Like any franchise that still can make lots and lots of money, Halo is back and this time it’s in the hands of 343 Industries. Can this new company successfully produce a Halo game without torpedoing the franchise into oblivion? Given their success in remaking Halo Combat Evolved I had a good feeling about Halo 4 before launch, and after spending many many hours with the game I am happy to report that I was right.
Once again you take control of the Master Chief, guided as always by his little blue friend Cortana. The Campaign takes place four years after the events of Halo 3, with the Chief and Cortana floating through deep space inside the remains of The Forward Unto Dawn (UNSC Frigate). Of course it wouldn’t be Halo without Aliens to shoot, a Forerunner Installation to explore and the fate of all mankind resting in the hands of one man with an Assault Rifle.
Before you can say “what happen to my armour?”the Chief’s ship is boarded by Aliens and and he is drawn into a giant Forerunner Shield World full of lush jungles and other assorted environments. This is where the true potential of the in game engine is displayed, every vista is simply gorgeous, giving you a visual experience that surpasses all other Xbox games to date. Each level possesses it’s own specific background, with each fitting the tone of the situation perfectly.
The Halo franchise has always been known for it’s well written and well executed story (OK, well written for a shooter) but in this case a few things are left unexplained or simply brushed aside. For example when playing co-op each player gets to play as a Spartan, but they never explain where they have come from. What is there though is further expanded upon by seeking out Terminals that, once discovered, can be viewed on Halo Waypoint, the free to download app.
The introduction of the Prometheans, the new major enemies, further shakes things up, creating a whole set of tactics for these cunning adversaries. Speaking of the bad guys, there A.I. has been improved quite a bit. Enemies will now retreat if hammered too hard, allowing them to regroup and regenerate shields. Similarly, you can no longer expect the bad guys to stay still well you hide behind cover, so keep an eye on that motion tracker as much as you can.
Of course the vast majority of people looking to pick up Halo 4 will only be concerned about one thing: the multiplayer. All of Halo 4’s multiplayer is focused around the Infinity, a gigantic UNSC Ship fully stocked with squads of Spartan IVs. As you level up you earn Spartan Points (one per level) which can be spent to unlock Weapons, Armour Abilities, different Grenades, and so on . Once bought you use them to create up to five of your own personal loadouts for use in most game types. Along the way you gain different pieces of armour and emblems to help create the Spartan of your dreams. There are even special pieces of Armour available by completing certain Commendations or by choosing one of eight Specialisations, further rewarding players for their skill in battle.
My only problem with this is the fact you have to unlock emblems, since I was unable to give my Spartan the Emblem he had been using since my days in Halo 2. Luckily this just a minor complaint and in all other areas 343 Industries have done a great job in putting together this level of customisation.
If competitive multiplayer isn’t your thing then you may find a lot to enjoy in Spartan Ops, an episodic co-op campaign designed for up to four people. It has in a way replaced Firefight mode, something which I’m quite glad about as, in my opinion, too many games include their own Horde mode and the concept has become watered down of late. As of writing this review only three Chapters for Season one have been released, but there are plenty more on the way. While they lack the set pieces and large scale of the Campaign missions, they do provide quick bursts of fast paced action for those looking for a little warm up before heading into the multiplayer.
Each Chapter is introduced by a beautifully rendered cinematic with the rest of the story being told through in game dialogue between the NPCs. Since this is Season 1 it can be assumed they’ll be a Season 2. Hopefully 343 will continue to support this mode until Halo 5 comes knocking round the corner.
Graphics: 5/5 - Graphically speaking, Halo 4 is simply jaw dropping
Sound: 4.5/5 - Every gun, voice and sound effect has been well crafted. The only slight downside is that the music falls below the standard created by Bungie. That’s not to say that it isn’t good, it just isn’t as evocative as the music in the previous games.
Gameplay: 5/5 - 343 hadn’t reinvented the wheel here, all they did was make sure the tire was pumped. It was fun 10+ years ago it’s still fun today.
Longevity: 5/5 – With so much content already on the discs plus more on the way it’s going to be some time before you can put this down
Overall 5 out of 5
Simply put this is the best Halo game to date, 343 Industries first entry into the Halo verse couldn’t have gone better. Let’s hope they’ll be able to continue this trend for the next two games and beyond.
See you on the Virtual Battlefield.