I love Halo 4. I love it to pieces. It's a great rejuvenation for the franchise. When I play the single player campaign, I can clearly see the love 343 put into making sure they didn't ruin one of history's greatest shooter games. But every time I try to play multiplayer, I come out with the opposite feeling.

The last time went like this: I boot it up and spend some time tooling around with my armor and loadouts. I'm feeling pretty good about the game in general. Then I jump into a game mode. My go-to favorites are Regicide and Big Team Slayer. Find a match, join in. First red dot on my radar. I've got the drop on this guy, and a clear advantage. But he has a rocket launcher. Dead. A little annoyed, I start to grumble.

Respawn. See the King off in the distance. I take a single potshot with my Covenant Carbine and just so happen to hit the jackpot. I get the kill, and the majority of the points. This doesn't make me feel better, it makes me feel like the game lacks finesse when handing points to players. I feel bad for stealing some guy's payday.

But moving on, I enter a building. Another red dot appears. This guy is on the roof, I'm underneath him. It becomes obvious he's stalking me. I lead him to a doorway to get it over with. I think I clearly have the advantage when he walks inside. But instead the guy tries taking potshots at me from outside. When that doesn't work, he spams a couple plasma grenades and manages to whittle away half my shields. Then he sprints inside, me shooting him at point blank range all the while. He punches me, I punch him. He gets off one single shot, the shot that kills me. This fight is more fair, but it still irks me how he got rewarded for annoyingly (and obviously) stalking, grenade spamming, and bum-rushing me rather than having a straight firefight.



At this point I shut down the Xbox, stuttering something to the effect of "$#@  &*^%$@#  ^&*%$#%@!" under my breath. This is why I can't stand Halo 4 multiplayer anymore. I used to have a good time, but now it seems like I simply can't enjoy it. I would attribute a large amount of blame to me being out of practice. But then, I can't discount the numerous other problems I notice.

It seems that for every fair fight I have, there are at least one or two other fights that get me frothing at the mouth. It's a good thing I prefer to keep my mic muted all the time. But when I'm not getting killed by a vehicle or a power weapon, it seems like instead there's assassins, snipers, plasma grenade spammers, bum-rushing two-punch-wonders, jumping leapfrogs, and questionable aim assist.

343 has constructed a beautiful game with amazing art direction, tight controls, and the special brand of Halo multiplayer I love so much, updated with the most modern trends. But the multiplayer gameplay only seems to hold up on a skin-deep layer. Scrutinize any further than that, and you'll find that the mode often lacks balance, consistency, and technical proficiency.

If one team gets into all the vehicles first on Exile, they're undoubtedly going to dominate for at least the first half of the match. If the Spartan you're up against has a weapon even slightly more powerful than yours, say goodnight. Special ordinance is often unhelpful (since when were plasma grenades considered anything but a standard weapon?). A charged shot from a plasma pistol disables the weapon on every vehicle except a warthog, effectively neutralizing any benefit to this strategy. And, most glaringly, potshots across the map often make a headshot due to heavy aim assist, but closer range shooting sometimes results in misses, even when the reticle is very clearly aimed at the target. If these sound like whiny, false claims, I assure you I've gone through entire matches shot-by-shot in the theater, only to witness these exact phenomena.

And it seems as if once a match the connection has to drop. At least once, the whole game has to pause, reorganize itself, and resume. Or, more rarely, push you back out into the menu. Party chat connections are usually lost when this happens. These instances are frustrating only because of the alarming frequency at which they occur. Internet problems can also plague the fight itself, with Spartans teleporting around in front of me like a character from Jumper.

I'm also still upset that there isn't any Invasion or Forge World in Halo 4, when for me those were the biggest, most time-sucking features of Reach. Even Reach's own Invasion got ruined when 343 took over. They changed it around so much that it's a very different game now and, in my opinion, a much less enjoyable one.

There are still enough good times to be had that I keep coming back to Halo 4, but if 343 doesn't improve my opinion of their multiplayer game design, I might not be so keen to kiss at their feet as I have been in the past.