Dabe Alan

Halo 4 isn’t coming to the PC, and that’s a mistake

Halo 4 isn’t coming to the PC, and that’s a mistake

Halo 4 is a good game, and I think you should buy it when it comes out tomorrow, if you’re even remotely interested in first-person shooters. You can read our reviews of the campaign and multiplayer aspects of the game. Halo 4 is also one of the best-looking games of the current generation, to the point that I thought the first level was based on some kind of trick.

If it looks this good on the 360, I can’t imagine how it would look on a high-end PC, with resolution jacked up and a higher frame rate. Of course, that’s not going to happen.

Halo 4 was designed specifically for Xbox 360, and while we’re always exploring new ways to expand the franchise and share the Halo experience with as many fans as possible, we do not currently have any plans to port Halo 4 to PC,“ a Microsoft spokesperson told the Penny Arcade Report.

Microsoft obviously thinks that Halo 4 has more value pushing its consoles than it would have merely selling software to PC gamers as a whole, but there is still a missed opportunity here. There is some precedent here, as Halo was released for the PC in 2003 after its debut on the Xbox. The Gearbox-developed port offered a few new multiplayer maps and weapons, and it was promised that players would be able to make and share their own maps. That never happened. Halo 2 was released for the PC as a Vista exclusive, although it had to be delayed due to the hidden image of a naked rear in the game’s code.

That was the last Halo title to see a release on the PC. Those among Microsoft itself knew that the franchise was being wasted with third-party ports and artificial exclusion to try to move operating systems. I once spoke with a member of the Games for Windows team, years ago, and asked which game he would pick to host on the service if he had the run of the entire industry.

“This is going to sound self-serving,” I was told, “But Halo 3. Absolutely.” It doesn’t hurt that Microsoft once again has a new operating system to push, and launching Halo 4 with Windows 8-specific features or bonuses could have been a selling point; the power of the Halo brand has only grown since the early games.

Halo 4 also comes with a full suite of content creation tools and ways to share game types and new content, and it’s hard not to get excited about what could be if players were allowed to use the Forge with a mouse and keyboard, along with the ability to upload and share content with other players.

PC gamers tend to look down their nose at Halo and other console-specific franchises, but Halo has always offered a game with pacing, weapons, and tactics that feel unique. It’s a title that sits close to the best the PC has to offer, and in terms of community-building tools it trumps the closed nature of many modern PC games. Who thought that would happen?

A high quality port, released to help build buzz about Windows 8, would almost surely recoup the investment needed to make the game happen. It would also be a good way for Microsoft to prove that it still cares about PC gaming. The story of Halo on the PC is a story of Microsoft's failings as a company. Bungled ports, poorly thought-out exclusivity, and a lack of communication and sharing of resources between divisions has always kept Microsoft from turning Halo into a powerhouse on the PC.

Hell, even if they were to release a port now, do you think it would be sold on Steam? Or that Microsoft wouldn't shackle it with the terrible Games for Windows Live service, or whatever they're calling it on Windows 8? Even the branding is a mess; I do this for a living and I'm trying to sort out the insanity of something called Xbox Music on a PC.

Halo 4 is the best game in the series, and sadly it stands to point out how poorly Microsoft has handled the PC end of its gaming business. It's a wonderful game, but a missed opportunity.