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The Shadow of a Mountain
In the cab was a man, dressed so elegantly that he seemed like a being extraterrestrial altogether in such an empty place. He wore a suit that one would expect to see in a ballroom, yet out here there was no crowd of merry folk to dance with, no pianist filling the room with music, no wine. There was only the wind, bitter in its frigidity, and the trees, and the wolves.
The wolves were the reason they were travelling at night instead of resting after the day’s mileage. The woman, wife to the man, had been skittish after hearing the howling at dusk and had insisted they left the camp once she had spotted a gleaming pair of eyes in the treeline. The driver, a man aged beyond his years by a rough life on the road in places even more hostile than this, had tried to explain to her that they were just curious beasts, and were too afraid of them and the fire to approach, but it had been in vain. She threatened to forfeit a third of his fare if they didn’t pack up and leave immediately.
Now they were both fast asleep and relatively comfortable in the warmth of the cab while he, a Tennessean by the name of Turk, was up top, fighting to stay awake and drawing his fur cloak tightly around his shoulders while the breeze lapped at his exposed fingers like a hungry dog. He was not a bitter man though, and indeed was no stranger to rough travel conditions, and he altogether didn’t mind the weather or the lack of sleep so much. It was something else he was afraid of, something he had noticed in the treeline several hours ago, some faint shape or whisper of movement like a shadow out of some realm where the mind wanders and the lip jerks and drools.
At dawn, he halted the carriage and dismounted, taking a moment to stretch his muscles, sore from countless hours driving the team of horses. They had paused in a clearing bordering a stony cliff overlooking a massive valley of countless pine and oak. He soaked in this view while he drained his bladder off the edge and listened to the birds chirping. On his way back, he was greeted by his passenger, a man who insisted Turk call him Thomas but who he spoke to only as Mr. Wilkes.
“Good morning, Turk,” he said, yawning the sleepiness out.
“Mornin’, Mr. Wilkes.”
“Why have we stopped?” the man’s wife, Cheryl, asked, easing herself out as best she could in her dress.
“Mrs. Wilkes, if it’s all the same to you, I need a few hours’ rest before we keep going,” Turk answered, scratching his beard sheepishly. He wasn’t a fan of speaking to this woman, but he had been raised to be polite and she was paying a hefty purse for the trip, after all.
“Let the man sleep,” Tom said, his voice carrying a subtle edge to it. “You kept him up the entire night, for Pete’s sake. The city isn’t getting any farther away.”
Cheryl said nothing to this and instead went for the bushes, lifting her dress up to keep the expensive fabric as free of dust as possible.
“I’m grateful for it, sir. I only need a few hours and we’ll be ready to go,” Turk reassured.
“Take as long as you need. We do have a fairly excellent view to entertain ourselves with.”
Turk nodded and smiled and went for his coach. The seat was a far cry from the silk sheets and soft pillows that the Wilkes were used to, but it was an old friend for him and had served as a suitable bed on many nights before. The animals were content to graze and rest for the time being but Turk slept with the reins in hand anyways, an old habit he had been forced to learn after waking up to his wagon lurching forward many times after some wild animal had spooked the horses. He curled into the fetal position and was unconscious almost instantly.
After a time Cheryl made her way back from where she had done her business and found Tom smoking his pipe and looking out over the vale. She came up to him and stood at his side, not passing Turk and his coach a second glance.
“It sure is pretty, isn’t it?” she murmured, noticing for the first time the grand vistas to the east and the endless sea of green stretching beneath her. Tom said nothing at first, only thoughtfully inhaling from his pipe and gazing over the land. Finally he turned his head to her and spoke.
“It really has a power to it, huh?”
“How do you mean?” she asked, noting the tone of his voice.
“After growing up in the city… well, it feels free out here. And look at that. A man could drink this in like wine.”
“It sure is pretty,” she repeated.
“I wouldn’t mind waking up to this every morning.”
“What are you saying, Tom?”
“I’m saying is… well, that clearing could fit a little house pretty well, don’t you think? And a forest for the children to play in…” he looked at her face, saw the incredulous look she was giving him, and hastened to add, “just a thought is all.”
“All of our money, our friends, are back east,” she said.
“I know, honey, I know. I’m just a little drunk on the scenery, is all. Would you sit with me?”
“But my dress…”
“Tom, this is Chinese silk, I-”
“We’ll buy you a whole new dress the moment we get to San Francisco, honey, how about that? Chinese silk, Persian, whatever you want. And then we’ll see the ocean, from the other side of the country. How does that sound?”
“I mean… well… alright,” she relented. They sat down in the grass, and Tom slid his arm around her waist. They sat like that in silence for some time.
Tom’s offer to get all the sleep he needed was disregarded by his wife, Turk found, when she shook him awake a mere hour and a half later and urged him to keep moving. He sat up, blinking and rubbing his eyes, and felt even more worn out than he had before. Still, he decided, the sooner they got to the city, the sooner he could be rid of them. And he’d have some money in his pocket, too. San Francisco was a good gambling town, and they also had good whiskey and decent women. Plus, although he didn’t like admitting it to himself, he wanted to be out of the mountains as soon as possible. Some shadow crept in the back of his mind like the remnant of a nightmare and he shivered a little bit as he urged the horses on with a crack of the reins.
The morning passed uneventfully. Soon the trees once again obscured the valley from sight. Turk snacked on biscuits as they went and not long after noon they paused for a lunch of smoked venison and beans before continuing the journey once more. The sun reached its meridian then passed it on its eventual decline to the west. Soon the sky was as pink as an orchid, the clouds a mellow purple and the horizon to the west shining in all the brilliance of blood. Turk halted the coach and dismounted, groaning as his legs straightened for the first time since sunrise, and knocked politely on the cab door.
“Mr. and Mrs. Wilkes, it’s about that time. Go ahead and make yourselves comfortable for the night and I’ll have supper ready soon.”
“Oh, are we stopping already?” Cheryl asked, bleary-eyed from a nap she had apparently been woken from.
“‘Fraid so, ma’am, it’s gettin’ nigh-on too dark to see and if you don’t mind me saying it, I’m pooped,” Turk answered, holding the door for them. He helped her down and then Tom followed suit. “I’m gonna hunt some firewood and maybe scrounge up somethin’ fresh to eat. I understand that dried deer meat gets a little tiresome, after a while.”
“Thank you, Turk,” Tom said, leading his wife to a nice flat spot where he presumably would set up their tent. Turk grabbed his rifle from the storage box at the tail end of the stage and holding it with one hand by the frame sauntered off into the treeline. Firewood was a must, and not just for the freezing mountain temperatures, although those could be brutal even in the late spring.
Tom immediately got busy setting up their sleeping area. He was only slightly better at pitching tents than he was when they had first set out several weeks ago, but in the end he got the job done. Turk preferred to sleep under the stars, and although Tom partially admired his ruggedness, he also found it disconcerting. Cheryl on the other hand was appalled that someone could sleep on the ground like that with nothing but a blanket underneath. Tom found her repulsion of all travel conditions mildly irritating, but he had to admit that after a lifetime spent in Boston, it wasn’t exactly ideal. He did dread the trip back, however. Weeks on the road again, without even the end goal of a new city to visit, listening to nothing but her ceaseless complaining, definitely did not excite him. Maybe they’d just stay in San Francisco forever, he thought. Maybe that’d be easier.
Cheryl seemed to be brooding while Tom worked. She pouted silently the entire time and even when the tent was finished, she didn’t enter it. He glanced at her, started to climb inside, then decided against it and instead approached her.
“Are you going to say what’s bothering you or are you going to come get warm?” he asked, placing his hand on her hip.
“It’s that driver,” she mumbled.
“Turk? What about him?”
“He just doesn’t understand. I don’t like it out here. I want to be away from this place.”
“What would you have him do? Stay up all night again?” Her look told him that that was exactly what she wanted.
“Look, honey,” he started. “I understand that you’re getting a little anxiety about being out in the wild like this-”
“It’s not anxiety,” she hissed suddenly. “There’s something… off about these mountains. And those howls last night…”
“I agree, being eaten by wolves wouldn’t be the ideal vacation,” Tom laughed. She gave him a look suggesting that she didn’t find it funny. “Alright, listen. Turk’s a good man. And he’s got a rifle. And if that doesn’t help, just remember that I’m here to protect us.” He kissed her forehead, gently. “Now will you come get warm in the tent with me until he gets a fire going?”
Cheryl finally let out a smile. “Alright. I suppose.”
The sun was finally disappearing behind the skyline when Turk emerged from the woods, carrying his fur cloak like a sack, full of firewood. There was still suitable light in the sky to see fairly clearly and he immediately got to work rousing a fire. Tom and Cheryl had pulled up logs as seats and they sat watching until the flames from the tinder started licking at the branches on top and embers began to dance in the evening breeze. Turk fetched his cookware from the wagon and soon they had stew bubbling over the fire. Somewhere, far in the distance, a wolf howled, and immediately after another one answered. Cheryl fidgeted nervously.
“Aye,” Turk said. “It’s a lonely sound. But a welcome one, sometimes. Sometimes it’s nice to hear that you aren’t the only living thing around.”
“Will they come to our camp?” Cheryl asked nervously.
“No, at least not until after we’re long gone, to chase our scraps. Wolves aren’t evil beasts, ma’am. They can kill a man, sure, but it’s rare. Most of the time they just like bein’ left alone. It’s people who can be evil. Humans are the only things God has ever made that will kill for just the sheer fun of it. I’ve seen things, travelling the lands as I have. Things that would make a lovely lady like yourself ill.
“Evil,” he echoed, and Tom and Cheryl thought that he was still talking about people but he wasn’t. “You also hear stories by travelling. Whether you’re in a saloon or just sharing a fire and a meal with someone on a cold night. People talk and I don’t misdoubt but what they stretch the truth a bit. But you hear things that’ll make your blood run cold as ice until it curdles up in your veins. Things not of this world, or perhaps that only lurks in the darkest corners of it.” He stood and hunched over the flame and stirred the pot before sitting back down. “Mrs. Wilkes,” he said. “If it’s all the same to you I’d like to not travel by night anymore. I don’t think that’s what’s best.”
Both Tom and Cheryl were visibly shaken by what Turk had said. The darkness and quiet of the forest seemed to close in on them, and the rustle of the pine needles in the wind seemed to harbor a dark secret all of a sudden.
“I didn’t mean to scare ye,” Turk laughed, trying to lighten the mood. “I apologize. My conversation skills need some improving, I’m afraid.”
“What stories have you heard?” Cheryl asked.
“Oh, don’t fret about it,” Turk said. “Come, grab you a plate of stew, ma’am. You too, Mr. Wilkes. We have a long road ahead of us and you will need your strength.”
After supper Tom and his wife retired to their tent. Turk grabbed his old wool blanket from the wagon and laid it out on the ground, then set his bedroll down for a pillow and hunkered down. He didn’t sleep though, exhausted as he was. He laid there for quite some time, watching the trees. Watching them sway in the wind. Listening. After a while he got up and tossed more wood on the fire.
In the morning the three of them rose and quietly packed up to get back on the road. Turk had managed to get a few hour’s rest, but he was still groggy as he folded his blanket back up and tossed it in the box with his bedroll. He noted that Tom was more adept at packing his tent and his belongings. He and his wife seemed at odds, though. They weren’t speaking and their interactions seemed stiff.
Turk wanted to be out of the mountains by nightfall. There was something wrong and the bright early sunshine didn’t dilute it this time. He climbed into the driver’s seat, itching to go, but Tom and his wife were whispering to each other now and weren’t getting in. It seemed private and Turk didn’t interfere but eventually Tom came up to his side and asked, “do you mind if I ride with you for a while?”
“I don’t mind at all,” Turk replied.
“Thank you,” Tom said, climbing up onto the shotgun side. “I just want to admire the scenery, is all. Before we leave these mountains and the chance is lost.”
Turk felt that there was another reason, but he didn’t press it. Instead he cracked the reins and they were moving.
“It sure is a beautiful place,” Turk soliloquized. “The road’s much smoother than I had expected, too. Still, I’ll be glad to be rid of this place.
“Not you too,” Tom groaned. “I could live here forever.”
Turk did not answer right away. For a while, the only sound was the steady creaking of the wheels, the breathing of the horses, the birds in the trees, and an occasional pebble being tossed aside underhoof. The air felt less thin than it had the day before, and it seemed like it wouldn’t be too long before they were back in level country. The feeling filled Turk with euphoria, optimism, and, he noted, a good deal of relief. He suddenly felt like talking to the prim city man beside him, who thus far had seemed more like some foreign entity rather than a fellow man.
“What is it you two want to see in San Francisco?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the laboring horses ahead.
“What is there to not see?” Tom said, distractedly. “It’s a new place we haven’t been to yet, and is supposed to be an interesting experience.”
“Pretty, sure,” Turk said. “Seeing the ocean, all that. Looking over all that water, it really gives a man a sense of how big our world really is.”
“We have oceans back home, too,” Tom scoffed. “I grew up beside the sea. I was talking of more, you know, culture. There’s supposed to be a lot of… exotic people there.”
“Exotic, sure. There’s lots of chinamen. But they’re pretty much treated as the negroes were some years back. In the markets there you can find severed heads from Brazil, all shrunken and shipped over here same as any ordinary goods.”
“Severed heads? Is everyone out west a complete savage? I had hoped it was all just talk.”
“Tom, man, just call me Tom.”
“Tom,” Turk said. “It’s like I was saying last night; you can find meanness anywhere you can find people, and you can find people just about anywheres.”
“About last night,” Tom began. “Why’d you have to go and spook my wife like that? She won’t even talk to me now, just because I mentioned in passing that I’d like to stay in these mountains a while. All because you got her imagination running.”
Turk took a moment to think about a response that held no danger of irking the man. At last he just spat it out bluntly. “Mr. Wilkes, your wife is right to want to leave this place as quickly as possible. I myself am pretty eager to escape.”
Tom stared at him in surprise. “You too? I thought you to be a reasonable man, and not likely to be frightened of some poor living conditions.”
“It isn’t the mountains I dislike, nor the weather. I’ve lived through worse. I once survived a blizzard down in Utah by killing my horse and sleeping inside its belly. With all due respect, Mr. Wilkes, this is a bad place, and something else entire. The stories I’ve heard-”
“Stories,” Tom snorted. “You believe in old wives’ tales and campfire ghost stories. I’d expect that from my three year old son, but not from you, Turk.”
Turk was about to reply when the team of horses snorted and stopped, shying their heads and stamping their feet. Turk looked ahead and saw a massive gravel slide, maybe fifty feet across, covering the entire trail and at the edge of a cliff. As he watched, thousands of pounds of loose shale fell away off the edge in a great torrent. Turk cursed and yanked at the reins. He looked around for a detour, but to the right of the track was a steep berm atop which the treeline started, scarce thick enough to fit a man, let alone a stagecoach and a team of horses, and to the left was the cliff and its gut wrenching drop.
“How do you propose we go forward?” Tom asked, a little too satisfied with the sudden obstacle.
“We cannot go back,” Turk said, more to himself than his passenger. “Not another night…”
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” Turk said, waving the question off with his hand. “We’re going to go through. It should have settled enough to hold us, if we’re careful.” In truth he had no idea at all whether they were about to plunge to their deaths or make it safely to the other side. But he was filled with a sudden, maddenning desire to try.
“I don’t-,” Tom began, but then changed his mind mid-sentence and shut his mouth.
They started forward, the horses being careful of their own volition, and slowly moved onto the gravel patch. A few pebbles clattered away, off the edge and into oblivion. They pressed forward.
Suddenly, the rear wheels began losing tread. The tail end of the wagon shifted left, towards the edge, not a lot but enough to almost cause a coronary for the unfortunate passengers. The horses nearly bolted. Turk had to hold the reins with all his might, forcing himself not to shout, lest the noise alone sent them off the brink. If the wagon had lurched forward at full speed like that, it surely would have inspired another landslide, and the city of San Francisco would have never noted their absence. By either luck or skill Turk managed to keep the animals in check, and they cleared the gravel, inspiring a collective sigh of relief.
“I don’t think Cheryl even knew that was happening,” Tom laughed nervously. “I say we keep it that way.”
“Whatever you say, sir,” Turk said. Inside, he was just as shaken as Tom, but he hid it better.
The terrain on the other side did not improve much. What was before a nice, even, well-travelled road was now steeply sloped, rocky, uneven, littered with the roots of ancient trees. Clearly most other travellers did not brave the gravel slide and instead turned back to find another route, resulting in this portion of the road being much less developed.
“Shit,” Turk muttered. His worst fears were now being realized. If conditions continued this way they wouldn’t even be close to leaving the mountain range by sundown.
They proceeded on, at a fraction of their former speed. The horses struggled to negotiate the terrain and Turk constantly worried a wheel would bust on a stone or a root. Panic and desperation began to well up inside him, feelings he wasn’t accustomed to.
Stop being childish, he told himself. This greenhorn city slick was handling a simple wilderness better than a seasoned driver who had passed through dozens of similar places. Shame burned at his cheeks but it did nothing to abate the disquiet in his chest.
Night descended upon them as predictably it would, and Turk was forced to halt the exhausted horses when they found a small area suitable for a campsite. The trees here were dead, black, and barren, the victims of some lightning strike or fire years past. It made the place resemble a cemetary, almost, or the scene of some ancient disaster. Black stakes protruding from a bed of brown needles. Even the sky was gray, laden with foreboding. Turk sat atop the seat even after the coach stopped moving, looking around with eyes that held no emotion. With twilight the sense of danger grew until it felt like a suffocating presence in the air itself.
It bothered him that Tom couldn’t feel what his own wife pretty much knew for certain. He had dismounted nonchalantly and was calmly setting up camp. The air was cold, and the wind was stronger than usual and smelled of rain. It made Tom’s already clumsy attempts at setting up the tent even more unbearable to watch. Cheryl was asleep in the cab, and Turk hurried to find some wood before the sun went down too far to see.
“God dammit!” Tom yelled when a great gust of air, the strongest yet, caught the limp tent and sent it flying upwards until it tangled itself in the branches with no hope of retrieval. This woke his wife up, and she opened the coach door and stuck her head out to see what was going on.
“Tom?” she asked, the anger in her voice betraying her outer calm. “Tom, what is that?”
“It’s…” he scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. “It’s our tent, honey.”
Her jaw dropped and she stormed out of the cab.
“Well it was an accident,” he protested. “The wind-”
She smacked him in the face, hard. Afterwards she glared at him and stormed off back to the cab. She was almost halfway back when he grabbed her arm and spun her around.
“Quit acting like a fucking… bitch!” he hissed, spittle flying from his lips. His face was contorted into a mask of pure rage that she had never seen before and suddenly she felt very weak in the knees. He raised his hand to hit her, but stopped. Then he let go. She stood there, rubbing at the burning part of her arm where his hand had twisted the flesh and sobbing. As she did so the first drops of rain began falling.
Turk was scooping up another log when he heard drops landing around him. He had been praying, fervently, that it wouldn’t rain, despite all evidence to the contrary. And his prayers went unanswered. He dropped the log from his hand and took his rifle with both hands, scanning the area around him. All he saw were dead trees, dead pine needles. It was quiet. He realized he could no longer hear the wind, even though he still felt it. Puzzled, he listened more closely, and that’s when he heard it. Tom and Cheryl calling for him.
“Turk! You didn’t get lost, did you?” Tom was yelling.
“It’s cold, come help us make a fire!” Cheryl added.
Turk rolled his eyes and started heading towards them with his meager supply of wood and then suddenly halted mid-step. The voices were coming from a completely different direction than the camp was.
“Oh no,” he muttered, under his breath. So the stories were true, it seemed. Even despite his fears the past few days, he had still doubted their authenticity. But now he couldn’t lie to himself any more. It was time to get back.
As he ran, he noticed how dark it had gotten. He had been out much longer than he had thought. There was hardly any light left in the sky. His heart started beating faster, the rain started falling harder. There would be no fire in the rain, and there was no shelter under the husks of trees long dead. This was it, Turk knew.
He broke through the treeline and into the camp. At first it seemed empty, but soon he spotted Tom and Cheryl hiding from the growing storm in the wagon. He sprinted to them, not caring how crazy he looked in that moment, and threw the door open before jumping inside.
“Turk?” Cheryl asked, worry flooding her voice. Water droplets drummed at the outside of the coach. It sounded eerily like fingers tapping on the windows.
“We should have never went through here,” Turk gasped, breathless. “Dammit, I knew we should have went around!”
“What’s the meaning of this?” Tom asked, sounding more annoyed than concerned.
Turk clutched at the man’s expensive coat, twisting the fabric in his calloused hands. “You don’t get it! It’s all true! But your wife knows.”
“Know what? What is true? Turk, you’re raving like a lunatic,” Cheryl said, indignant and afraid all at once.
“The aborigines were right,” Turk hissed. “The mountain spirit, they call it, the shadow-”
“Shadow? Have you hit your head or something?” Tom was raising his voice now, suddenly furious. “We should have taken the train. You and your talk of nature, Cheryl. Now we’re in bed with a madman.”
Turk seemed to not be hearing them. “If only we had a fire,” he muttered. “A fire. But this damn rain. And your voices, out in the woods…” He shuddered.
Cheryl was sobbing now, visibly shaken, and Tom placed his hand on her elbow before berating him. “You’re speaking insanity right now and you need to stop upsetting my wife. Now I’d appreciate it if you kept quiet and calmed down.”
Turk looked over both of them, his eyes wide and red-rimmed. “You don’t believe me. But I saw it. The other night, when we were travelling all night. I saw it followin’ us. And you’ll see it too, soon enough.” With that, he took up his rifle and opened the door and stepped out into the rain, which was now pouring down with all the fury of a hurricane. His form soon disappeared from sight completely in that limited visibility.
“Where,” Cheryl whispered. “What was he goin’ on about? Honey, what was he talking about?”
“It’s nothing, Cher,” Tom reassured her, closing the stage door. “He talked to me earlier about some stories he’d supposedly heard about these mountains. I thought he sounded like a whack job even then. In the morning this will seem ridiculous and as soon as we reach the next town we’ll buy a train ticket or find someone else to drive us west. Okay, honey?”
She looked up at him, tears brimming her eyes. “I don’t know… I haven’t felt right since we got out here…”
“Cher-” Tom began, but was cut short by the crack of a rifle outside followed by a bloodcurdling scream.
Cheryl immediately opened the door and hopped outside, all of a sudden oblivious to the weather and her own expensive garb. Tom called out after her but she didn’t so much as turn back, and with a sigh he followed her out into the torrent.
“Mr. Turk!” she yelled, at the top of her lungs. “Mr. Turk!”
“Cheryl,” Tom warned. He was feeling uneasy now. There was something about that scream that made his blood freeze in place.
“Turk!” she hollered. “Turk, please, come here! We’re sorry for what happened! Please come back!”
In the woodline, a branch snapped. Then Turk’s voice rang out. “It’s alright,” he said. “It was just a bear. I’m alright.”
Cheryl sighed with relief. Tom could see the tension leave her body in one great rush. Yet there was something wrong with that voice. It rang out much too clearly. When she had been calling, her voice had been muted by the storm, even though she was yelling as loud as she could. Yet Turk’s voice carried as if they were all enclosed in a room together. He saw his wife start moving towards the speaker and his heart caught in his throat and before he could stop her, some shape, incomprehensible and terrible and yet absolute in its creation, some fevered dream or denizen of the realm where Gods had once ruled but no more and with no mouth and no eyes and yet a hundred mouths and a hundred eyes all at the same time, some being too grotesque to be possible, appeared from the darkness with skin that glossed black in the rain and it reached, not with an arm or a tentacle but somehow it just reached, and Tom heard his wife’s greeting morph into a scream and he saw her skin tighten in places as if invisible ropes were being drawn around her and then it just burst, even in the gloom her blood was visible and it spilled into the grass and was gone and her head seemed to lift on her shoulders until somehow it was no longer attached to them and then he was running, running, through the sepulchre of slain trees that he knew now were no victim of lightning but instead a fate altogether more terrible. In those moments his mind understood a great deal, a million flashing lights behind his eyes and he felt on the brink of some discovery and then it was gone and his mind snapped in two like a twig and that’s when he felt the thing, the shadow, tighten around his waist and then there was nothing, nothing save for the torrential rain and the ceaseless howling of the wind.
Microsoft should consider handing future Halo games to new developers. 343 is a abysmal studio.
Halo Infinite: There actually was really good spirit for this game. After the beautiful engine reveal trailer in 2018 the community felt like this time we going to get a amazing Halo game. The graphics looked next-gen with beautiful distant vistas, wildlife and dense grass fields all swaying to the wind. The art style in that trailer nailed it and made everyone feel like the discovery of Alien but familiar environment set in a Halo ring just like Halo CE invoked that sense of scale and wonder. Fast forward to 2020 campaign reveal looks like a Xbox One game. No point going into details about graphics as discussed numerous times but we know it looked awful.
Halo 4: Decent Halo game but not to the standard people expected. The story wasn’t great, the promethean enemies were generic and bland. The main villain (forgot his name) had screen time of 5 minutes or so. Multiplayer started to feel more like Call of Duty with loadouts etc so far ok their first Halo game and teething problems can forgive them. Halo 4 started with the lowest mainline Halo game but not bad at 87% Metacritic. Remember this is the flagship franchise of Xbox and people expect the best game possible.
Halo MCC: All Halo games in one package and ability to jump in and out of different playlists of MP and campaign wow sign me up!...released as a broken incomplete mess that took 5 years to fix. Second fail of 343.
Halo 5: Hunt the truth marketing campaign, wow this game will have interesting narrative and rivalry! Sike! What?!got nothing to do with the game? Awful story, characters and campaign? Yikes. MP was bit more praised in this one but not to forget launched incomplete too with modes missing. Right now two average Halo games and one incomplete mess of a collection? Lowest rated mainline Halo game at 83% metacritic. Something is wrong..
Halo Infinite: It is the return to form Halo game! State of the art next gen engine! We promise will be amazing back to form for Halo after 2 shitty games! 500million budget wow they are serious!....oh...best thing we got out of it is the Craig memes?.. Too early to say if Infinite will deliver but if fail again 343 should not deal with Halo franchise ever again. Sorry they have proved themselves to be incompetent mediocre devs.