Don't hate me bro.
Halo 4 starts a new journey for the franchise where Bungie handed the reigns over to 343 Industries. The big question was whether or not 343 could do Halo justice and not ruin the franchise. After finishing Halo 4 I went back and played a little ODST, Halo 3 and Reach for a small refresher. I can officially say 343 has not ruined Halo, but we already were pretty sure of that right? However I can also say that 343 hasn't made Halo any better, yet.
In the gameplay department it looks and feels like the Halo we are used too. They've got the typical gun types, pistol, automatic rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle etc. They even add a style of gun used by the new enemy in Halo 4. That all sounds well and good but the typical gun types don't feel as good as the guns in previous Halos and just seem weak, boring and generic. Most notably the covenant guns in Halo 4 feel very old, they need to go, or at least need to be sparse. The new kind of guns we get look good and have a neat effect as you equip them but still are boring following the exact tier types of guns we've seen for the last decade. Only 1 or 2 guns in this entire game gave me that sought after "man this gun is badass" moment. One gun I actually liked was the UNSC SAW, but sadly whenever I got one it was out of ammo in a minute with no more in sight. I also want to point out that the grenades are terrible. I had an awful experience with them as the throwing range/mechanic was bad and the splash damage was near nothing. You have to aim high and nearly get a direct hit with the grenades in Halo 4. It sounds like a couple small complaints but those are near pinnacles of what this experience should be in single player and multiplayer. In the short campaign time I literally had moments where I told myself "this is boring" because of the issues above.
The story implementation is also a conundrum. Halo 4's campaign is a mere 6 hour experience and that's with dying. That may be what the typical FPS title nets these days but the Halo world actually has a very deep story behind it. I'm not one to go read video game books but there are a handful of books out there going into detail about a half way decent story. Yet in the short 6 hour experience we are left with many question unanswered and quite a few things told without any context. After I beat the game I went online where I found someone nice enough to have summarized some things in a page or two of text. After reading that and connecting things between the games the story become much better and one of the better ones in the game industry. I find it a huge mistake that 343 or even potentially Bungie didn't include more of their own story in these games. If they were more creative these games could easily be 10-12 hours long and should be. With the time and budget they have it's quite possible too. Better story implementation could put Halo clearly at the top above it's fellow FPS peers without pissing off the FPS kids by being too long like an RPG.
The engine in Halo 4 is the biggest improvement. The graphics for an Xbox 360 are great and the CGI cut scenes were fantastic. Seeing those cut scenes only made me realize even more that they should have etched out more of their story. Thinking about the tech and engine and generally anything in Halo 4 that was an improvement all that comes to mind is graphics and the sound changes of the standard assault rifle and the warthog. The assault rifle now has a much more meaty sound too it and the warthog sounds like a straight piped 1970 454cc Chevelle, awesome. If you think about that gas guzzler on an alien planet in the 25th century it can get weird but it still sounds great.
I'm somewhat disappointed by Halo 4 but that doesn't mean it's a bad game, it just means it could have been an amazing game. I'm also disappointed that not only could it have been an amazing game but it should have been. Years of time and some of the best and most resources money can buy and we get a below average Halo campaign and essentially the same old multiplayer. Bungie gave 343 the perfect ending with endless possibilities when they finished Halo 3. I can understand 343 wanting to play it safe but going from drifting in space while asleep and alone with nothing but the unknown ahead to fighting covenant and seeing humans within an hour is less than safe and more towards boring. If this game would have been a new IP by a new developer it would have been more highly regarded but I think you should expect more when it can actually be done.