Halo 4 does not disappoint and is a must have entry in the series for Halo fans.
There was a lot of trepidation regarding Halo 4 from the veritable legions of loyal fans the franchise has garnered over the years. “It’s not Bungie!” they decried, “It’s gonna suck!” But few recognized that 343 Industries was made up of former Bungie employees who essentially wanted to keep working on the property. They rounded out the team with other rabid (yet talented) fans. And let me tell you, your fears are wasted. 343 takes Master Chief and the Halo experience to an entirely new level. They managed to take one of gamings most venerated (and fiercely defended) franchises and gave it a make-over while never losing what makes the series to unique and fun in the first place.
Master Chief is back baby! He hasn’t been doing much though, just floating around in space for the last four years. Cortana has been keeping an eye on things, but without anyone to talk to, she is starting to go a bit peculiar. Computer senility is a real thing apparently. Without giving too much away, Chief’s return has one of the better narratives in the series to date. I’m sure you’ve all seen the commercials, “An Ancient Evil Awakens.” Well, that is essentially the dilemma, and now Chief and Cortana have to battle both the Covenant and the new Prometheans to save the galaxy, and to save her.
Although the story takes an eye-rolling swerve at the end, it’s one of the best narratives to join the canon. There are some relatively deep issues at play here, and we see more of the main characters than we ever have before. Chief has always been the strong, silent character. But beneath the armor he’s a soldier and he never loses sight of that, despite finally showing a hint of emotion from time to time.
The Prometheans are a far better designed foe that require much more strategy to defeat. The Watchers are the most annoying as they will buff and even heal others. If you can hit them from range it’s best to take them out early. The Promethean Knights are as bad as the Elites: tough, smart foes who also have the ability to teleport. Wonderful, just when you thought you had enough to keep track of on the battlefield! As you get further and further into the campaign and start getting attacked by multiple enemy types, you really have to pay attention to what you’re doing and the surroundings. As per the rest of the series you will find yourself switching weapons a lot to make sure you have enough ammo for the next engagement. It’s important that you becomes proficient with everything. The weapons are not only visually pleasing, but are fun to use and dish out the punishment you’d expect.
But in the end, this is really more Halo and that’s a good thing! Not much has changed. The formula is still essentially the same, but now it’s been honed to perfection. The gunplay is as tight and functional as ever, but you also have a whole new bag of tricks to play with. Using the Promethean weapons against them is an absolute riot and I love their design. They are as varied as the Covenant arsenal, and each one serves a purpose. The level design allows Chief multiple different ways of approaching targets. As we’ve seen in the past there is a mix of corridor shooting and more open areas that, more often than not, accompany vehicles. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it….
The graphics are jaw dropping. The opening and closing cut-scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen. I normally wouldn’t comment on cinematics, but I actually thought they were live action for the first twenty or so seconds! Halo 4 retains the production values the series is known for. The graphics are sharp, the backgrounds detailed, the lighting impressive. Your eyes will boggle as you see the breadth of some of the bigger set-pieces. The whole game consistently runs with little lag or frame rate issues. The sound work is as good as ever. All the sound effects really pop, going a long way to creating atmosphere and mood. The score is brilliant as well, serving to heighten the tension at all the right times.
Halo 4′s multiplayer takes what it’s predecessors did well and builds upon that foundation. It is now called Infinity. Absolutely everything you do: from playing the campaign to playing online with friends to the new Spartan Ops, feeds into gaining experience which can then be used to upgrade your Spartan. The basis of multiplayer is not kills but points. This seems weird at first but after a few matches, you’ll see it plays out more fairly in the long run. The stat tracking and customization are as addictive as you’d think. There are plenty of maps to try out as well, although people will always vote for their favorites.
There are a fair number of diehards who didn’t like the last few installments, and those issues haven’t changed… so consider that a warning. But overall the experience of finding games, linking up with friends, and blasting the snot out of one another is as fun as ever. There are even some new game types to try as well, although most will probably stick to Team Slayer!
Then there is Spartan Ops mode. Spartan Ops mode is actually an ingenious idea on the part of the developers. Essentially, it is a cooperative multiplayer experience. Talk about keeping us hooked! This way you have a reason to keep the game on the shelf and not trade it in. The idea here is to draw you back by releasing episodic content after the game releases. Each episode is intense but relatively short, centered around a big cinematic. These scenes look phenomenally impressive. Even if you start late it’s worth going through in order because it does tell an interesting story. The sad thing is this comes at the expense of Firefight which was always one of my favorite Horde clones.
To tell the truth, there is not a lot to complain about with Halo 4. This series set the industry standard in a lot of ways, and the start of this new trilogy didn’t disappoint… something I find reasonably impressive considering how high the expectations were. I found the campaign engaging and the narrative the most enjoyable in the series to date. The multiplayer is addictive as ever, and we all know there are a lot more maps are on the way. I really like the new Spartan Ops mode which is a great way to play with a core group, but is just as enjoyable solo. 343 Industries should be commended for showing us what true fans can do if given the opportunity. They made one of the best games of the year. It’s good to be back in Chief’s boots. Sure, the other Spartan’s are bad ass, but there is only one Master Chief.