Halo 4 and the Death of the Instruction Booklet
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.
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?