After a long time away from Halo: Reach in order to play Halo 4, I realized upon returning that there was something Reach did right with for an FPS.
While there is a more recent Halo title with Halo 4, in many ways I believe that 343 took a step backwards by no longer letting players customize attachments. Sure, you have a lot more in the way of visor colors and different armor pieces. But to pair this with what I’d consider pretty awful designs for the characters, a severe lack of classic armor in addition to the aforementioned problems above; what we end up is the same amount of different armor types but only two customizable things outside of armor: that of the visor and that of the forearms (“Wrist” in Reach). This is compared to Reach which let you customize kneepads, utility (both of these just “Legs” in Halo 4), Firefight voices and armor effects.
I’m not one of those people who are satisfied with one armor permutation, I like changing things around and setting up fictionally. As it stands right now in Reach I’m currently a male SPARTAN who is equipped with Mark V (Classic Halo: Combat Evolved armor). With the many armor pieces Reach offers I’ve given him a Parafoil Carapace, a Command Module on the helmet, a health kit utility as well as GPS on my wrist in case he needs to eject out of vehicles. Previously I was in a phase of utilizing Noble Team as my player going through in order: Carter, Kat, Jorge, Emile, Jun, ODST, Marines even Master Chief.
Compare this to Halo 4 where I basically have a bland male SPARTAN equips mostly GUNGNIR and whatever Forearms and Legs that give a more rounded appearance to him. Unlike Reach where the Visor Color would always reflect on whichever helmet you wore, in Halo 4 there are a number of helmets that have an unchangeable white visor. The most I can portray character wise are Palmer, Crimson Team (From Spartan Ops), a Standard SPARTAN IV or the Master Chief (circa Halo 3).
In terms of customization Reach had to most and it was additionally easily identifiable. But even Reach’s system could be improved, I find myself wanting a little more. Halo: ODST allowed players to remove the helmet from the playable character. I always chose Buck unbucketed because… well…. It’s Nathan Fillion! (IE: Firefly, Castle, etc.)
Unfortunately this ability is not in Reach because there really is no reason to have it if we don’t know what your player’s face looks like. If only Bungie had implemented some type of Character Customization system so that we could create our Spartan’s identity even further. Since Master Chief is the main and only playable character in 4, the idea of a customizable protagonist gets thrown out the door, except for Spartan Ops.
RPG’s generally have this thing down pat because you: the player gets to be whoever you want to be as the story will revolve around you. We look at a recent example: Skyrim which had it right from the start, you could be Human, Khajit, Argonian, Elven, etc. You had free reign to change how you would look like, little nose, big lips, red eyes, blond hair.
Playing Star Trek: Online (for the PC) I had much more advanced options like height, hand size, leg bulk, etc. The ability to change it at any time is always key to any character creator.
There is another side to customization and that deals with weapons, games like Call of Duty and Battlefield excel in this aspect.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 offers various scopes, skins, and much more for its weapons, but does not have any sort of character customization. In-game player models are random and loosely based on the type of class a player is.
Battlefield 3 offer much of the same in weapon customizations. Including laser sights, flashlights, and kick stands for the guns. Yet also suffering from the lack of character customization, only allowing players to choose the type of camouflage their character can wear. As Battlefield is a heavily class based system, the play models are linked directly to their class.
Both Call of Duty and Battlefield represents one side of the spectrum of customization while Reach, Skyrim, and Star Trek: Online represents the other. It’s always character versus guns. But rarely, if ever the two together.
Even if Bungie and 343 didn’t have a face customization system, they could have taken a page from Rainbow Six: Vegas & Rainbow Six: Vegas 2’s unique feature, which would help remedy the original problem for Halo. Allowing players to upload their own face over a blank canvas face would give reason for even more customization.
By all degrees I think Ubisoft did it best with Vegas. They had a pretty in-depth character creations system, paired with the standardized weapon customization of big hits such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. If future games allow for this type of balance and options for players, it would become a useful and standardized feature for players like me.
What I don’t want is something like Gears of War’s customization aspect, which limits the player only to existing characters and existing weapons. As much as I like Gears, this is not the direction I want shooter games to go in the customization division. Let’s see more of that RPG customization like Mass Effect 3 across the board for all games!
I want to create a character who is every part my own and utilizes weapons that suit me.
For all to see.
So when I heard about Call of Duty: Ghosts at the Xbox One Press Conference, I sighed thinking ‘It’s just another Call of Duty with minimal changes, why not let another game take the throne?’. But the one aspect that I thought was a great feature was the announcement of the customizable multiplayer character feature.
This is what I want more games (especially FPS’s) to do going forward. 343 should look at Halo 4’s mistakes in the customizable arena and remedy it as well. With the additional processing power for the One, Halo 5 should feature Spartan customizations to everyone’s delight. Including the return of classic armors like Mark V or ODST that were strangely absent from the 4th game.
This is my hope that developers will evolve into, to put the power in the players to play the game with a character they want to shape in whichever way they feel fit. But with a variety of options to create a unique online avatar in which to shoot with in the never ending war between players.