This week, I set out to not only play every Halo game out there, but to experience them all over again (or for the first time for a couple of them), in order to hopefully discover where I stand with the franchise. It started out as love at first sight, but then we became separated for quite some time, and then was roped back in, but for different reasons then the first time around.
I cam to discover, over this week, that Master Chief wore thin on me, lacked depth to keep him and his story interesting, and overall, just didn't have that "it" factor. I liked the first one because it was new and fresh, like the new girl in school that you could only speculate about. But soon, that new girl turned out to be just like all the other pretty cheerleaders - boring, uninteresting and lacking any true soul. Sure, they were still pretty, but looks only get you so far. As far as ODST and Reach, those are the cute girls who the jocks probably aren't trying to score with, only because they lack the ability to hold a conversation with them. They are naturally pretty, not made up pretty, and they are a little off the radar, but once you spend a little time with them, you realize they offer so much more than a good time - like companionship, conversation and true emotion - with some good times wrapping it all up like a sushi roll.
God, I hope that huge, ridiculous analogy made sense to whoever is still reading this, because I think I just confused myself. Here, let me break it down like this. I LOVED the original Halo, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach because they were different, they had a soul. I didn't care for Halo 2 or Halo 3 as much as everyone else, because it seemed dull and repetitive. And we won't even talk about the knock-off Halo Wars game, that only cashed in due to having "Halo" on the box art.
So going in to today, I was still on the fence about the franchise. It didn't leave me drooling to play dozens more Halo games in the future, using the same formulas, but there was enough of a change of pace with the latter games that I felt there was hope of being re-inspired and drawn back into the massive Halo universe. Besides, Bungie let go of the reigns for their baby, and let 343 Studios take over the franchise in an attempt to rejuvenate the series and reinvent the wheel. (Oddly enough, I play this game on the same day that Bungie revealed it's first post-Halo game, Destiny, and boy oh boy, does it look ambitious.)
And boy, did they ever.
The opening cinematic is one of the best I have ever seen in a video game, hands down. I was sitting there blown away by how impossibly amazing it looked. Remember, developers - THIS GAME LOOKS THIS GOOD ON A CURRENT-GEN SYSTEM! YOU HAVE NO EXCUSES TO KEEP PUTTING OUT GAMES THAT LOOK AND RUN LIKE GARBAGE. NONE. Everything in this game is so polished, from the weapons, to the environments to the faces of the enemies, and it would be very easy to just sit back and watch it all as it unfolds - except for that part where you have to actually fight back, of course.
I immediately got roped in to the Cortana dying off storyline, and Master Chief showed more emotion in the first 15 minutes of the game that I actually believed to be legit than he had in his three games before it. Also, once I gained control of him for the first time, he just felt RIGHT. It's literally the first time I remember controlling Chief where I felt like, yeah, this is what this should feel like. He's quick - and not just because he can sprint! - but he doesn't feel clunky and methodical any longer, but like he should. His jumping feels right as well, and him talking and being engaged is so nice. I don't feel like I am controlling a Rock'em Sock'em robot any more. The animations of him climbing or lifting a door up is such a nice touch, as well.
Overall, the game just feels quicker, more intense. Caleb and I really had a blast playing it, and while he has already flown through the campaign, we already agreed to play this one through on co-op campaign. In the second mission tonight, we had a challenge to see who could drive their Ghost farthest into the base. He ended up winning when he made it all the way to the end of the level, a surprising feet considering some of the tight corridors and intense battles going on. Hats off to him, for sure.
Halo 4 has brought me back in to the franchise. I'm excited for what the future holds, as they have already stated that this is the first of a 3-game story arc. While I'm nervous that there is a chance they won't be able to keep the new games as fresh as this game feels, the fact that they are most likely coming out on the next generation of Xbox console means there is plenty of room for growth.
This is has been a fun week, overall. While I'm sad to not have any more Halo games to play this year, it was cool to play them all at once and fully immerse myself in the universe that this franchise has built. I'm glad I did, to, as I realized that even a long lost love can always be rediscovered and that smoldering ember can be reignited into a flame once more, no matter how cold or dark it is.
There is a little piece of me, however, that is excited to get back to my schedule (or lack thereof) of random games, especially as the tidal wave of amazing games is about to hit the coastline.
Hold on, dear readers. It's about to get crazy. But you should expect nothing less at this point.