I’ve always had a strange attachment to the Halo franchise. For me, Halo: Combat Evolved was the game of high school. Everyone was playing it, and cafeteria conversations always somehow ended up being Halo-related.
But lately, I can’t stand the franchise. I tried getting back into Halo: Reach’s multiplayer last night and got absolutely destroyed. But that wasn’t the only reason I wasn’t having fun.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the multiplayer or the single player. I think I just have what I like to call "Halo fatigue."
I’ve played a lot of Halo: CE in my life, including countless hours with friends messing around in local co-op and multiplayer. (This was before Xbox Live; we used a tunneling service called XBC to play online.) On one occasion, a friend and actually spent an afternoon trying to launch a Ghost vehicle into the watchtowers of the Sidewinder map. We then took photos of our accomplishment with a terrible Polaroid camera and proudly uploaded them to Halo.bungie.org, Halo’s main community fan site.
Then came Halo 2 and my first experience with online gaming. I’d never seriously sat down and played an online multiplayer game until Halo 2 because I’m primarily a console gamer. Xbox Live was my chance to experience a whole new world. I just had to convince my parents to upgrade their dial-up internet to cable (not an easy task).
I wasn’t a consistent Xbox Live subscriber for a long time. To get around this hurdle, a friend and I would "acquire" two-month trials from empty game cases from Blockbuster Video. I think I probably went through five or six trials before purchasing my own account. In hindsight, this was a ridiculously cheap move on my part, but hey — I was 16.
Halo 2 quickly became a social experience. Every day after school, I could always find someone I knew playing online. At times, instead of calling each other, my friends and I would create custom lobbies and discuss what we were going to do Friday night. Is this a crazy way to communicate? Maybe, but it was awesome at the time.
And so I progressed through Halo 3 (probably the first Halo I was truly decent at because I played it so much), Halo: ODST (the glorified map pack with a solid single-player campaign), and finally, Halo: Reach (Bungie’s last effort at revitalizing the franchise).
I’ve praised all of these titles' originality, depth, and fun factor. But looking back? After Halo 3, I wasn’t having as much fun with the franchise as I had before. Maybe it was because many of my friends no longer played Halo on a consistent basis. They had jobs, better things to do, and Call Of Duty to play. As I’ve gotten older, I also have less time to play Halo. And I usually want to spend the time I do have playing other video games.
I think it was the social experience Halo fostered that originally drew me to the franchise. Now that that aspect of the game has gone away for me, my desire to play has also diminished. Or maybe I was just caught up in the hype and felt like I had to play every Halo title that hit store shelves? (That’s exactly why I purchased Halo Anniversary.) I don’t really know.
Killing the same Covenent enemies and blasting away in the same rigid formulaic multiplayer mode just isn’t as fun for me as it was 10 years ago. I want to see change.
I’m now eagerly anticipating the release of Halo 4, hoping that developer 343 Studios doesn’t just breath new life into the franchise but totally revamps it. Long-time fans of the series and hardcore major-league gamers may disagree, but I think it’s time. Halo needs to change.
I know I’ll be at Halo 4′s midnight launch, and I know that I’ll get caught up in the hype storm that always surrounds Halo releases. But this time, I actually want to enjoy a brand-new experience. The Halo franchise means a lot to me, and I want to have fun with it again.