Have you played Halo 4 recently? If you have, you will notice that the online player count is at an all time low for the franchise in recent history, with the player count struggling to get past the 30,000 mark. Contrast this to Halo 3, where the player count would comfortably exceed 100,000 consistently over a period of 2 years. So why is Halo 4’s online population so low? We all know that the FPS market is more saturated than it ever was before but this does not necessarily explain why the numbers have dropped so dramatically.
It is obvious from a cursory glance at the Halo forums and from the sentiments of the vast majority of Halo veterans that, simply put, Halo 4’s multiplayer just doesn’t cut it. It has veered too far away from the original formula that made it so unique and appealing in the first place and it is riddled with problems. Here are some of the most common complaints made against Halo 4:
1) No guns on the maps = no map control –
Previous Halo games have very strongly centered around weapon control and map control. With Halo 4 and its class system (which has a striking resemblance to that of Call of Duty’s) and the inclusion of Ordinance Drops, that are essentially Killstreaks (or point streaks), intelligent play and map control is pretty much non existent.
2) Eliminating the skill element –
In Halo it used to be the case that you had to work hard for your kill. Not so much in Halo 4, which again, borrows another element from Call of Duty, as players appear to die far more quickly than they did in previous Halo games. The gameplay boils down to a simple case of who sees who first. Couple this with the fact the game has extreme bullet magnetism and auto aim compensation, Halo 4 has alienated the die-hard fans that once enjoyed the challenging gameplay and unique pace the franchise once presented.
3) Lack of teamplay – Halo has always had a strong reliance on good teamwork to ensure success, whether it be manning vehicles and coordinating attacks with the Warthog or working in groups of two to deplete shields and eliminate enemies. Now, due to how quickly players die and the inclusion of overpowered weapons, there is no such need for it. Furthermore, 343 for some odd reason, have removed ‘X’ marker to show your teammates deaths, something which was essential for ‘calling-out’ enemies positioned near your body or notifying your team about weapons you dropped. What this results in less situational awareness and promotes more thoughtless gun-ho gameplay.
4) Pot luck – The outcome of a game can sometimes depend simply on the ‘quality’ of the ordinance drop as opposed to player/team skills. Another feature in Halo 4 that enhances this problem of randomness is the fact that you are no longer taken out of scope when you get shot at, instead your aim is randomly thrown off. Say for instance you are in a 1v1 skirmish, the firefight just boils down who happened to have their aim thrown off the least. It can be incredibly frustrating when you are at the losing end of this through no fault of your own, unable to make a final headshot because your aim gets continually pulled off-target.
5) Overpowered guns – Almost all FPS’ will have players who feel that certain weapons are overpowered and Halo 4 is no exception. Here are a a couple of weapons that Halo players find over-powered:
* The Boltshot – you can make this your default secondary gun and a lot of players abuse its over-powered one-shot charge kill. Simply put, any player who equips this has a deadly mini-shotgun in their arsenal.
* Binary Rifle – the Binary Rifle looks realy cool, but it just is simply too powerful; one shot to any part of the body (even your little toe) and you will disintegrate quicker than a squirrel doused in thermite.
* Incineration Cannon –
Another really cool forerunner gun that basically fires several projectiles which then splash on impact. This weapon is absolutely deadly and if you’re unfortunate enough to face a foe wielding that weapon, just put down the controller, cover your eyes, and just rest easy in the knowledge that there was simply nothing you could do against this mini nuke launcher.
* DMR – The weapon of choice for many because of its overpowered nature making the Battle Rifle redundant. 343 have now recognised that this is overpowered but instead of toning it down, 343 are buffing (or strengthening to the uninitiated amongst you) the weapons such as the BR so now weapons kill even quicker. As if it you didn’t die quick enough as it is!
6) Noob-friendly elements – Oh how we despise the word ‘accessibility’. What this word usually means in the gaming world is that the game has been dumbed down to such a degree that a human being with an IQ of 4, who’s hobbies include drinking bleach whilst simultaneously smashing its head into a saucepan covered in fire ants laced with anthrax flavoured acidic tampons, will be able to play the game effortlessly. Halo 4 further dilutes the skill element in the game in order to appeal to the masses in many ways some of which include:
* No more friendly fire – Yes, it can be annoying when you have been team-killed by a completely incompetent teammate who thinks that running over you with a Warthog is a good idea but it also promotes trigger happy play styles with no adverse penalties for example; previously in Halo games, if you had a Rocket Launcher and you were about to fire at an enemy who just happened to be in close proximity to one of your teammates, you would (if you were a half decent player) not fire for fear of killing your comrade. Now, you can just shoot indiscriminately regardless of your teammates positioning. Players can also abuse this so called immunity from death by teammate.
* Promethean vision – Basically an x-ray mode that lets you see through walls. So much for the element of surprise. Remember a time when having something like this was akin to hacking? Oh how we miss those days.
* Track radar whilst in scope – this was critiqued early on by many Halo veterans prior to the games release and for good reason; a sniper who just camps in one spot scoped in should be at a disadvantage. Why on Earth would you help a player like that by giving them access to a radar so that they can carry on camping safe in the knowledge that if someone does try to attack them close by, they have their trusty radar to warn them?
* Active camoflague + snipers + big maps + obscure corners of the map – enough said
There are other odd design choices such as not being able to drop the flag after picking it up so you only have a pistol to defend yourself or how weak the vehicles are in the game but we won’t elaborate for the sake of brevity.
Halo 4 is by no means a bad game; it still holds its own against most of the competition but its online component is a severe let down to Halo veterans who want a Halo experience, not a Call of Duty/Halo hybrid. The dwindling online population is a testament to this fact. 343 need to promptly re-evaluate the direction the multiplayer element of Halo is heading towards because if they further dilute the core essence of the seminal FPS, then Halo will become a shadow of its former self. Here’s hoping 343 are listening.