The Series You Loved, Once

It is difficult to put into words how much it meant to me for an earlier part of my life. Halo 3 came packed in with my Xbox 360, which was my first official game console–one I’d bought with my own money. Maybe it’s just because I was at the perfect age for something like this to imprint so deeply in me, but Halo 3 occupies a sort of mythical place in my memory–a moment in time where every player encountered online was a potential friend (I’d even met my best friends through Halo 3,) where creativity and cooperation were encouraged and rewarding, where secrets loomed both in dark places and hidden in plain sight. I loved the world and the characters, the lore and its mystery. It was a life-changing experience whose touch made a believer out of me. ODST was captivating in its own right, and following Bungie’s swansong of Reach, I looked starry-eyed toward a bright future that would carry their work, as well as my community, forward.

You probably know where this is going.

My friends and I (the ones mentioned above) attended our own local midnight releases for Halo 4 before regrouping over Xbox Live to unseal our copies at the same time, another example of the communal sort of weight Halo carried in our minds and hearts. What followed, however, was a startling and interminable descent into a sort of disappointment I’d never really felt before, nor have I since. I tried and tried to get over the aggressively ugly and complicated aesthetic, tried to enjoy a multiplayer that mimicked the Call of Duty I never enjoyed, tried to comprehend the confusing story that didn’t seem to acknowledge me as an audience. I searched and searched for the Halo I knew and loved and believed would be there, but it was gone.
The best we could do was laugh at it.

look at this guy

I suspect this is the sort of experience you can only have once. When something so important could prove to be so mortal, how can you ever really love again?

Has anyone else here loved and lost? I’d like to hear your stories and how they changed you and your relationship to fandom, if at all.

P.S. I just revisited Halo 4 after turning my back on it eight years ago, and while it was nice to see it without the emotional baggage and expectations I had when I was sixteen, the best I can say is that it’s an impressive first outing for a brand new studio working on an established series. I think the fidelity on 360 still holds up but, aside from its skyboxes which are characteristically outstanding for Halo, the art direction for the game remains strange and unappealing in my eyes–even outside of the context of the series. Completing the campaign on Heroic was satisfying enough, but I wish the story had focused more on the intimate Chief/Cortana side plot than Ancient People We’ve Never Met Talking in Proper Nouns That Don’t Mean Anything If You Haven’t Consumed Transmedia Products X &/or Y. All in all, the most disappointing thing about Halo 4 is that it could have been anything, but they made Halo 4. Stellar music, though!

Have you revisited the games that changed you in this way? What did you find?