Halo 4 Review
Wake up, Chief, I need you.
If there was ever a game series that I’ve put more hours into than the Halo series, I would be completely astonished. In fact, If you were to actually show me the number of hours I’ve spent on Halo 3 alone, it’s sure to be downright embarrassing. Whether it was playing team deathmatch, the campaign for the fifth time, or achievement hunting, my friends and I invested a lot in this series so of course we were concerned about the fact that Bungie would not be developing the next Halo game. 343 Industries are now at the helm, and it’s time to find out if we really had anything to worry about. Strap on your jet pack and gas up the Warthog, Halo 4 starts now.
Halo 4 has a lot to offer, in terms of content, so we’ll start by taking a look at the campaign. Though I’m sticking this section under the Single Player heading, you can still play every minute of the campaign with three of your friends by your side. I know some people were confused about this, due to the inclusion of the separate Spartan Ops co-op campaign, so I wanted to clear that up right away.
Halo 4 picks up with Master Chief right where we left him after Halo 3, except for the fact that quite a bit of time has passed. I don’t want to give away any spoilers regarding the story so I’m just going to stick to the info that’s out in the open already. Mainly that you’ll of course be fighting the Covenant, but you’ll also be tangling with a new alien race called the Prometheans. Master Chief will find himself on a new planet, with both hostile races, a bunch of Forerunner structures and some eventual UNSC backup. He’ll be joined by his longtime AI sidekick, Cortana, whose dynamic with the Chief will play heavily into the story.
Of course, with a new alien force in the mix, you’ll be looking to get your hands on some new toys. I mean, weapons. The new weapon set doesn’t disappoint, but before you get to those you’ll meet up with some old friends such as the Assault Rifle and the Needler. The first thing that really struck me about Halo 4 was the quality of the audio, and specifically the weapon sounds. Every weapon, old and new, sounds absolutely amazing. You can feel the weight of the gun, and the force of the shots, simply by listening to each weapon and even guns that sounded sort of wimpy in previous games, like the Assault Rifle, now sound so much more bad ass.
In fact, looking at everything in the game it almost feels like Halo has grown up a little. Take the Covenant, for example, they still look like Grunts, and Elites, and Jackals but the colors and armor of each enemy have been tweaked in a way that makes them look less like cartoon characters, while still looking somehow the same. No longer do they yell all sorts of goofy things in audible English, these Covenant voices will not be translated and this goes a long way to making them feel more threatening.
Aside from a story where we get to know Master Chief like we never have before, Halo 4’s campaign delivers a varied and perfectly paced series of events that lead you smoothly through the story. Just as you’re realizing you’ve been wandering around in one building for a while, you’ll be thrust into a vehicle sequence or a new environment with new challenges.
As great as the campaigns are, most of you will be spending the majority of your time in Halo 4’s competitive multiplayer modes. 343 Industries have been hard at work on a number of improvements to the overall multiplayer platform, and their hard work shows. It shows in additions like the ability to join games in progress, watch replays of the player that killed you last and the ability to spawn almost instantly.
Each Spartan will be able to customize a number of features, and save them in loadouts, similar to the way you do it in the Call of Duty series. You will still have access to Armor Abilities, like the jetpack or active camouflage, like you did in Halo: Reach, but sprinting is no longer an armor ability and is now something you can do whenever you want. Sprinting, combined with the quick re-spawns in Halo 4 make this the fastest, and most intense, Halo game yet, where multiplayer is concerned.
As you gain experience, you’ll unlock new items you can add to your loadout, including primary and secondary weapons, grenade type, armor abilities and other passive abilities called Tactical Packages and Support upgrades. These are bonuses like faster shield recharge rates, or infinite sprinting distance. You aren’t just competing for visual upgrades to your armor, you’re building your perfect Spartan and that’s progress.
Once you’re in an actual match you’ll notice a few more differences from previous Halo games. The one that jumped right out at me was the return of vehicles to 4-on-4 game types. It felt like Bungie were trying to force vehicles out of the game, with Halo: Reach, but I’ve always thought they were a fundamental part of the experience and it’s good to have them back. More notable is the availability of weapons on each multiplayer map; instead of being placed in the same spot every time the game will periodically, and randomly, drop new weapons onto the field of play. Players can now also call in their own personal ordnance drops, by earning points in each match, and these will offer you the chance to get your hands on some heavy weapons that Halo 4 has to offer, or other in-game bonuses.
The other big addition to the Halo 4 multiplayer scene is the new co-op focused, Spartan Ops campaign. This mode will serve to tell the story of a new, and completely separate, team of Spartans who operate out of the UNSC Infinity. Spartan Ops will feature a new, free, chapter to download each week for a total of five chapters, with five episodes each, in what 343 are calling ‘Season One.’
To my eyes, Spartan Ops really serves as the successor to Firefight. Instead of battling wave after wave of enemies on a small map, you’ll be placed in a larger map with simple objectives and scenarios that task you, and your co-op partners, with killing a whole lot of covenant and usually blowing some stuff up. Firefight, and its many clones were reaching a saturation point around the industry and even if Spartan Ops wasn’t meant as an evolution to Firefight, it really feels like one.
Last, but not least, the Forge map creation engine has been updated to be much more user friendly, with additions like magnet points to help you line pieces up together, and easy cloning of pieces to speed things along. I know this shouldn’t be a big deal, but the pieces also look much, much, better than they did in Halo: Reach so you won’t be running into a ton of ugly Forge variant maps anytime soon.
We all expected 343 Industries to make a decent Halo game, when they took the reins, but that isn’t what they did. Instead, they made a fantastic game that advances the series in just about every way. Halo 4 is the best looking, best sounding, and most intense Halo game to date. The folks at 343 could have played it safe when making their first game but they didn’t, and it paid off. Halo 4 is a brand new game, with brand new features, that I somehow still feel right at home playing, from the moment I picked up the controller.
Available On: Xbox 360