Wednesday, October 16, 2013

EXP Podcast #246: Halo 4 Debrief

Halo 4 poster by 343i
The Master Chief has been floating in space for the past four years, but the entire time, the folks at 343 Industries were busy thinking of ways to reinvigorate the franchise without pissing off millions of fans. This week on the podcast, with a healthy heaping of post-release distance, Scott and I discuss the much anticipated Halo 4. As always, we give ample spoiler warning for those cautious about the narrative, so hop on in and let us know what you thought of 343's first efforts and making Halo their own!

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Show notes:

- Runtime: 36 min 58 sec
- Music by: Brad Sucks


  1. Hey guys. We must be riding on the same wavelength because I just finished a single-player run of Halo 4. Katie and I played in last year coop when it came out, but I figured it was time to give it one more go solo. There is something oddly satisfying about hearing people talk about the ending of a game, while playing the ending of the game.

    I guess I agree with you guys mostly about the design features of the game. 343 just got that Halo feel down really well for the most part with the movement, weapons (even the new additions) and vehicles. I am pretty sure you guys touched on this, but several features of the level and narrative design created questionable situations. The overuse of portals was probably the most egregious but also the very tunnel-like nature of a few of the levels wasn't great. Maybe it is just my poor memory of other Halo games, but I don't remember them being so tunnel like before.

    I appreciated your breakdown of the story and also your confusion as to the motivations and reasons behind character choices and locations (yes I do think it was Earth at the end, and it appears the Didact chose to destroy Las Vegas first). I know all of the Halo games have used a variety of MacGuffins or representatively named devices and people (the librarian, the composer, etc.) but Halo 4 seemed to really take it to the next level and I feel hurt their larger trilogy narrative. The Didact was dumb and reminded me of the South Park episode where the boys get weapons and Cartman becomes Balrog, who has many, many powers and can do whatever he wants.

    It just seems, as one of your said, they are just doing the Mass Effect story line, and we don't need that. The zealous Covenant made a more interesting bad-guy with their apocalyptic Halo destruction path - and maybe a bit more timely with the past 13 years of talk of Jihadi movements. However, your predictions about Cortana and Master Chief swapping places with Cortana performing her best Pinocchio act to become a real girl would be a fun development. I am not sure how I felt about this whole Rampancy story line - normally I enjoy a good corrupt AI sci-fi story, but I couldn't get the feeling that there was some underlying reference to women going through menopause. It just seemed weird when they also spent so much time sexualising Cortana even further.

    So, at this point, I think you guys hit this quite well. It was a great first attempt from 343, but there needs to be some revisions to the formula and some more developments story and gameplay wise. Personally, for me, I would like to see Promethean vehicles, more diverse Promethean enemies (they were quite dull by the end - at least the covenant came in different colours!), a return of the Brutes (maybe fighting the Prometheans, I always loved those gorillas!), and less portals! One last point, I also felt this was one of the weaker campaigns to play coop - there were too many sequences of driving or flying where one person always died and couldn't respawn - or like you guys said - just teleported to the other player.

    Anyway, great podcast guys! Very timely for me, even if a year off ;)

    Thoughts on the multiplayer part?

  2. I totally agree about the Needler! That thing is indispensable for taking down Elites. Generally speaking, I thought the guns were one of thing that Halo 4 did very well and it really shines in the multiplayer. I get the feeling that so many of the gun mechanics were designed with the multiplayer in mind. They all seem so honed for particular ranges with minimal overlap between them.

    It has been interesting going back and playing some multiplayer again because it seems that people are using a greater diversity of weapons generally in the games, especially as starting weapons. I remember it being fairly heavily weighted towards players using the DMR or Assault Rifle as starting weapons but now I see a lot more of the Promethean and Covenant versions. It has really given me the impression that they have sought to make the right tool for every job and done a pretty good job with the balancing.

  3. Glad to hear our tardiness was was useful!

    I think the way you describe the Cortana rampancy storyline is right on; I couldn't put my finger on it while we were recording, but it plays into the old emotionally-unstable woman trope quite heavily.

    I liked the game quite a bit, but it goes to show what a great job Bungie did with designing the encounters, especially with multiple players. I never really got the sense of scale that Halo 2 or 3 had and when I did, it was cut short by a forced warp to right beside Jorge.

  4. I don't remember too much talk about it at the time, but I agree that the technical limitations in Halo 4 (while fairly well-hidden) did detract from the game. I think alleviating these sort of subtle technical limitations (strict warping, random enemy spawns, weapon persistence) is one of the more appealing things about the new consoles.