The Rise and Fall of the Halo Series
One of the fondest memories in my life is the legendary ending of Halo 3. After aiding Master Chief, who was somebody my younger self looked up to, foil the Covenant plans for multiple hours, Chief and his AI companion Cortana float away in the Forward Unto Dawn. I didn’t realize it then, as I thought I thought I was watching one of my personal heroes float away from my life. But I was really watching one of the greatest gaming series float into obscurity.
Wake me when the series gets better, Cortana.
Halo was once one the biggest gaming series ever. For the uninitiated, it was just as praised and talked about as Overwatch is now. It wasn’t just a “Doom clone,” as a lot of first-person shooters were classified at that time. It had a well-written and expansive universe like other space operas such as Star Wars or Star Trek. It also heavily influenced, or some might even say launched, console online multiplayer with Halo 2 matchmaking.
Matchmaking never looked better!
What led to this series downfall can be found in a bunch of areas. It felt like after Halo 3, Bungie -- and later 343 Industries -- tried to expand Halo too much into other mediums. Some of these were enjoyable, like Eric Nylund’s Halo: The Fall of Reach, which was written as a backstory for Halo 1. Others lacked in quality and enjoyment, like the web series Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.
Must-read for fans of the series.
Halo also started having some of the blandest characters, and the campaigns were lackluster after Halo 3. The people who fight alongside you in Halo 5, as both Locke and Master Chief, are not memorable and are bland. This is a huge surprise to someone who grew up with characters like Sergeant Johnson and the Arbiter Thel 'Vadam, who brought character and a sense of coolness to the series. None of the playable characters in any other Halo after Halo 3 lived up to the mystery and sheer coolness that came with playing as Master Chief.
Chief in full glory.
A five-hour, boring story plagues Halo 5, with its climax being nothing but a tease. Halo 4's story was a long slog that got to be a chore after the initial few missions. It didn't have any of the charm and mystery that the original Halo trilogy campaign brought. Halo Reach did have its moments story-wise, but it didn’t live up to the original trilogy.
Even Cortana had enough of these boring campaigns.
Many people do like the multiplayer in Halo 4 and 5, as I noticed in my time surfing through Halo forums. But it isn’t enough to bring the series to its former glory. The multiplayer feels less original in 4 and 5, and more like trying to please the Call of Duty community. Also, with the addition of dreaded loot boxes in Halo 5, it feels like 343 Industries is trying to follow trends in gaming rather than making a unique and addictive multiplayer experience. It does have some of the things that makes Halo’s multiplayer fun, like custom games and Forge, but it just doesn’t have that same feeling.
What the original trilogy did right with multiplayer is that it gave us a sense of community. If it was staying up late playing split-screen multiplayer on Halo 1, or playing with your friend that lives across the country in a custom game in Halo 3, you had this feeling that you were a part of a larger community. This is what gaming is about, building communities and memories that will last a lifetime. Newer Halo games lack this.
Forge Mode made custom games extra special with the ability to customize maps to your desires.
Even though the quality of Halo has gone down and the fanbase is waning, it still gets a decent amount of sales, as Halo 5 made 400 million dollars when it launched. Maybe I, and many other people, have grown up, and the series that we loved many years ago just isn’t appealing to us. Maybe I am just looking at this from a nostalgic view, remembering the times me and my friends would play Halo 2 and 3 late into the night. Either way, Halo isn’t the chart-topping giant it once was. Maybe Halo 6 will give us a game reminiscent of the original trilogy. We can only hope.
Here's to you, Halo.