A Soldier Carries On
When Bungie announced that Halo: Reach was to be the last Halo game they’d develop, many people were upset. Fans wanted to see more Master Chief but were skeptical that their beloved franchise might be tainted by someone else. Even though Halo 3 “finished the fight” for Chief and Cortana, we all knew it would only be a matter of time before Microsoft would revive their flagship franchise. (We all saw the super-secret ending on YouTube, after all.) And after Reach’s story gave everyone a serious case of depression, Master Chief’s return couldn’t come soon enough.
Thankfully, Halo 4 does what you’d expect—brings back Master Chief while delivering badass moment after badass moment. I’m not going to talk too much about the plot, since it needs to be experienced and enjoyed without too many of the details being known beforehand. As far as narrative goes, though, this one is pretty much what you’d expect from Chief and company. The opening of the game brings back memories of the first Halo; once things have calmed down moderately, the real story unfolds.
As we’ve seen from several trailers already, Cortana has surpassed her time as an A.I. and is deteriorating. Chief decides to get her fixed, more or less, and this triggers a chain of events that sends you back toward Earth. Don’t worry, though, it’s going to be a long journey. After all, what would a Halo game be without Chief and Cortana inadvertently awakening a new alien species to give them pause in what should otherwise be a quick trip back home? The Prometheans are the new enemies you will face. Worse yet, there is a bigger bad—like, kneel-before-Zod kind of bad—called The Didact. (Pretty sure he comes with a Phantom Zone-type prison packed in with his action figure.)
These new adversaries ramp up the challenge of the campaign. While the Covenant is still present to remind you that some things never change, they don’t ever deliver the sort of threat the Prometheans do. In fact, my normal run-and-gun attitude in Halo had to be modified in favor of a much slower tactical approach. While some might find this annoying and cumbersome after years of “no guts, no glory”-style play, it’s the perfect way for new and old fans to become reacquainted with the world of Halo. In fact, challenging this sort of gameplay complacency allows 343 Studios to put their stamp on the Halo franchise without destroying what has come before. A win-win situation.
But Halo’s campaigns arguably play second fiddle to the multiplayer. That said, the multiplayer for Halo 4 is something of an enigma wrapped inside an awesome plasma grenade. To say that I am in love with what 343 has done with it would be a disservice. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the multiplayer enough to go out on a second, third, and probably fourth date.
First things first, this is Halo multiplayer, and you can rest assured that this is the one feature Microsoft was not going to allow to be messed with too much. However, there are still modifications that build toward a fresher take on a system many have claimed to have been stagnating over the last few outings. For example, you won’t be reliving the maps of the campaign in the multiplayer. Instead, the maps have a built-from-the-ground-up feel to them. That’s not to say you won’t experience a sense of nostalgia for some of the maps from Halo’s past.
The maps aren’t the only thing to be modified this time around. One thing many players have been asking for in the series is a more customizable loadout system. Breaking it down into several categories, including Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Armor Ability, etc., players are encouraged to modify their loadouts to compliment their own style of play. Additionally, the new “Infinity Ordnance” feature randomly changes where weapons will spawn. Don’t worry about some yahoo lucking out either. You, just like the other players, will have an indicator pop up to show you where the new power weapon dropped.
Players also have “Personal Ordnance,” which is basically the same thing except it’s totally dependent on how well you’re doing. Fill your meter by earning points and bam, you get a chance to put the odds in your favor. This actually brings me to my favorite modification to the multiplayer: Instead of being just kill-oriented, matches are points-driven. Say you are the guy that plugs about a thousand rounds into the enemy but can’t seem to finish the job, and your teammates always pop in to steal the kill. Here, points for both the assist and the kill are added to the team’s overall score. This way, even if you have someone who seemingly is only good at assists, the team benefits from everyone’s capabilities.
Another new feature is Spartan Ops. Replacing Firefight, Spartan Ops is designed to feel more like a second campaign than anything else. Delivering weekly episodic missions, players will face new and exciting challenges with up to three friends. Don’t have any friends? That’s okay; you can continue being a loner and enjoy the free content scheduled to be delivered every week. It is important to note that the Spartan Ops missions are completely separate than the season pass stuff coming down the line.
Graphically, Halo 4 stands above all the rest. There were several moments where I found myself gawking at the realism of the character models. Couple this with the hardly noticeable difference between the cutscenes and the actual campaign graphics, and one has to wonder why this level of detail and refinement simply hasn’t been accomplished before in the Halo series. Halo: Reach looked fantastic, but when you see how crisp the details in Halo 4 are, you will never want to look back.
Regrettably, I do have a few criticisms. Most notably is the load time whenever you try to pick up your campaign progress. It seems to continuously take longer each time you have to come back to the campaign. While this may not be a huge problem—you can, after all, just go fix yourself a sandwich while you wait—I can see it being a reason for some less-focused players to never finish the campaign.
My other complaint is more personal than anything else. Cortana’s voice actor just doesn’t have the same dynamic she had. Not saying she did a horrible job with what she had, but more often than not her deadpan delivery of important dialogue affects the overall impact of the moment. Steve Downes still delivers as Chief though. Add that to the simply amazing score of the game and the sounds department knocked this one out of the park.
Many fans have been worried about what Microsoft and 343 Studios had in store for the beloved Halo franchise. I can reassure you that there’s no need to worry. With this just being the beginning of the second act of Master Chief’s long and strenuous military career, there’s only room for improvement. Halo has been the king of console shooters for a long time now, and 343 Studios isn’t going to allow the crown to be taken away from Chief anytime soon.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.7 Graphics
There were several cinematic moments where I found myself blown away by the sheer realism. 4.8 Control
Nothing feels out of place here. If anything, the controls are slightly more fluid. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
I may not like the voice cast throughout, but I cannot deny their abilities. 4.5 Play Value
Halo’s multiplayer is still one of the best on the market. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best