Halo 4 and the Death of the Instruction Booklet

halo 4 no manual

Some of you might be scratching your head at the title to this article.  ”Instruction booklet, what’s that?” you ask.  I’m assuming we have some readers on this site who’s first system was a 360 or a PS3, and let’s be honest guys, if that’s the case, they may NEVER have seen a manual.

After picking up Halo 4 this morning, I went about my normal, new game ritual: place box upright on passenger seat and stare at it when stopped at red lights, tear open plastic wrapping, fold receipt to be placed next to instruction booklet, leaf through instruction boo…..WHAT?

Let’s back up a minute here, because the death of the instruction manual has been  a slow, painful one.  I’ve noticed its decline with each new game purchased in the last couple of years, the most obvious of which being the 3 Mass Effect titles.  I literally watched the booklet shrink before my eyes until, with ME3, we were presented with a tiny, single-fold page with warnings and legal information.  You know, that page you always used to skip at the beginning of the manual.

Is this what we’ve been reduced to? This is the information they choose as worthy to present? Oh, everything else is online? Shut the hell up, I don’t have time to go online, I’m in the car as my dad drives me home from the game shop, I’m sitting at the dinner table tweaking for the moment I can pop the disc in.  Oh what, you’re all old people now? Fine.  I’m on my goddamn lunch break and don’t exactly have my 360 with me.

10 years ago, a game called Halo: Combat Evolved changed the face of gaming forever.  It also had a kickass instruction manual.  30 pages long, if you include the controller map on the back cover, this booklet was chocked full of goodies.

halo manual

It begins with an overview of the Xbox controller, but then, something special-something I miss more than anything else in the death of manuals- story synopsis.  That’s right, games used to have stories, narratives that drew you into their world, and what’s more, these stories used to be IMPORTANT, even in shooters like Halo.  Character and enemy bios and descriptions followed.  These were my favorite part as a child.  Semi-detailed biographies of the people around me and the monsters I was about to kill.  It added depth, lore, love, to the whole experience.  HUD explanation followed, then even more detailed, COLOR images and descriptions of every single weapon in the game.  Yes, manuals also used to be detailed and in color.  Multiplayer and the credits round out the booklet’s hefty page count.

Now, let’s look at Halo 4‘s manual.  Oh wait, there isn’t any.  At least Mass Effect 3 had the decency to throw some ads and other crap in the box for me.  Halo 4′s case is bare, save for the 14 day free trial of Gold XBL.  But wait, where’s that annoying disclaimer black-and-white fold?  Oh, its printed on the inside of the cover, where art used to go.  But who the heck needs cool art anyway?

  • Monkeybomber

    This made made me sad :(

  • M C

    Instruction booklets have not had any useful information for years. I am glad to see them go. It is really just a waste of paper, money, and production costs.

    Since that last Xbox, most games have built in tutorials or “how to play” sections.

    • im mad


  • Sitefullofvirgins

    Instead of looking at the pictures on the box on red lights and trying to pen it to stare at the instruction manual, you should instead think of reasons your still a virgin and consider losing your virginity.

    • http://twitter.com/MPScrimshaw Mike Potts

      Perhaps I’ll replace my time reading instruction manuals with time devoted to reading articles online and trolling them. I hear people that do that get LOADS of pussy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002367454310 Jonathan Stoffregen


  • Guest

    It makes me exceptionally sad because I learned so much from the Halo: CE booklet that really piqued my interest in the backstory and led me down the Great Journey I’ve found myself traveling.

  • http://twitter.com/MPScrimshaw Mike Potts

    I really appreciate the debate I’ve seen from both sides on this site and on N4G. I do, thinking as a reasonable person, totally see that it saves production cost and really, who needs them with tutorials anyway? The thing I miss is the backstory these gave the developers a chance to build. Its world building. Give me tons of info on all the weapons, places, people, and story. Really, you could call some of these manuals precursors to things like Halo Wiki.

  • BrothaDave

    saving trees through apps and the internet is all good with me. they have books if you really want that kind of stuff. I have the God of War book and MGS book and a couple others from the PS2 era still around.

  • Manual-the-Bandito

    I agree with you, Mike, particularly about the world-building. While there is an element of save-the-trees, I was really looking forward to seeing hard copy of new weapons, characters bios etc. in the manual for Halo 4. I was so surprised not to find one, that I phoned the store to see if my pre-order copy had been tampered with in some way :)

  • http://twitter.com/Jurburr Jez

    Good article, sad circumstances.

  • JettLag

    I don’t mind not having a printed copy of the manual, but at least let me download a PDF version online.

  • Guest

    I agree with you here very much. I haven’t been playing video games as long as a most people but my part of getting a new game was the instruction booklet. I never played a game no matter how much I wanted to until I had read the instruction booklet.

  • http://twitter.com/SpiriWolf Julian Rios

    I haven’t played games as much as a lot of people but my favorite part was reading the character bios and enemy bios. Now I don’t even get that. I gave up on Modern Warfare a long time ago with their 5 page instruction booklet. But when I got Halo 4 I was expecting to see this amazing manual full of amazing information for me while all my extra content installed. I didn’t even get that. At least you got a 14 day trial for XBL the Limited Edition Console didn’t even give me that much it was very much dissapointing.

  • Ryan

    I’m so sad. When I opened the Halo 4 game box and found no instruction manual, I at first thought there was a mistake. But no. It was even worse. They just didn’t make one.

  • Greg Sharf

    Hey Mike, you mentioned the manual being online. Could you give me the link? I’ve been dying to find out how to do evasive tricks in the Banshee and all my button mashing has come to no avail! Thanks!!

    • Banshee Bro

      Im pretty sure you use the bumpers and the left joystick to do banshee tricks, but Im not sure. It might depend on controller layout as well.

  • im mad

    Thank you for this. Im 16, but believe me, i feel this so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Orion-Evony/100001847691417 Orion Evony

    Save trees by using more electricity, or use more trees by spending money on a bigger manual? This is just Micro$oft finding another way to maximize profits, nothing more. The first thing I noticed was that the booklet was missing. My xbox is in storage until next year, and I was hoping to at least look at the booklet until I could play Halo 4 to ease the withdrawal. Guess things change, this was just a sad one.