Not only that, the Knights randomly teleport. Sounds cool in concept, right? Naw, it’s lame. It just increases the time you have to fight them as well as the number of bullets you have to spray them with.
Even if there aren’t any flying guys to take out, meleeing Knights is a suicide mission rather than the melee fight of attrition you experienced with Elites and Brutes from other Halos. You’re not meleeing enemies on Halo 4. Just sit back and boringly shoot from afar until your next desperate search for ammo.
Since when did interactive cut scenes become apart of Halo? All the cut scenes with Master Chief pushing buttons feels like cheap RPG enactment. What would any halo player get out of pushing buttons in a cut scene? That does nothing for the story, doesn’t enhance the plot, and frankly just wastes your time.
Requiem doesn’t look like a real place. It feels like a generic video game scene from 1999 attempting to be futuristic. Requiem’s scenery looked ok, but for the most part, it looked like it was built for an electronica Mario Brothers.
Halo games usually had fun, expansive worlds in which you can explore and break. This nonexistent on Halo 4. It seems like they tried to step up the graphics. Unfortunately, more detail doesn’t equate to “better.” The scenery feels like your on an acid trip in Mechanica. This is by far one of the most offensive aspects of Halo 4. The previous Halos established the Forerunners as an ancient, but technologically advanced race, not some futuristic, shinny metal lovers with a penchant for lens flares and floaty things.
There’s nothing spiritual about Forerunner tech, it’s just a bunch of shiny metal rooms and unrealistic shapes and portals. Video game portals. This setting takes you right out of gameplay and leaves behind any chance of reflection or awe.
Nothing to see here, folks. And if there is something to explore, 343 made sure to prevent the off the beaten path exploration we love with “return to battlefield” death timers. These death timers have got to be the dumbest new feature added to Halo. It destroys the fundamental awe of Halo and, again, takes you out of the already disappointing gameplay.
The Story, Plot, and Characters Just Don’t Work
The Didact and the Librarian feel like sci-fi characters from a cheap straight to Netflix movie. I get it, they were plucked out of Halo lore. But was the force apart of the equation? What is this magic the Librarian gave Master Chief so that he can survive composing? Where did the Didact get telekinesis from?
Why didn’t Didact kill Master Chief when he had the chance? What’s the purpose of the Didact lecturing Master Chief on how much he hates humanity and then letting him go. This is not Halo, it’s some cheesy sci-fi knock-off of Halo. There was really no point in Diact’s character other than to serve as a cheap antagonist, especially since his motives were shaky at best.
This Forerunner guy used to be one of the most prominent people in a galactic empire is woken up after millions of years, and his first thought is to kill humans. Is this the Transformers or the Avengers? Halo characters have always had motives that would arbitrarily lead to an imminent threat, not simple good vs. evil plots.
As it correlates to reality, factions fought factions for deeply held causes. Halo was never about superheroes or supervillains. Now we have a character that can use telekinesis and, for some random reason, wants to genocide humankind just because we need the stakes to be high. In response, we get a long-winded and weird speech from his dead wife, who gives Master Chief some super-power to withstand “composing.” And as with all boring sci-fi, Master Chief was “destined” for whatever this magical juice is. This isn’t Star Wars. None of this makes sense. It’s cheap, non-sensical, and uninteresting.
What’s the purpose of this ball the Didact was flying around in? I thought that was his prison? Now he’s gliding around in it? For what purpose? What is his goal for just flying around scanning everything? If he hated humanity so much, then why doesn’t he just kill them? That “ball” ship doesn’t look like the forerunner architecture or tech from any of the other Halo games.
Cortona’s going through rampancy was too much theater without earning it. I’ve heard many people say this story of Master Chief and Cortona is a great story. Obviously, I disagree. In some weird world, maybe it could have worked. It was mildly amusing, but ultimately it fell short for me because it was just way over the top.
I know she’s supposedly going through rampancy. Still, I feel like the real Cortona we knew from previous games would have saved herself a little dignity. Why was she sexualized to that extinct? It felt like I was watching softcore porn. As I write this, I’m started to see a theme here. The entire game is just over the top glossy, plastic, and forced with very little substance. It’s like 343 were pressing, trying really hard, and ignoring the fundamentals of what makes Halo, Halo. They wanted to make a cool video game, not a Halo game.
Character interactions were just weird. Why did that captain guy yell at Master Chief and Cortona? The stakes were not that high, and this throwaway character doesn’t appear at any other time during this game. His existence was solely to create unearned tension by saying a couple of lines in this Halo play.
Another question. What’s up with Cortona and Chief talking soo much? That was never their dynamic on any Halo game. As a matter of fact, this is a more significant issue than it seems. The Master Chief NEVER answered Cortona during gameplay. This new back and forth chatter during gameplay takes the player out of the game because when Cortona talks to Master Chief in Halo 1 – 3, she is essentially talking to you. YOU were Master Chief. Now you’re like a third wheel along for the ride.
The ending made absolutely no sense. At this point, I’m over the Didact and his weak motivations. But if you’re going to have a boss character, why would you defeat him in an interactive cut scene with Cortona turning into some weird, digital superhero? She literally uses some type of magical force to hold down the Didact and then uses this same “magic” to protect Master Chief from dying after igniting a nuclear weapon literally under his chest.
I can’t make this stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the definition of bad sci-fi. Since when did Master Chief become a superhero and Cortana get super digital powers? Since when did Halo have boss characters?
This is by no means a comprehensive list of reasons why Halo 4 just didn’t fit the bill. I didn’t touch the disappointing multiplayer. Act Man, RennsReviews, and Domski2BC of the Halo community have amazingly detailed videos that cover why Halo 4 failed. Domski2BC discusses the multiplayer in his video, Halo 4 – The Downfall of Halo. The Act Man goes into painstaking detail about the campaign with his video Why is Halo 4’s Campaign SO BAD?! And… AWESOME?? and finally RennsReviews, although a little intense at times, breaks down every component of the game in comparison to previous Halo games with Why Halo 4 Is One Of The Worst Halo Games Of All Time.