When I first learned that there would be a Halo 4, disbelief, shock, and other negative emotions came over me. Halo 3, Master Chief”s final hurrah, ended the trilogy. A new game sounded very much like a franchine being milked dry. To add to the figurative gut kick, I learned that Bungie would not return to helm the project. Instead 343 industries would take charge of the series.
I can safely say I over reacted. Halo 4 is a masterpiece.
Most Halo fans have already came to this conclusion and have probably fragged more opponents than they can count. But for those of you that are hemming and hawing over whether to make this purchase I can safely say this is the Halo we have come to love.
Take my word for it: I’ve been highly critical of the series since its introduction 11 years ago. I’ve pointed out canonical errors, read multiple novels, and finished every game in the series. Halo is dear to me. The series has always been about connections; its brought me out of the depths of depression, strengthened brotherly bonds, and at one point tightened the links of a dying friendship. This doesn’t mean its been a perfect series. In 11 years its had its fair share of disappointments and triumphs. That said, Halo 4 is an immensely ambitious game that never fails to re-invent itself with an excellent narrative and a revamped multiplayer that will nullify any troubling concerns.
Halo 4 is a masterpiece.
He begins the earlier part of the game alone with only Cortana, his A.I companion. Halo 4 seems to cover Master Chief’s loneliness and the burdens of being the super solider without the proverbial heart. Without giving too much away, early on we find out that Cortana is suffering from rampancy, an AI related deterioration that might cause Master Chief to lose her.
As such, Halo 4 isn’t just another fight to save humanity, but a more personal mission to save a dear friend. Halo 4 follows a more relatable John (Master Chief), as he struggles with his own perplexing issues. Throughout this intimate mission you’ll encounter the familiar Covenant enemies with new weapons and tactics, as well as the new Promethean race. The conventional weapons also return, but have had their audio slightly tweaked to sound aggressive and realistic. Amazingly, the game feels fresh, yet it’s still unmistakably Halo.
Covenant forces still attack in ranks; the small and feeble grunts attack in waves and with confidence when in the presence of a Covenant Elite. As with previous Halo games, dropping the Elite’s causes the lower ranks to retreat and cower. Dealing with Prometheans–humans who have been turned into robotic fighters by the Didact–require a different approach. The smaller enemies tend to play hide and seek and take unexpected pot shots. Prometheans fight as one unit with each class supporting the other; crawlers distract while Knights sneak in to cause huge damage. Some enemies deploy their own turrets to up the ante. It’s an excellent change of pace that requires you to quickly change the way you play. It’s an effective game play technique that keeps you interested in the action.
Of course the arsenal at your disposal makes this a joy in itself. Old weapons make a comeback but with a few graphical tweaks that give them each a distinctive futuristic look the. The Battle Rifle has an updated scope which gives it a more rounded military look, while old covenant weapons like the Needler are brighter but still as deadly as before. However, the Promethean weaponry stands out their weapons are sleek, deadly, and you can tell them apart from other weapons due to the orange hue they emit.
Prometheans fight as one unit with each class supporting the other; crawlers distract while Knights sneak in to cause huge damage. It’s an excellent change of pace that requires you to quickly change the way you play
Older vehicles make a return, but my favorite and what looks to be the fan favorite is the Mantis. A huge mech that quickly dismantles any enemy that dare stand up to you. This is a unique vehicle within the Halo universe, and the first time inside one of these is a blast (pun intended).
If you can’t see the weapons or where you’re being shot from you’ll definitely hear them. Every sound has been re-done. Human weapons sound much more mechanical as you hear the clanks and thumps as they’re forcibly reloaded. Firing them is deafening. Alien weaponry has the typical sci-fi laser sound effects, but it’s so fitting. You’ll hear Master Chief’s dense and heavy footsteps on a number of different textures like steel, snow, and grass all distinctive from one another. The voice acting is much improved. Surprisingly, I never thought I would praise Halo for it’s voice acting, but Jen Taylor emotes Cortana’s dire situation incredibly well in a stand out performance. Steve Downes does a great job with Master Chief’s character considering you never see his face. You can hear the uncertainty in his voice and the despair from time to time. The soundtrack fairs well, too, but sadly never reaches the heights of Marty O’Donnell’s stellar musical offerings. Neil Davidge hold’s with a few memorable musical pieces but they never stick to you like O’Donnell’s main theme from Halo 3.
Thankfully, the great sound effects and music are matched by mesmerizing graphics. Gamers have been quarreling with this consoles generations long on-going life and its graphical hindrance on the rest of the gaming industry, mainly PC. Yet, what 343 industries has done with Halo 4 is astounding; it pushes the Xbox 360‘s to it’s graphical brink. The Spartan armor no longer looks like a bulky space suit; instead, it’s a tightly fitted piece of equipment. There’s reptilian mesh in between break points in the armor that give the impression that the Spartans are in actual suits–a nice touch. Covenant enemies have undergone a make over and appear much more organic than in previous games. Grunts are scaly and Elites have small details that they were missing before such as eye color, scale color and armor differences. The new Promethean race has a high-tech primitive look. They’re typically covered in metallic armor and glow a vibrant orange (some glow blue), you’ll notice enemies like the Knight Battlewagon appear to have a head dresses.
The environments and the level design are the best in the series. You travel through dark corridors, vibrant wilderness, and high-tech structures that are reminiscent to the Halo games of yesteryear. Not all missions will limit you to ground warfare; you’ll also play through aerial missions that put you in the pilot seat of an aircraft. These serve as excellent changes of pace from the normal run of the mill missions. The campaign is also full of great, and hilarious, Easter eggs.
Halo 4′s multiplayer is not only the best in the series, but it’s the one of the best multiplayer experiences on Xbox Live, period.
There’s so much for you to do that it’s mind bending. Spartan Ops is free episodic content which covers the story six months after the events of Halo 4. It’s a cooperative mode that replaces Firefight. These typically take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour depending on the difficulty and tell their own unique story. 343 industries is promising a new episode a week for free all with unique cinematics and events.
War Games is the standard multiplayer mode which features game modes like infinity slayer (team slayer). However there is a new twist: Players can now earn points and call in ordinance drops (much like kill streaks). When you earn a drop, you’ll see your choices appear on your HUD. Selecting one is as simple as pressing its corresponding direction on the D-pad. Armor abilities make a return, and in a wise move printing is standard for every player so you don’t have to sacrifice an armor ability just to sprint into or out of battles. There are a few new armor abilities like the Thruster Pack that causes a burst of speed to close in on enemies, the Hard Shield which replaces the overpowered armor lock, Promethean Vision which allows users to spot enemies through walls, Auto-sentry that deploys a sentry that takes the offensive against enemies, and a Regeneration Field which heals any Spartans in its vicinity. Players can preconfigure load outs similar to the Call of Duty series. They can choose their main weapon and side weapon, armor ability, and specialization–it’s a multiplayer game that caters to a multitude of play styles.
Numerous abilities fall under the specialization heading. Wetwork, for example, is catered towards stealthy players as you can make less noise and your assassinations are performed quicker. Each specialization offers 10 different levels of unlocks like weapon skins, armor, and emblems. There’s so much unlock and earn that you’ll easily be playing Halo 4 through the winter months.
Halo 4 triggers the same emotions I felt as a young kid playing the original Halo. I’ve been in awe for most of the time I’ve spent with the game. The friendships have ended, the relationships have strayed, but one thing that has reinvented itself and stayed the same throughout the years is Halo. Kudos to 343 industries for making a hell of a game, and hell of a start to a new trilogy.