Halo 4 Review
Developer: 343 Industries
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360
He’s back. The most iconic video game character aside from Mario and Link, Master Chief, has returned after five long years and is embarking on his greatest adventure yet.
The opening cutscene treats us to the familiar image of half of the UNSC ship Forward Unto Dawn floating through space which we were left with at the end of Halo 3. Master Chief has been in his cryo-sleep for four years now and with an unknown threat fast approaching, Cortana decides it’s time to wake him. I’ll avoid as many details as possible to avoid spoilers, but needless to say, Master Chief once again is tasked with saving the world and some spectacular sci-fi chaos ensues. But amidst all this chaos, is the story of Master Chief and Cortana; and it’s their relationship, that really makes the campaign something special.
Master Chief has always been a hero of few words, but Halo 4 bucks the trend and we get to see a more human side of him that hasn’t been explored in the games before. Cortana is in a state of decay as she’s becoming rampant and it begins to become clear just how much she means to Master Chief. The dynamic they have is what really drives the story, and all the scenes between the two of them are gold.
Halo 4 looks absolutely incredible. The franchise has never been one to push the limits graphically, but Halo 4 is an exception. The prologue CGI scene will have you questioning whether it was actually CGI or a live action movie. Granted, that’s a pre-rendered scene, but the in-game graphics are beautiful in their own right. Master Chief has never looked better as the sunlight reflects off his visor and the various scratches and dents in his armor remind us of the hell that he’s been through. The amount of detail that was put into the design of Master Chief alone is astounding. At times it’s actually hard to believe that the game is running on the Xbox 360, but Halo 4 is possibly the prettiest game of this generation outside of the Uncharted titles. Halo 4 is a feast for the eyes and there are some spectacular set pieces including one truly remarkable moment that perfectly echoes the awe-inspiring moment of exploring the original halo ring in the first game over a decade ago.
Halo 4 sounds just as incredible as it looks, as well. While it doesn’t have the classic Gregorian chants that we all know and love, Halo 4’s score is still fantastic.. The theme that plays over the main menu is familiar, yet new. Each track complements the mood of the scene well. You can hear the force of the guns as you fire them and you can feel the weight of Master Chief as his boots pound the ground below as he runs. And of course, no Halo game would be complete without the iconic voice of Steve Downes who plays Master Chief. It is an absolute treat to hear him speak more than he ever has before in the Halo games.
The campaign will take around 6 to 8 hours to complete depending on the difficulty, but everyone knows that it’s the multiplayer that will make or break the success of a Halo game. This time around the multiplayer has been infused with some elements that you will no doubt recognize from Call of Duty‘s multiplayer. You can now customize your loadouts; choosing starting weapons, grenades, armor abilities, and other perks, you can call in ordnance in-game, and every time you get a kill you get a “+10” that flashes on your screen. The game is even a little faster paced in an attempt to mimic the more twitch gameplay that Call of Duty offers.
It’s a little disappointing that these things were so blatantly ripped from Call of Duty’s multiplayer because, after all, I’m playing Halo and not Call of Duty for a reason. But after a few hours with the game, it became clear that the Halo foundation of “shoot-grenade-melee” gameplay is still very much intact. There have also been some tweaks to classic modes like Capture The Flag and Oddball, such as being able to wield your magnum while carrying the flag and being able to pass the ball around to teammates. And while these tweaks may seem minor, they do alter how you play the game. Make no mistake, this is still very much Halo as all of these changes and additions only enhance the experience, and Halo 4 is better game because of them.
A Halo game’s multiplayer is only as good as the lineup of maps that it has to offer, and Halo 4 doesn’t disappoint. While there isn’t a standout map in the vein of Halo‘s Hang ‘Em High or Halo 2‘s Lockout, there also isn’t a map that I dread seeing show up in matchmaking (I’m looking at you Isolation). Simply put, this is the strongest map lineup a Halo game has had at launch yet. Everything that you would expect from a Halo game is here, including the commendation system and daily, weekly, and even monthly challenges.
There is an unbelievable amount of content to unlock from armor permutations and service tag emblems to new armor abilities to use on the battlefield. No matter what game type you’re playing, you are always earning XP and getting closer to unlocking that next item. The Theater mode also returns largely unchanged, but there have been some significant improvements in the Forge mode due to the Magnet system and option to Duplicate Objects. Using these two options in conjunction with each other make creating maps a lot less of a hassle.
There is also Spartan Ops, which is a brand new feature on the Halo scene. Spartan Ops is a series of downloadable episodes that play out like mini campaign missions. Each episode will consist of a short cinematic and 5 missions/chapters, which take about an hour to complete in total. The first episode will be available at launch and each new episode will be rolled out weekly after that for 10 weeks. These first 10 episodes will be Season 1 and they will all be completely free. It’s an interesting concept and it will be cool to see what kind of content we’ll get out of it in the future. These can be a lot of fun to play through on co-op, but it’s a little disappointing that Spartan Ops is very likely the reason that there is no Firefight mode. But you can’t really complain about getting a free hour of content to play every week.
A lot of people were very skeptical when it was announced that Bungie was leaving the Halo franchise and it would be taken over by 343 Industries, a new and unproven developer. I think it’s safe to say that the future of Halo is in good hands. 343 has created a game that is a more than worthy addition to the Halo franchise and they should really be applauded for their effort due to being put in a very tough position. They took over Microsoft’s flagship franchise and had to create something new, while staying faithful to the games that came before it,and they have more than succeeded. 343 has made their mark on the Halo franchise and in the process, they’ve created what is now the best game that the Xbox 360 has to offer. Halo 4 has surpassed expectations in every way and is a brilliant beginning to a new generation of Halo games.
Pros: Great Campaign, Gorgeous Visuals, Addictive Multiplayer, Near Infinite Replay Value
Cons: No Firefight Mode