Come on, Bungie...
I flipped through the new batch of Halo 3 screenshots about three times and, much like the process of heat conduction, my excitement drained away into something like anger and frustration. Here's a shot of a couple of master chiefs jumping. Here's a Warthog. Here's a big, tower-like structure on a meadow near a mountain. It's all in higher resolution and shinier than ever before. It's like they did a brain-scan on everybody and delivered to them exactly, precisely the screenshots they would have most expected.
You know what makes Halo: Combat Evolved one of the greatest games of all time? It doesn't just play great; it surprised and even shocked people. It took some smart, calculated risks with its design and presentation. It might have looked like any other first-person shooter on the surface, but in many ways, it went against the grain.
I'd be an idiot to think Bungie wasn't holding back a ton of interesting information on Halo 3. But I just don't understand the value in releasing a bunch of screenshots such as these. I'm sure Halo's True Believers are swooning with excitement right about now, but how about the rest of us, the people who think Halo 3 is going to have a really tough time living up to the extremely high standards that have been set by games like Gears of War, F.E.A.R., and many others since Halo 2? Has Bungie painted itself into a corner by crafting such an elaborate fiction around Halo that it won't allow the company to take any creative liberties or design risks with the next installment? And yes, I did see the new little ATV buggy in that one screenshot. No, it doesn't count.
Take a page from Spider-Man 2, a movie that defied audiences' expectations, paradoxically by giving them precisely the pay-off that they most wanted but least expected from a big-budget Hollywood sequel. Show us an image of the Master Chief with his helmet half-shattered, exposing a glimpse of his determined, bloodied face behind it as he attempts a desperate last stand against a mysterious and extremely powerful enemy. Show us the Master Chief locked in a brutal hand-to-hand struggle or bulldozing a foe with his armored shoulder. I want to see kinetic action and intensity. The Halo series is rated M, remember?
I don't want to see what looks just like Halo 2 in higher-res with the same old rag-doll physics and a couple of predictable new weapons and vehicles. I don't want to see the Master Chief standing around, as much as I like the idea of having the assault rifle back. I want to be excited for this game. I'd love to see the Halo series become a real dynasty, not just something we look back on and see as the original Xbox's defining games, while the 360 earned its own, superior games.
Bungie is one of those developers that's succeeded through multiple generations of gaming technology, and successfully transitioned between many different platforms. I know those guys have played great games like The Chronicles of Riddick and Gears of War from top to bottom, and I know they must have a lot of great, original ideas of their own, since they always have. So I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that Halo 3 won't just go the safest, most obvious route by taking a squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease approach.