Halo 4 is the first installment in the new trilogy of Halo series games, named the "Reclaimer Trilogy" and is the first Halo game not developed by the original developers of the Halo Series,Bungie. 343 Industries is the brand new studio put together by Microsoft to carry on the Halo legacy. The Halo and the Call of Duty series are at the top players in the First Person Shooter on consoles and Halo in particular has revolutionized the FPS genre on consoles which was once considered a PC only genre. Does 343 Industries breathe new life into the Halo series or is it time to put this series to rest?
Halo 4's story is definitely a step in the right direction, but like Bungie before, 343 Industries is unable to make the story of Halo 4 a captivating experience. Halo 4 takes place in the year 2557, four years after the events of Halo 3. Master Chief wakes from cryo-chamber thanks to Cortana and must save the world again. This time he will not only face the Covenant but a new alien race called the Prometheans. The game is set on the planet Requiem, the forerunner world where most of the game takes place. First off, I was never and am still not a fan on the Halo Series lore and have always found the stories of Halo games to be your standard Sci -Fi gibberish. Halo 4 is no different with loads of things, terms, and places that are never fully explained or serve any type of context in the main plot lines. While the cutscenes and voice acting are top notch, the delivery ultimately falls flat. This in part to the predictable story threads and the laughable relationship between Master Chief and Cortana. 343 Industries tries to pull at your heartstrings with these over dramatic moments but they always feel awkward and out of place. Also the malfunctioning AI bit that takes places throughout the entire game is overdone and tired. These sections ultimately end up becoming yet another HAL 9000 knockoff. The game poses an interesting question in the beginning of whether Master Chief is so successful because he lacks the feelings that are believed to hold back the human race. The game tries to answer this question by forcing Master Chief to embody these human qualities which more than often comes off as not genuine or believable. Also the main villain of the game is introduced early and only reappears during the end of the game.There is no character development or interesting motivations to why the main villain is trying to destroy the human race. It seems that the story is just there to set up the cool set piece moments and shoot at tons of Aliens. While I enjoyed that the story was told through more radio broadcasts and less cut scenes, that kept you playing instead of watching, I feel that it is not enough to set this generic sci-fi story apart. With Mass Effect 3 earlier this year raising the bar for how a a sci fi trilogy handles story, the new Halo Trilogy needs to learn how to execute proper character development that is less robotic like the Aliens and AI that inhabit the world and indeed more human.
Halo 4 is easily the best looking Halo game to date. How 343 Industries was able to squeeze the juice out of the seven year old Xbox360 is a technical marvel. The animations,environments, and overall performance is top notch. With the amount of enemies,vehicles, and particle effects happening on the screen, there are no frame rate dips and the game continues to look great while doing so. Between the forest, desert, and tron like areas there is plenty of environmental variety that I am always a fan of. Simply said, you will not find a better looking and performing first person shooter on the Xbox360 this year. My only gripe would be imagining what this game would look like on the next generation Xbox in glorious 1080p.
The gameplay of Halo 4 has always been the strongest aspect of the series and the addicting multiplayer is what has kept Halo on the top of the Xbox Live charts as well as the sales charts. Halo 4 is no different here and surprisingly 343 Industries takes the approach that if it is not broken don't try to fix it. I was really worried that a relatively new developer wouldn't be able to outshine the work of a top tier developer like Bungie but 343 Industries not only makes Halo 4 feel and play like a Halo game but makes smart improvements to make the game more appealing to the Call of Duty generation of first person shooters. The most apparent change is the pacing and speed of Halo 4. The game's speed has been dramatically increased part in thanks to long overdue ability to sprint without a dedicated armor ability. This speeds up the gameplay in Halo 4 significantly and helps the campaign become one of the most well paced and action packed campaigns the series has ever seen. Not to mention it makes the multiplayer have the adrenaline rush that the Call of Duty series is known for while retaining the skill and tight controls the Halo Series is known for. First and foremost Halo 4's Campaign introduces the Prometheans allowing for new enemy types and weapons in addition to the standard UNSC and Covenant equivalents from previous Halo games. The new Promethean enemies include the Knights who can teleport, the dog like enemies that actually return fire like skags in Borderlands, enemies with beam sniper rifles and lasers, and flying enemies that shield their ground counterparts. The amount of enemy variety and the intelligent tactics that AI partake in continue the legacy of making Halo the most immersive and strategic shooters on the market. The new Promethean weapons are basically another equivalent set of weapons to match their UNSC and Covenant equivalent with small deviations. The biggest deviation of course being that Promethean weapons have the best reload animation I have ever seen in a game as the barrel splits apart and comes together after each reload of a clip. Also the new vehicles like the Mech like Mantis and Mammoth are great additions to the already stellar vehicle lineup the Halo Series is known for.As for multiplayer, you can see that 343 Industries has been paying attention to what has made the Call of Duty series so popular and have implemented these systems to fit perfectly into the Halo series. You have loadouts that you unlock when you level up in multiplayer just like in a Call of Duty game but include the armor loadouts that were introduced in Halo Reach as well as weapon loadouts and other perks. The Armor abilities include jetpacks, holograms, active camouflage,a hardlight shield, promethean vision to see through walls and fog, and thrusters for bursts of speed. These abilities are not only in multiplayer but are interchanged throughout the whole single player campaign and in Spartan Ops. In Multiplayer there is also a plethora of customizable emblems, loadouts, and armor abilities that you unlock after each level allowing for a huge amount of customizable options. Smart additions to the multiplayer gameplay also include a point system that rewards players for other actions besides kills. You get points for assisting your team wheither it is defending your flag or base, capturing the flag and passing it on to a teammate, or vehicle and regular assists. This allows for a great amount of feedback in multiplayer to how well you are doing even if you do not having the best kill/death ratio. Other additions like the cool melee take downs return, a new care package system called Ordinances which drop weapons and armor abilities after a kill streak, and the excellent matchmaking and multiplayer modes that the series is known for are all present. In conclusion, if you are a veteran Halo player you are gonna feel right at home but may feel like this is just another Halo game. I think for that reason that most gamers out there are not going to feel blown away as we have played countless Halo games before.
Like Halo games of the past, Halo 4 is well worth your initial $60 dollar investment. The multiplayer alone could probably go for $60 alone with the amount of the replayability you will get with all the modes and the games’ ten maps. I think the campaign and the Spartan Ops modes are just a plus. The campaign runs 5-7 hours and supports 4 player co-op online and 2 player split screen. The campaign supports the Heroic and Legendary difficulties for Halo Veterans as well as the normal difficulty which I played on. The Spartan Ops is nice addition that replaces the horde mode firefall from ODST and Halo Reach. Spartan Ops if a 4 player co-op episodic content dlc that takes continues six months after the end of Halo 4's Campaign. The First season is included with the game which includes ten episodes including 5 chapters each which can be downloaded each week after launch. The first episode runs for about an hour and is fun free dlc value add to the game. The bread and butter of Halo 4 is of course the multiplayer which features nine modes. You have infinity slayer which is team deathmatch with teams of 4 vs 4. Big team infinity slayer which is team deathmatch with teams of 8 vs 8. A new mode called dominion which is Halo 4’s capture and hold with teams of 6 vs 6. In this mode you capture Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie fortifications around the map which have their own bases with barriers, turrets, and vehicles. Renegade is simply 6 player free for all. Flood is a remake of one of my favorite modes from Halo 3 called Infection. One player starts out as a flood character with an energy sword and the other 9 players start out as spartans with shotguns and one armor ability which is either a shield, active camouflage, or promethean vision. The flood characters objective is to kill the Spartans which in return turns that Spartan into a flood character themselves. The winner of course being the person who can stay alive the longest while retaining the most amount of kills. Capture the flag returns which smart additions like the ability to wield a pistol while carrying the flag and gaining points for assists. Other favorites include Oddball, King of the Hill, and team slayer pro which are there and remain relatively the same. In short, if you are Halo multiplayer fan, you would be hard pressed not pick up a copy of Halo 4 for the multiplayer alone.
In conclusion, Halo 4 is neither revolutionary nor innovative addition to the first person shooter genre. It may only come up as refreshing in a world of modern military Call of Duty knockoffs and lack of first person sci-fi shooters. I think when it comes down to the verdict of Halo 4, as simply a decision of whether you liked Halo in the past, which the 99% chance that you will indeed like Halo 4. The game may be doing things revolutionary for Halo but not for the FPS genre in general. Halo seems to be playing catch up with games like Call of Duty which ultimately leads to Halo not doing anything uniquely different to what is has done in the past or right now. In order to Halo to rise to the top of the ranks in my opinion it needs to do something truly unique like games like Borderlands 2 which is highly unlikely. In the end, Halo is going to be Halo and increasing more like Call of Duty because that is what sells in today's market. You can call me part of the problem as I continue to buy these games year after year but the simply fact is they are still great games that are enjoyable to play regardless of lack of innovation in both respective games.
Score: 85 %
Buy: If you want a great alternative to the Call of Duty multiplayer experience on Xbox360. Halo 4 is a refreshing competitive multiplayer game with great controls and modes. If you are single player only fps player it may just be a rental.