Halo 4 Review: 343’s Entrance to Greatness

The halo games are something special. Plenty of people, Xbox fan boys or not, have fond memories of the Halo franchise. The big question that was on everyone’s mind when 343 Industries took over for Bungie was are they going to break Halo? I can safely say that they did not. 343’s entrance into the Halo Universe gives past players a more than competent Halo game while at the same time delivering something new, a spartan named John.

The Halo gameplay is something that is not broken, so 343 Industries did not try to fix it. In fact I would say they brought it back to it’s basics. There is no dual wielding and I could care less. The guns all have different aspects to them, fire rate, and properties that make them feel unique and yet feel somewhat familiar. Every weapon whether it is Forerunner tech, Covenant or Human will be easy to pick up, learn and look fantastic. The first time you pick up a Forerunner rifle you will fall in love with the way everything looks and feels. Even reloading the new weapons looks good and gives me a little happy feeling in my insides.

The sprawling terrain is beautiful.[/caption]The level design for the campaign is also very good. As Master Chief, you and Cortana will sprawl many different terrains. From jungles to desert like terrain to large Forerunner constructs that feel like they fit into the Halo Universe perfectly. No where did I feel out of place. For huge Halo fans this is a huge plus. For people looking for the Halo Universe to move into a different area however, this may not be such a good thing.

One thing that has changed is a couple of the power suits and Master Chief’s movement in general. You can now run by clicking in the left stick which drastically changes the pacing of the game. No longer does it feel like a struggle to get the Chief to travel a significant amount of distance. The powers also change gameplay. There is a drone that will shoot at enemies, distracting them while you make your way for the flank as well as a thruster pack that will let the Chief move quickly around objects. The shield boost armor ability has also been changed to a directional facing shield with a little bit of a movement disadvantage when it is deployed. These changes, especially the running, needed to be made and have brought the Master Chief into new territory in big ways.

All of these things make Halo 4 a good game, but what makes the new installment so amazing is the story telling and presentation. 343 is a handpicked studio from some of the greatest in the business and it shows in the presentation of this game. The cut scenes have deep meaning to them because the faces, eyes and other animation work looks outstanding. When you are looking at the faces during a cut scene you can really feel the emotion in the eyes of the person you are talking to, especially when it is Cortana.

Cortana and Master Chief’s relationship gets fleshed out.
Leading up to the game, 343 Industries said they wanted to bring the humanity back into Master Chief, and I think they did a very good job. The presentation backed by the story of Halo 4 makes me want to call the Master Cheif John and to think of him as a man and less as a killing machine. There is some weirdness to parts of the story. If you are not a huge Halo buff then some of the story plots will not be explained as much as they probably should have been. Also some of the information is hidden in the Domain Terminals that you have to find, exit out of Halo 4 and go to Halo Waypoint to really understand the story. All of that on the table, the story is still amazing to me.

After finishing the 6-7 hour campaign on normal there is still a little bit of room for replay ability. There are upgrade skulls, harder difficulties, challenges and co-op to keep people playing. Going through these sections multiple times can feel different if you chose to make it feel that way, but I would think that the campaign only has legs for somewhere between 10-15 hours. This could be a disappointment for some and to others it makes no difference.

It makes no difference to some because god only knows how many hours most people will play Halo 4 multiplayer. New to the series is a mode called Spartan Ops. This mode has co-op campaign style story missions that take place 6 months after the events that happen in the campaign. These missions are fun, so far, and are promised for at least another 10 weeks. Some people argue that firefight is a better mode than Spartan Ops, but I feel like these small story missions are a better option. After a while the only reason I would play firefight in Reach was for the challenges and experience. Spartan Ops, however, I can see myself completing every time they come out to find more about the Halo Universe that 343 Industries is building.

The competitive multiplayer has seen a bit of an overhaul. Do I dare say it has been COD-ified? There are customizable loud outs and abilities that people can specialize in. Finally you can pick to start with Covenant sticky grenades rather than the Spartan Frags if you unlock them. There is even kill streak like perks that will drop down a reinforcement of your choosing. Basically the multiplayer in Halo 4 has all of the amazing things that you loved about past Halo games with an even bigger carrot at the end of the stick to keep you salivating for more levels.

This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Halo 4

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