BE WARNED: There’s going to be a lot of “methinks the gamer doth protest too much” in this article, so brace yourselves.
See, this article is very much a ‘me’ piece. The video game, Halo 4, launches today. I’m backing-and-forthing on whether or not I’m going to buy it.
Look, I could rabbit on about how Halo is kind of the Star Wars of the home gaming console generation in an attempt to give you some historical background, but I’d say that its market weight is so heavy by now that just by mentioning the name, most people will have a vague idea that we’re talking about a video game.
I’ve had a lot of fun with the Halo franchise. Look at the article I wrote not too long ago about the original Halo: Combat Evolved as an item of evidence.
Yet I’m just not sure about whether I’ll even bother with Halo 4.
I know from a Kmart commercial last night that I can pick a copy of Halo 4 up for around $70. Though I could list a bunch of other things I could put that $70 toward – like a roadworthy for the Foxy Lady, for starters – our budget can probably withstand it.
I’m more worried about time.
I wrote an article on piracy a few weeks ago. One of the things I wrote about was my puzzlement over where pirates find the time to actually watch or read or listen to or play all the stuff they download. That’s an important question for me right now.
I’m working on two podcasts. I’ve joined a freelance writing group online and signed up for some of their courses. I’ve got this blog. Heck, I’ve already taken NaNoWriMo on this year.
My calendar is pretty full; trying to shove Halo 4 in there is going to be overkill.
There’s the thought that I mightn’t have all that much fun.
On one hand, it looks as though 343 Industries, the Microsoft division managing all things Halo, have upped the story stakes in Halo 4, working to fill the largely blank slate of the player’s avatar, the Master Chief, with some wants and needs of his own whilst giving everyone’s favourite plucky artificial intelligence, Cortana, a heart-rending problem of impending mortality. The reviews I’ve read so far agree that it’s a success.
On the other… I’ve been burned by promises of capital-S story in video games in the past, most notably the Gears of War franchise and Transformers: War for Cybertron. Halo’s story arcs have mostly been about giving you enough context to make you feel like a Righteous Slayer of Enemies Bent on Humanity’s Destruction then getting out of your way so you can boow stuff up. I worry that in trying to be more it’ll trip and fall over.
There’s the fact that I have to pay extra for multiplayer.
I will say this for the Halo series: Its multiplayer component has always had a lot going for it. Halo 3 was the game that really got me into playing online, and discovering Major League Gaming back in the day made it even more so; the idea of tooling around in the same arenas that professional players were mixing it up in gave playing Halo 3 online some added spice.
One of the tempting things about 4 is its “Spartan Ops” co-operative mode. From what I gather, it’s like a ten-episode mini-series where you get to play out the action scenes with your friends.
While it’s bundled with the game, though players must still pay an annual subscription fee of $80 – the Xbox LIVE Gold service – to get Microsoft’s permission to play Halo, or any other online multiplayer game – over the Internet.
And when my Gold subscription came up for renewal in September, I let it slide.
Most of the people whom I met through Halo 3 were putting most of their time toward the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3, shortly after Halo: Reach came out. I had a passing interest in the games, but nowhere near enough to get me to pay for them.
While they might be back online for Halo 4, I know that Call of Duty: Black Ops II hits stores in just over a week. I’m a little leery of watching history repeat.
Which, given the amount of dissatisfaction folks had over Halo: Reach, could happen.
In Halo: Reach, game developers Bungie introduced “armour abilities,” a set of special functions that each player could equip depending on the type of game they were playing. While a lot of players complained about a temporary invulnerability called “armour lock,” I think the abilities that drained the fun out of the game for me were “sprint” and “jet pack,” both of which allowed players to traverse the game’s arenas more quickly than otherwise.
Which meant that the arenas had to be bigger.
That, I think, is what got me. I’ve never been one hundred percent keen on the larger maps in the Halo universe. Valhalla, one of the larger maps in Halo 3, was never a favourite of mine; I preferred the tighter, more confined spaces of Construct, Guardian, even The Pit, where surprise could lurk around any corner and action was never far away.
The larger spaces of even the smaller maps in Reach took that sense of immediacy away from me. There was too much room to manoeuvre.
As Halo 4 is going to be building on Reach, the armour abilities (minus the controversial armour lock) are back, meaning sprint and jetpack are most likely coming back too.
Which means the maps are going to be just as big.
Idle Xboxes Are No One’s Playground
Since I finished Mass Effect 3, my Xbox 360 has been sitting idle. I’ve not been playing anything on it – if I’m going to do anything with it, it’ll be working on that step-by-step guide for the Kinect that I’ve been meaning to get around to since we bought the motion sensor kit (over a year ago) so that Vickie can use Zumba Fitness.
I’ve not missed it much.
Between my gaming buddies spending most of their time playing Call of Duty and few games, new or old, capturing enough of my interest to open my wallet in the last year, I think I’m happy to be more a writer than a gamer.
Still, if you see any Raptr reports on my Facebook profile or Twitter feed about Halo 4…
Are you non-plussed?
Which popular culture vents have you found yourself not as interested in as you thought you’d be?
How has Halo 4 exceeded or fallen short of your expectations?