There's a right brouhaha stewing on the Waypoint forums (here & here) over the anatomy of the new Grunts. Several members are in a twist about the change from the traditional Arthropod Grunts to something more reptilian. Whilst the form-factor is similar, the Grunts in previous games had hard exoskeletons like crabs and spiders, now they appear to have leathery, scaly skin like a lizard.
They're right to say this is a bigger change than anything we've seen in previous games, the changes between Brutes and Jackals/Skirmishers throughout the different games are no greater than the variances we see between different humans:
The Grunt's change is a shift in genus from arthropod to reptile, it would be like having a dog in one game that became a chicken in the next, even if they had a similar form factor and silhouette they would be completely different animals.
Does it matter?
Well, in terms of the quality of the game and how much we'll enjoy Halo 4, no, of course it doesn't matter. The genetic make up of the Grunts will have no impact on how much fun they are to shoot and certainly no impact on the quality of the wider game experience.
But in terms of respect for the canon and lore of Halo, it does matter. Any retcons and changes to the canon decay the overall integrity of the Halo universe. As fans we suffered a maelstrom of retcons and inconsistencies in Halo: Reach. It was forgiveable (or at least some of us managed to forgive), because you have to believe Bungie did it with the intention of making the best game that they could. The changes 343i have made to the Grunts in Halo 4 it just feels like change for change's sake.
Artistically speaking, the new Grunts do look fantastic, but I'm sure they could have looked just as good whilst retaining their arthropod heritage.
- Cowboy Out.