Opinion: Worried #1 – The State of Halo

2014. It had its ups and downs, some bright spots and some ugly ones too. But I can’t for the life of me recall any year with so many issues for the industry. Attacks on fans and journalists alike, AC:Unity fail, DDOS after DDOS … it’s been rough, to say the least.

I worry a lot. I blame my Mother for this, it’s encoded into my DNA. So I felt it appropriate to share some of that worry, if only to get it off my chest to, perhaps, make me feel a little better about the whole thing. Maybe someone out there who reads this will share in my worry and help me out a little. Or not.

There’s one particular issue, or in this case franchise, that I’m worried about most of all. A franchise that was in such good hands for a long time but suddenly feels a little out of place, a tiny bit muddled up. If you missed the title of the article, I am of course talking about Halo.

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Since 343 Industries took over the mantle from Bungie, Halo has seen its fair share of changes. Halo 4 was an auspicious start to the new era, though many sought to vent frustration over the changes made to multiplayer, matchmaking, et al. A lot of that concern has since filtered across into 2014’s The Master Chief Collection (MCC), especially once it became common knowledge as to how broken many of its parts were.

My own experience with MCC wasn’t all that pretty. From the start it seemed like it was destined to fail, as the day one 15GB patch took far longer than anticipated to download. I’ll allow a little leeway on that though, given so many people were downloading the same patch at the same time, so server speeds were always going to be slow. Still, it took nearly two days to complete the download, an absurd amount of time that initially made me think it was my own setup that caused the problem. I’ve since discounted that theory.

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It was more relief than anything else once the patch completed, but that soon turned to frustration after annoying frustration once I finally booted the game up for real. Matchmaking failed continuously (I think, in the end, I only played two games total), glitches caused the Halo: CE single player campaign to crash early on, but what annoyed the crap out of me the most was when I and my partner wanted to connect a co-op session of Halo 2: CE.

At first everything was going fine, until our first session was abruptly halted by a connection failure followed by a full game crash. No biggie, I thought, booting it up again only to have it fail to reconnect a co-op session for the rest of the night. Though we eventually completed Halo 2 together, my partner and I both agreed that it was an arduous task given how many times we had to reconnect (again, not our setup at fault, having tested it with Destiny, etc.)

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Which brings me to the Halo 5 Beta. By this point I was about to leave Halo alone for a good while, but the pull of trying something new was too big, so I downloaded it and gave it a shot. Or at least, I would have given it a shot, if the beta had allowed me to connect to a game AT ALL. Seriously, not a single matchmaking session connected me in at least 20 or more attempts across two days. Argue all you want that ‘it’s just a beta’, but given so many people have connected rather easily, why the hell not me?

So to say my love for Halo has diminished some what is an understatement. Never have I had that many issues with a game before, and I’ve been playing games for over 20 years, so I know a thing or two about them. The only other time I’ve been frustrated to the point of giving the game back days after buying it was DC Universe Online, when the servers were broken on launch allowing barely anyone to get past the opening stage following a fairly hefty content download.

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So yes, I’m worried. I’m worried that 343 have changed so much of the backend in attempt to distance themselves from Bungie, that they’ve dug themselves into a hole too deep to climb out from. I’m worried that a once mighty and exciting franchise may become nothing more than an afterthought, lost within the myriad of other titles set to grab our attention in 2015 (hello, Batman).

Ultimately, I’m worried that Halo itself has lost its edge, its cool, to the point that even though some of 343’s changes have been or possibly will be positive, they will be completely overshadowed by a lack of overall quality. Budgets have become too big, development times too small, leaving a valued franchise to be relied upon too heavily, instead of being given the time and space to breath and grow naturally.

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I have fond memories of Halo, I always will. But from this moment on, any future memories will be tainted by the tail end of 2014, the so called ‘HaloGate’ affair if you want to give it a stupid name. Whether Halo 5 turns out to be a solid and enjoyable experience that many are hoping for remains to be seen, but right now I have low hopes. I wish I didn’t have to say that.

And that’s what I’m worried about this week. God knows what I’ll be worried about next, but at least for me, there seems to be plenty within the games industry to show concern for. A good and bad thing, I guess.

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