Content of the article: "Halo 4/5 Spoilers One thing I truly believe 343 did better than Bungie is making playing a Spartan feel grounded and realistic"
Not for lack of trying on Bungie's part, mind you. They were aiming for something different; their focus was on the worldbuilding, the set-pieces, the overall narrative, establishing the themes and tone, and building a solid foundation for the franchise. As a result the Chief was not much more than an empty suit designed for the player to slip into so they could experience the Haloverse firsthand. That's not a bad thing by any means. And moreover Bungie kicked off the trend in Reach, which 343 would expand on in their entries.
343 had to build on that foundation and I think they've done a (mostly) good job in terms of aesthetics, realism, and immersion.
Before I get going, the major criticism I have for aesthetics is the unnecessary visual retcons (e.g. Forward Unto Dawn). While the "nanomachines" excuse for the Chief's suit was weak at best, I still prefer 343's Chief over Bungie's. The suit looks much more realistic in its proportions, construction, and interaction with the environment. Chief in Halo 2 (which is my favorite entry in the series) looks far too thin and lithe for a 2+ meter half-ton walking tank. I love how in 343's games the suit feels heavy and clunks against the environment in cutscenes; e.g. at the very end of Halo 4, during the QTE nuke, it really felt like you were dragging an enormous weight as you crawled toward the nuke. Or earlier in the game when the Composer first activates, the way Chief collapses feels heavy and impactful.
My big beef with Halo 5's aesthetics is the "plastic" look and shininess of the Spartan/UNSC tech. On the one hand it makes sense in the lore – S-IV and Infinity are the peak of the UNSC's military and they look as over-engineered and expensive as they would be expected to. On the other hand, it's too inflexible and unintentionally implies you're looking at action figures rather than real Spartans present in the game world. Nonetheless, it's well-executed and consistent with the lore, and I can appreciate that even if the aesthetics aren't my flavor.
I hope thrusters make it into Halo: Infinite as I think they're the perfect complement to the MJOLNIR suits. Spartans are quite agile despite being walking tanks, but they still weigh a shitload and thrusters help them with sprinting and maneuvering, and can complement their quick reaction times and ability to navigate an environment. Many Spartan ops are in microgravity and they have a tendency to free-fall from great heights, which both become much easier with thrusters. In terms of gameplay, I've never felt more like a Spartan than I have in Halo 5. Little things like thrusting out of the way of a ghost or rocket makes me feel powerful and capable, and I think that goes a long way to capturing the genuine "Spartan experience" more than any other gameplay mechanic in Halo.
I also like the little details, like the outline of the visor on the HUD, or how in Halo 5's campaign little displays pop-up to corroborate what's being said over COMs (like in Argent Moon, whenever Fred pulls up the schematics to find the control room or reactor, you get a holographic map of the Argent Moon showing routes and locations). It's not particularly useful and they're easy to miss in a firefight, but it's a nice touch that brings something often mentioned in the expanded universe into the actual game.
This greater emphasis on immersion and aesthetic realism really elevates the set-pieces in Halo 4/5. I don't think anything will ever beat, "Two Scarabs! I repeat, two Scarabs!" but half-running half-freefalling down a Guardian's spine and fighting off Prometheans as you desperately try to reach the surface of an unknown Forerunner planet comes close; and a big reason why is that you feel less like a mythical protagonist badass who can survive anything and more like an extremely powerful, capable soldier who nonetheless has limits to their extraordinary abilities.
I don't know how much sense all that makes; I'm just rambling at this point. To put it simply, 343's games are more immersive and I believe it's because of the attention to detail they have when it comes to making Spartans feel practical, real, and grounded in the physics and aesthetics of the Haloverse. It's been a while since I've been on this subreddit so I have no idea how mainstream or niche this POV is.
And for the record, I do think Chief's suit in Halo: Infinite is a great compromise between the bulky and gritty 343 version and the idealized and mythical Bungie version.
Anyway that's just my $0.02
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