My Spartan at SR95 Halo 4 has been out for a few months now. And surprisingly enough, I’m getting bored.

In case any newbies are listening, this is actually completely expected and nothing to be afraid of. If you’re getting bored, don’t write the game off yet, because if the past is of any indication, awesome stuff will be coming up in Halo 4.

I just find it a bit odd that Halo 4’s interesting stuff is taking just a little bit long to materialise.

Time to yawn, grumble a bit, and fire up the goddamn Forge. Try to make your own fun.

If anyone thinks it’s bad that I’m getting bored of a game a couple months after the release, let me remind you that there were a lot of people who were getting bored of Halo 4 back in November. The game had been out for a weeks and people were already whining that there’s not that much to do.

And I just say the same thing I said back then: Halo 4 is still in the beginning of its life, and there have been several playlist updates already. It’s just a bit of a shame that the playlist updates have nixed some of the interesting stuff, and have not exactly been too abundant in releasing actually cool stuff.

A bit of a comparison

Here’s what various Halo titles actually offer at the moment:

  • Halo 3 Matchmaking:
    • Ranked: Lone Wolves, Team Slayer, Team Doubles, Team Snipers, MLG, Team SWAT
    • Social: Rumble Pit, Social Slayer, Social Skirmish, Action Sack, Multi Team, Team Mythic, Social Big Team
    • 7 on the 7th
  • Halo 3 Matchmaking co-op: What is this space-age technology you speak of, my good gamer friend?
  • Halo 3 Customs: Slayer, Oddball, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, Assault, Territories, Juggernaut, Infection, VIP

  • Halo: Reach Matchmaking:

    • Standard: Team Slayer, Team SWAT, Team Snipers, Living Dead; Invasion
    • Evolved: Super Slayer, Team Objective, Rumble Pit, Double Team, BTB, Multi Team, The Arena
    • Anniversary: Anniversary Classic, Anniversary Firefight
    • Community: MLG, Grifball
  • Halo: Reach Matchmaking co-op: Co-op Campaign, Score Attack, Firefight
  • Halo: Reach custom games: Firefight, Assault, Capture the Flag, Headhunter, Infection, Invasion, Juggernaut, King of the Hill, Oddball, Race, Slayer, Stockpile, Territories

  • Halo 4 Matchmaking: Slayer, BTB, Crimson DLC, Dominion, Regicide, Flood, Capture the Flag, Oddball, Team Regicide, SWAT

  • Halo 4 Matchmaking co-op: Spartan Ops
  • Halo 4 custom games: Flood, Grifball, Dominion, Oddball, King of the Hill, Regicide, Capture the Flag, Extraction, Slayer (Infinity, SWAT, Pro).

Unfortunately, I’m not much of a Halo 3 veteran, so I don’t know how much the playlists have changed in Halo 3. However, I do know that they’ve nixed one of the most interesting feature of Halo 3 from back in the day - the Double XP Weekends. If you want crazy new gametypes, you need to stick to the more recent offerings.

But I can tell you that a lot of the playlists in Halo: Reach were added later on. Team SWAT and Team Snipers were split off from Team Slayer, because there are people who find these game types particularly aggravating. Living Dead and Grifball were introduced later on. So was MLG. Anniversary playlists and the regrettably defunct DLC playlists obviously came later on. There were also other interesting playlists in Reach that have been nixed for various reasons. I have vague recollections of Classic playlist that featured Forge remakes of great maps from Halo: CE, Halo 2 and Halo 3 - playing there was pretty annoying because I got killed by people who had been playing Halo 2 since they were strong enough to lift the heavy-ass original Xbox controller, but damn it was also fun. Another really odd thing to nix was the Halo: Reach incarnation of Action Sack.

What to expect in Halo 4 in the future

So what is coming in Halo 4, anyway?

The reason the playlists got cut down in Halo: Reach is that there’s just not enough people to play on them, and they don’t want the player base to be split among too many playlists.

I’m not entirely convinced that this is the reason for the playlist shuffles in Halo 4. Some of the playlists have gotten tossed in the air and haven’t been made permanent yet, like King of the Hill, Team Snipers and FFA Throwback. My completely unfounded random conspiracy theory is that I think there are some other issues at play than just playlist population and splitting the playerbase - probably something to do with balancing and tweaking. So I’m pretty certain that there’s huge demand for, say, Team Snipers. People still play it a lot in Halo: Reach, it seems.

Aside of those really popular playlists, I hope to see more crazy varieties of stuff. I was happy that The Flood was there from day one, and nobody is arguing for its removal - Living Dead was moderately awesome in Halo: Reach, even though it didn’t have some of the highlights of it from Halo 3’s Double XP runs. Grifball is apparently on its way to Halo 4, and that comes as no surprise. But what I’m really hoping to see would be the return of Action Sack in one form or another, or strange one-off or rarely seen playlists like the Classic playlist. In fact, I really hope Halo 4 would resurrect Halo 3’s Double XP, just, uh, without the Double XP, because leveling in Halo 4 is ridiculous as is.

And, of course, what I’m really expecting is more Forge maps. Halo: Reach had a bunch of Forge maps that got gradually introduced to matchmaking, and even when there weren’t quite as many of them as I hoped to see, that still added tons of spice to the game. I think the only reason I’m bored of Halo 4 right now is that each and every playlist has about two maps that people like to play. Yeah, Haven and Exile are fucking awesome, I get it, but I’d rather be on Treasury or Kingdom every once in a while.

But one of the things Halo 4 is already better at than Reach ever was is the integration of DLC maps. There were lofty promises that Reach would introduce DLC maps to regular playlists in a transparent manner, so that people with DLCs would be matched with other people with DLCs. Practically, I only ever saw this happen in Firefight, where Installation 04 and Unearthed would regularly pop up, and this almost never happened on regular playlists. Okay, frankly, I can’t remember if it ever did. If it was implemented at all, I have no idea. But in Halo 4, the DLC maps actually do show up in matchmaking pretty regularly, and it’s completely awesome.

Darker clouds

One of the big things you might notice in the above list is that there’s very few custom game types in Halo 4. In fact, in Halo 3 or Halo: Reach, you could always at least whip out a weird custom game if the game wasn’t featured in matchmaking at all. But Halo 4 doesn’t even offer those as an option. There’s no support for most of the obscure classic game types. I really, really hope these get patched in later on.

For example, there’s no support for Race gametypes, and Rocket Hog Race was amazingly hilarious in Reach. But this is probably only because there’s actually not that many perfectly usable race levels yet, either. Crimson DLC maps have some good focus on vehicle use, so I’m hoping some later map will fill the gap and get us enough space for races. This is to say nothing of the neat objective gametypes like Stockpile and Headhunter that got introduced in Reach.

One of the darker clouds I must mention is Halo Waypoint and halo 4’s web integration. Halo Waypoint used to put out new videos almost daily, and their coverage of launch tidbits and fan stuff was nothing short of amazing following Halo: Reach launch. This did not happen again with Halo 4; I hope they one day get back to releasing stuff daily instead of weekly. The Waypoint website does have a lot more web links, so that definitely patches that omission, but I’d love to see more videos and stuff on the Waypoint application itself.

Also, the Waypoint web application isn’t particularly useful. I only could think of slapping a random shot of my Spartan up there, because I still couldn’t actually look at my actual Halo 4 screenshots from the web, like I can for Halo: Reach. (well, not at the moment for some obscure reason.)

I also hope that Waypoint will eventually rebuild the stats API. The stats API was a way for third-party websites, like HaloTracker, to access game histories and draw all sorts of useful data out of them, in a clean and programmer-friendly fashion. Nowadays, HaloTracker folks have to pull all sorts of tricks to read and parse web pages and make stuff work properly.

All in all, it’s great to know that good stuff is ahead, but damn it’s taking a long time. More stuff, 343i! More stuff, please! We know you can do better than this!