Halo 4 is the start of a new trilogy in the famed Halo franchise. Gamers can once again see the resurgence of Master Chief in an attempt to save humanity against a new set of foes. Not only are the foes new, but a new d
evelopment studio takes full control of the franchise and for the first time the critically acclaimed Bungie Studios is not involved. With the release of this iteration comes many unanswered questions, Can 343 bring the excitement back into the franchise? Will the competitive nature of the multiplayer survive with so many changes announced to the mechanics of the game? Can the AAA status of the game continue as strong as it has over the past decade? Hopefully after reading this review it can help answer some of those questions/concerns.
The most famous Spartan of all and his beloved AI companion, Cortana confront a fresh new threat to the human race and goes toe to toe with emotion unlike any way ever experienced before in the history of the franchise. This could possibly be the most intense and exciting story ever told in the Halo series. 343 has spared no expense in making sure that the campaign is as captivating as possible with a combat system true to Halo games of the past and environmental design that has always been a trademark to the series.
The end of Halo 3, left Master Chief and Cortana floating out of control in a frigate torn apart by the premature explosion of the replacement ring installation 04. Master Chief then entered cryo-sleep while humanity fights to build up its defenses and expansion of presence in the galaxy. Halo 4’s opening scene takes a quick look into the past and shows some interesting strains that will eventually expose themselves later in the game. Quickly Chief and the witty AI are face to face with the new threat to humanity. The new foe quickly displays its power and introduces a new antagonist to the series whose foundation is based on the vague forerunner mythology quickly comes the focal point of the story.
The game’s landscapes are intense with the amount of detail enhanced by thoughtful textures. The amazing artistic work that often differentiates the architecture from different races is so recognizable that it is awe inspiring, and helps create a cohesive fantasy world that has always been true to the franchise. Character models and animations are so well done that you often forget you are playing a game and this is all tied together with the tried and true musical masterpiece included in the game’s soundtrack.
As much as the game’s environments captivate you and as much as the characters build a bond with the player, the story’s drama is really brought to the forefront with the interactions with Master Chief and Cortana. With Cortana nearing her expiration period and the duo facing the real possibility of death in a way never experienced before in the franchise. This digression of everyone’s favorite AI is handled so well with amazing voice acting by Steve Downes and Jen Taylor, combined with animation and terrific writing techniques create some serious jaw clinching moments. Halo 4 has taken a major step in storytelling for the series and could possibly be the most immersive experience ever felt in the franchise’s history.
Halo 4’s multiplayer is much like the single-player campaign, in the aspect that it is a mixture of familiar gameplay and interesting new tweaks. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it has created an experience much like what you will have seen in Halo before. Where Halo 4’s multiplayer differs from that of the singleplayer is down to its changes creating an infinitely more enjoyable experience and one that benefits enormously from 343’s additions.
The new narrative that frames the War Games sets up the multiplayer in a fascinating new light and is rarely the distraction it was thought to be. Jumping into games to earn XP to upgrade and customize your Spartan (both in their look and load out, which incidentally counts for both War Games and Spartan Ops) is addictive and a lot of fun.
Halo 4’s multiplayer is a much more focused effort than what we have seen before. With the initial line up of game types giving a broad and considered choice of match types 343 has the scope to grow, but at the same time it does not bog players down with a countless amount of choices.
Game types you can expect to see on day 1:
- Infinity Slayer
- Big Team Infinity Slayer
- Capture the Flag
- King of the Hill
- Team Slayer Pro
In game types like Capture The Flag players who act in a passive manner – guarding the flag carrier, defending the flag and so on – will find themselves at the top of the leader board just as much as those who go around murdering everyone they see. It’s a subtle change that creates a huge difference, but it’s one that encourages the sort of cooperative play these game types are famous for and means those that are interested in getting the most kills are as able to do that as ever.
Armor Abilities are more Halo-oriented, and include jet packs (boooo!), ‘Promethean Vision’ that allows you to see nearby enemies through walls, but at the same time communicating your position to others, the ability to project a hologram to distract enemies, an automated sentry turret and along with many others.
There are definitely some new additions here, but all have been made with the utmost care, and with advice from fans and MLG pros alike. All the maps have been built from scratch with the help of numerous MLG pros. The result doesn’t feel new, but it does feel fresh and it plays as well as any Halo game and as any other online shooter.
The full game is around 16GB in size, but 8GB of that is multiplayer, which will ship on a second disc. In order for multiplayer and all its features to work, Microsoft insists you install the data. So that’s an 8GB install, meaning anyone who owns a 4GB Xbox 360 is going to need additional storage.
In closing, The single player is exactly the right mix of classic Halo point to point gameplay, with an environment dynamic that feels new and instantly more challenging. The multiplayer has plenty packed in to attract new fans, and is an absolute joy to play, as it always has been. The soundtrack is amazing as it traditionally is and 343 has added the artistic flair needed to a universe that deserves the attention it was given.
Halo 4 is the definition of classic. It embodies everything that we have grown to love about Halo, except with a brighter, bolder twist mixed with the drama that is famous for pulling at the heart strings.
|Developer: 343 Studios|
|Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios|
|Reviewed Platform: Xbox 360|