I’m going to be honest here: I never really liked Halo.
I think part of it is that when it first came out, I was a dedicated PC gamer. The feats of prowess I was able to perform in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, for example, were unparalleled. My KDR was consistently somewhere between 3 and 4. I could score headshots with the bolt action rifle from the opposite corner of the map. (If this doesn’t sound impressive, consider that in MoH:AA, bullets didn’t travel across the map instantaneously. You had to actually calculate your bullet’s trajectory so that it and the person you were aiming at would occupy the same space at the same time.) I could identify just about every weapon in that game just by the sound it made. Hell, I could have been a pro at that damn game.
But when I would go over to my friend Jake’s house to play Halo, I would suffer humiliating defeat every fucking time. This was mainly because, at the time, I felt that the twin-sticks control scheme was completely counterintuitive.
I would say things like, “Give me a keyboard and mouse and then we’ll have a real fight.”
Jake would respond with something like, “Yeah, that’s what all PC gamers say,” with this condescending tone to his stupid voice. Jake’s a dick. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s Jake’s fault that I hate Halo.
Eventually, though, I set aside my keyboard and mouse and started playing console games again. The twin-stick format is now as comfortable to me as a pair of grandma’s mittens.
I’ve only recently returned to Halo — I reviewed Combat Evolved Anniversary last November, and I play Reach every now and then with GeekParty columnist Shelby Reiches — but I’ve never been able to completely shake my hatred of the series. In fact, I’ve even gone back to Jake’s place more recently and proven myself able to compete with him and his friends. But I still found myself not liking the series very much.
During E3, though, I was able to sit in a dark, claustrophobic room with a bunch of sweaty fat dudes (they were game journalists, or at least they were pretending to be) while the team from 343 Industries showed us a new feature of Halo 4 that actually has me excited.
Now, Spartan Ops is the cooperative element of Halo 4. No biggie, right? Halo’s always had at least some sort of co-op. But Spartan Ops is an entirely different campaign that takes place after the events of the Halo 4 solo campaign.
What’s fascinating to me is that this content will be delivered on a weekly download schedule, free of charge to anyone who owns Halo 4.
If that seems like an odd choice, let me explain the thought process behind this. The team at 343 wants to create an experience that feels more like a TV series than a video game. You see, whenever there’s a new episode of, say, Game of Thrones, the next day that’s all you hear about. These “water cooler discussions” (yes, the guys at 343 actually referred to them as such) may annoy those of us who don’t watch the damn show, but for the people who did, these conversations are apparently the most enjoyable thing they can do in the workplace next to having sex. And they certainly don’t want to have sex with each other, so they talk about Game of Thrones. Or Spartan Ops.
Now, like the eavesdropping creep that I am, I want to be a part of these “water cooler discussions.” I want to be the one annoying the guys at the office while tarnishing the series for those who haven’t played it yet with my well-thought-out analyses of the game’s narrative structure.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about all of this is that this content would be far less appealing to me if it were actually on the game disc. It would be the same fucking content, but the fact that it’s broken into bite-sized pieces makes it somehow easier to swallow.
And what bothers me the most is that it’s all a gimmick. It’s a stupid fucking gimmick — a fact that I’m very aware of — and yet it’s working on me.
So, I probably still hate Halo (and Jake’s stupid face too), but I’m definitely going to be picking up Halo 4. And I’m definitely going to be playing it each and every week to see what happens in the Spartan Ops campaign. In fact, maybe I’ll even call up Jake and see if he wants to buddy up with me.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to feel dirty about it.