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Halo 4 is in trouble. At launch, over 500,000 Xbox live subscribers were logged onto the virtual battlegrounds of Halo 4, making for a successful multiplayer experience. However, exactly three months after launch, Halo 4 has dwindled down the Xbox live most played list with Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Minecraft, and Fifa Soccer 13 leading the way now. Halo 4 usually hovers between the fourth or fifth place on the weekly Xbox Live Charts, which is kind of pathetic considering five years ago, Halo 3 ruled the charts with utter domination. It is also not uncommon to see Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 above Halo 4 on the activity charts.
In December I did a quick write up on the new maps for Halo 4, and at that point I took the time to call out some of my complaints with things. Sadly, it does not look like things have fared much better for the month I have not been playing Halo 4. I counted only 65,000 people playing multiplayer on Saturday night, and a measly 44,000 playing when I checked this past evening. That's a huge drop off from the 500,000 who were playing at launch.
Who really is to blame here? Would it be Spartan Ops? One could say that, but I can honestly say that 343 Industries has made a great effort into changing things with Spartan Ops to make it interesting again. I was very hesitant to give this another shot, as the last two chapters of the weekly mode left a really bad taste in my mouth, but I can happily say that things have come around. No longer are the same environments used over and over again, dumping endless waves of the same enemies while you hold a certain part of the map until either an objective is completed or a group of reinforcements arrive.
Instead, it feels as if this time around 343 is actually telling a story within the Spartan Ops mode, something they failed to do with the first five episodes. I mean sure, those cutscenes are there to watch before you start the episode, but when you actually start playing the episodes, it is hard to tell what is actually going on story-wise. That is not the case anymore. Things seem to run more fluidly between the cutscene and the five levels provided with each week. While all of this is great, especially for fans of Halo 4 that still care, the problem is, most of those initial adapters don't care.
Halo 4 multiplayer has become a bit more balanced since I last played. I did not notice as much of a heavy ordinance drop as I did a month ago, but the problem is, there just are not a lot of people playing. Add to that on both occasions I sat down and played a few matches this week, I noticed there were never more than 400 people playing the Crimson DLC playlist. That's right, only 400 people in the entire world are playing the downloadable maps for Halo 4, and that is downright pathetic for series standards. Over the weekend I tried out a very good playlist that showcased some great Forge maps that were being tested for regular rotation, but sadly the playlist has since been removed, with the addition of Team Doubles. It is not for me to say that Halo 4 multiplayer is bad, because it is actually quite good. Simply: no one is really playing it.
Is it 343's fault? Is it Microsoft's? Should we blame both for releasing this game only a week before the latest Call of Duty? Or are gamers simply just done with Master Chief? I hate to see my favorite multiplayer game of choice go down a path of a virtual ghost town, but that is what Halo 4 has become. It is not to say that no one is playing, but compared to even Halo: Reach, these numbers are downright disappointing. What would it take to bring things back even a little bit? I for one would love to see the return of Firefight mode, but that's just me. Perhaps even a “classic” playlist, something I heavily advised in my last piece, would bring back some players. I know a few of my friends who have since put the game down thanks to the various things I brought to light in my last article about this, they have since said if a “classic” mode was created, they would be back in a heartbeat. I enjoyed the few matches I played of mutliplayer, but at the end, it just didn't feel like the same good old time I remembered having.
With only a few weeks out from the release of the second set of downloadable maps for Halo 4, one thing is certain: 343 needs to come up with something. Maybe tweak that multiplayer a bit more? Bring back Firefight? It would not be unheard of, as we have seen modes return to various iterations of Halo before. Personally I'm a season pass holder so I'll be getting the new maps regardless, but I fear even less people will be bothering to pick up these new maps.