Welcome to the New Shacknews

You're currently viewing the beginning of a full site renovation for Shacknews.com. You might find something working oddly. If you do, let us know! More exciting new features to follow.

How friendly is Halo 4 to series newcomers?

The Halo universe can be bewildering at times. Like any good sci-fi franchise, it has its own vocabulary--Forerunners, the Flood, the Mantle, Reach. It also a lot of backstory, most of which has been parceled out in licensed books and other material over the years. Is it even possible to get into Halo 4 without knowing about the original games? Should you be playing Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary first? Here's the case for both approaches.

10
The Halo universe can be bewildering at times. Like any good sci-fi franchise, it has its own vocabulary--Forerunners, the Flood, the Mantle, Reach. It also a lot of backstory, most of which has been parceled out in licensed books and other material over the years. Is it even possible to get into Halo 4 without knowing about the original games? Should you be playing Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary first? Here's the case for both approaches. The Case for Jumping Right Into Halo 4 Halo 4 follows on almost directly from Halo 3. Four years have passed, but Master Chief awakens right where we left him--aboard the shattered remnants of the Forward Unto Dawn. Cortana is there, too, and so are the Covenant. Beyond that though, Halo 4 makes a decent enough effort at being a stand-alone story with original characters. You don't have to know about the fall of Reach and everything else to know that bad guys are trying to blow up Earth. Halo 4 layers a lot of new lore on top of the existing stuff, but it's not overbearing about it. As with a lot of games these days, the info is tucked away in consoles and bonus videos, which keeps it from being completely overwhelming. Beyond that, the characters of Master Chief and Cortana are appealing on a level that doesn't require a lot of backstory to understand. The story of Master Chief is laid out right in the very first cutscene--he is a genetically engineered super soldier who was created to save humanity from invading aliens. He is for the most part gruff and quiet, but he has a soft spot for his AI companion. That core is enough to carry pretty much any Halo story. Halo 4 is being positioned as the beginning of a new trilogy, so now is as good a time as any to jump in and see whether the franchise is for you. And if you don't like the story, well, you don't need a compelling narrative or a deep understanding of the Forerunners to enjoy Infinity Slayer.

That's one big barrier to entry! Nah, it's not that bad.

The Case Against Jumping Right Into Halo 4 Halo 4 is ostensibly a new story, but don't be fooled--it's new villains draw directly from the franchise's backstory. Around the story's midpoint, there's a long, rather confusing explanation for their motivations. Fans of the series will probably nod and say, "Oh, that makes sense." Non-fans will be left scratching their heads. No doubt about it, Halo is an insular franchise. For all of its popularity among frat boys and the so-called "every gamer," it has an extremely dedicated fan base who are fiercely protective of the game's lore and characters. That goes for 343 Industries, who are clearly enamored with the series and its history. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but it does create a barrier for entry. The franchise's insularity extends to the multiplayer, which has become something of a cult over the years. Many Halo fans have been playing since the very beginning, and the learning curve can be really steep. Halo has always had a first-rate matchmaking service, which eases some of the difficulty early on, but it's not the easiest community in the world to dive into. Be ready to die a lot. Halo 4 does its best to ease newcomers into its new trilogy, but the fact of the matter is that it's made by Halo fans for Halo fans. It's steeped in the franchise's established lore; and while enjoyment of the story isn't contingent on understanding the universe, it certainly helps. Luckily, being an established franchise, there are plenty of ways to put the story in context. Halo: CE Anniversary--the first and arguably the best Halo game--can be found for less than $30 on some websites. Within Halo 4 itself, there are terminals that offer a recap of what's come before (but you have to look for them). To be sure, Halo is an investment. The campaign is tough, the lore is dense, and the fans are almost cult-like in their fanaticism. But what it lacks in accessibility, it makes for in sheer depth. Newcomer or not, it is a franchise that is certainly worth your time and attention.
Be sure to check out Kat's review of Halo 4.

From The Chatty

  • reply
    November 2, 2012 1:00 PM

    Kat Bailey posted a new article, How friendly is Halo 4 to series newcomers?.

    The Halo universe can be bewildering at times. Like any good sci-fi franchise, it has its own vocabulary--Forerunners, the Flood, the Mantle, Reach. It also a lot of backstory, most of which has been parceled out in licensed books and other material over the years. Is it even possible to get into Halo 4 without knowing about the original games? Should you be playing Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary first? Here's the case for both approaches.

    • reply
      November 2, 2012 4:10 PM

      Actually... the Spartans were created to stop the other humans rebelling against the UNSC. Then, years later the Covenant showed up.

    • reply
      November 2, 2012 4:17 PM

      Halo games are perfectly playable even if you have no idea what the sweet heck is going on. To this day I couldn't tell you what the plot of Halo 2 was.

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 4:21 PM

        Not a man alive could.

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 4:30 PM

        I think the fact you jumped back and forth between John and the Arbiter made it harder to follow. Kinda glad they dropped that for Halo 3

        • reply
          November 2, 2012 4:43 PM

          That may have been the case fictionally, but I liked the invisibility mechanic that being the Arbiter included and missed it later in the series.

        • reply
          November 2, 2012 9:31 PM

          I thought it was cool that the co-op dude was the arbiter in H3.

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 4:44 PM

        the first Halo I played a bunch was Reach. After that I went back and played some of the older ones, but I don't feel like I missed anything by doing them out of order.

        • reply
          November 2, 2012 7:12 PM

          Reach is a Halo game that can be self contained, as it's not really much on the whole story other than a kinda prequel leading up to Halo 1

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 7:38 PM

        Talking plants

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 7:50 PM

        Hopefully you've played it, despite the plot. It was a good game, quite different.

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 8:20 PM

        I have ignored the plot of all of them and have beat every one on Legendary. Plot is pretty much never good in any game.

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 8:21 PM

        Beginning the fight?

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 8:56 PM

        Hahaha... y'all should try playing the Marathon series. They toned down the insanely complicated story quite a bit for Halo.

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 8:59 PM

        I've always liked the lore, even back through PID and Marathon. I will agree, wholeheartedly, that it has been the best FPS to introduce to people who have never FPS'D before.

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 9:03 PM

        the covenant found and invaded earth. the arbiter was tortured and humiliated for failing to protect Halo from the humans. he was then recruited against his will to quell a heretical uprising within the covenant. unfortunately, the heretic that you killed knew the truth - the rings were death, and the prophets were false gods.

        the arbiter was then betrayed by tartarus, the chief brute who led the revolt against the elites. he had brainwashed the prophets into killing off all the elites and allowing the brutes to take control. the arbiter was then cast down into a version of hell with the gravemind. master chief eventually met him there after his own antics.

        really the story of halo 2 is about the covenant and their civil war and government. it's quite fascinating, but the marketing was all HALO ON EARTH and people wanted modern warfare with elites on earth cities. and it wasn't that.

        i remember the level where you first assume control of the arbiter. i was watching a cutscene and then...boom. i was someone other than master chief? it was a big deal in the halo world. i thought it was a cool addition.

        • reply
          November 2, 2012 9:13 PM

          I agree. It was ballsy, however, the new fans got bent out of shape. It lent some cool new mechanics to the established gameplay at the time, for the series. I welcomed that risk. Many others felt different.

      • reply
        November 2, 2012 9:42 PM

        I kinda thought Halo 2 was dumb because, if the fight was on Earth... how come you still jump high and floaty?

    • reply
      November 2, 2012 9:30 PM

      I wish they'd drop all the pretentious crap and just simplify the story. :/

    • rms
      reply
      November 3, 2012 9:12 AM

      So, only 2 of these games are on pc? I've only played a bit of some demo long ago

      • reply
        November 3, 2012 10:29 AM

        I really miss them on PC. Don't seem to enjoy them as much on 360. Maybe because I am controller-impaired.