Giant Bomb Review

413 Comments

Halo 4 Review

4
  • X360

The new developers behind the Halo franchise successfully emulate the style of their predecessors as a new trilogy begins with Halo 4.

Armor customization is merely cosmetic, but there are some cool helmets and stuff to unlock.

Did the new team at 343 Industries break Halo? No, not at all. Taking over the franchise from its creators at Bungie and creating a new, numbered sequel starring the Master Chief seems like the sort of daunting task that could have blown up the entire franchise if it had gone poorly. But the developers have executed quite well, developing a Halo game that gets that Halo feel down nicely while also playing around with the periphery of the experience in an attempt to modernize things a bit. Some of those new ideas work better than others, but if there's any actual issue with Halo 4 it's that the game plays it a little too safe. Master Chief starts the game surrounded by mystery, but it relies too heavily on the use of existing enemies and weapons, and by the end of the campaign it sort of feels like the Master Chief is right back in the middle of the same conflict and theater of war he seemingly left behind at the end of Halo 3.

The action opens with the Master Chief being woken out of his stasis only to find danger. Covenant forces have boarded his ripped-up ship and this whole mess is headed for a Forerunner planet called Requiem. Before too long a human ship called the Infinity joins the fray, giving you the standard factions of a Halo game. Mixed into this conflict is a new batch of enemies called the Prometheans. And tying it all together is a central bad guy known as the Didact. The story starts to head in some interesting directions. Your ever-present AI pal Cortana, for example, is falling apart due to being "alive" for more than seven years. As she breaks down, it's harder for her to maintain focus and help the Chief complete his tasks. It's also really interesting to put a face to the antagonists in a Halo game, rather than larger species or concepts like "the Covenant." That said, however, you sure do spend a lot of time fighting old enemies.

The most dramatic change you'll see on the enemy front is a floating Promethean Watcher that hovers above its allies, emitting beams that shield the Knights and Crawlers below. It'll also snatch any grenades you toss in their direction and fling it right back in your direction, which is sort of a jerk move if you ask me. But it also does a mean Doom II Arch-Vile impression by resurrecting some enemies after you take them down. In short, shoot the Watchers first. The other Promethean enemies aren't dramatically different from the types of enemies you've been facing in previous games. Crawlers can crawl down from the walls and the bipedal Knights can teleport, allowing them to warp away from the business end of your battle rifle and reappear behind you.

These mechs pop up in multiplayer and campaign.

But you'll also face a lot of Covenant opposition, including Grunts, Elites, Jackals, and Hunters. Fighting these guys feels the same way it always has, for better or worse. The Grunts are total chumps, the Elites are fun to bash in the face, the Jackals are never left-handed, and the Hunters are large and slow. As before, the game mixes up your various enemies to serve them up in different configurations. On the normal difficulty, this doesn't make much difference, as you can just plow through the opposition the way a big, armored dude like the Master Chief should. On higher settings, the action gets a little more tactical, forcing you to poke out, do some damage, and hang back to let your shields recharge. Again, this shouldn't sound like much of a surprise to people who have played a Halo game before, but it's just another example of the ways that this new development team made a game that feels very similar to Bungie's work on the previous games. That said, the promise of landing on a new planet and the potential for new experiences and encounters that the change of setting could have allowed for makes the notion of spending what feels like most of the game fighting enemies from old Halo games a little unfortunate.

You'll pick up some new weapons along the way, and the Chief himself has been given some additional abilities. Most of the new weapons drop from the new Promethean enemies. They look great, and the first time you pick one up you'll see it sort of form together into a gun. It's a nice introductory animation that, thankfully, doesn't play out every time you pick up a weapon. While the new weapons look nice, most of them just plug right into the existing Halo archetypes. You'll see a shotgun, a pistol, a fully-automatic rifle, a single-shot rifle that fires three slugs at once (though one sniper-like megaslug if you're zoomed in), a new grenade type, and so on. The new weapons are disappointing for that reason. They don't feel like they fill any real need or plug into any gaps in the existing Halo arsenal. They're just more ways to do the same thing. The game also offers you the chance to pilot a large mech suit in a couple of spots, but taking a large, slow-moving armored guy like the Master Chief and slapping another larger, slower layer of armor around him for a couple of shooting gallery-like sequences isn't exactly my idea of a good time.

Thankfully, the Chief has some more movement options to keep the game running at a solid pace. You can sprint at will now by clicking in the left stick. This does a lot to speed up the pace of the game, as you might expect. But in addition to that, there's also an equipment slot that lets you use armor abilities, similar to the style of Halo: Reach. These include things like Promethean Vision, which lets you see through walls, or Active Camouflage, which gives you a Predator-style invisibility that the AI seems to be able to see right through most of the time. You can also equip abilities that let you deploy auto-sentries, use a large shield, and so on. Being able to sprint without having to equip that as your armor ability is terrific.

This shield is one of the armor abilities you can equip.

Overall, the Halo 4 campaign is pretty good. It looks fantastic in some spots and it takes you to a lot of different-looking places along the way. It sets up a few story elements that won't pay off until later on in this new trilogy of games, but a lot of the story plays things very safe. At the opening of the game it feels like Master Chief and Cortana could be set off onto some great new mystery in a mysterious place where everything could be different. Instead you spend a lot of time fighting old Halo enemies and, by the conclusion of Halo 4's story, I felt like much of the promise inherent to this potentially new setting had been squandered. Maybe that's on me for wanting Halo to be something other than Halo, but without getting into the specifics of the characters and their fates, where things are left at the end of the game feels like a stopping point that sets you up for more of the same enemies and settings in the future.

The multiplayer side of Halo 4 brings in those new weapons and movement changes, so you can sprint there, as well. There are also additional armor abilities to play with and, overall, it feels like the team sat down with a recent Call of Duty game and found ways to plug some of those concepts into Halo. Some of them are cosmetic. Any points you earn during a match pop up right in the center of the screen. When you die, you get a killcam feed of the person that took you out. But some of them are more dramatic, like more customizable loadouts that let you pick your primary and secondary weapons, a starting grenade type, and a few perks, like shields that recharge more quickly, infinite sprint, the ability to scavenge grenades from fallen Spartans, and so on. As you play, you'll earn experience points that give you unlock points, but some items also have a level requirement before they can even be unlocked. So you'll have to play for a bit before you can start out with plasma grenades, and you'll have to play a little longer before you can equip things in all of your perk slots. Halo has done loadouts before, but this is a deeper, and ultimately, more interesting set of options. As before, you'll also unlock various armor pieces as you play, gain levels, or complete challenges. New helmets, shoulders, chest pieces, and so on are also available for you to play around with.

These portals teleport you around the planet in the campaign.

The modes you'll play when playing with the public are your typical sort of Halo modes, but with some changes here and there. Team Slayer (as well as some of the other modes) now allows you to call in ordnance after a set number of kills. Don't start freaking out, you're not calling in air strikes or UAVs or anything that dramatic. And it doesn't require you to earn all those kills in a streak. But when you fill an on-screen meter, it gives you the option to call in one of three different things. They might be weapons, like the SAW, a very rugged light machine gun. Or you might have the option to get an overshield, a temporary speed or damage boost, and so on. One time I got the gravity hammer, but was immediately killed before I got to run around and smash people with it. It's a cool little addition. Other modes include Regicide, which is a standard deathmatch mode but the lead player gets marked by an on-screen indicator and also has an additional bounty on his head. Killing the king gets you that bounty, but doesn't automatically make you the king--you need to be in the lead to wear the crown.

You can also get in and build your own custom matches with a variety of rules settings, and the Forge mode that allows you to alter the placement of items in the multiplayer maps (along with a set of Forge-only maps) also returns with some additional options, like the ability to fuse items together. And, as before, you can take your custom games, screenshots, and so on and share them with other players.

There's no wave-based survival mode in Halo 4. In addition to the campaign, the game also has a cooperative mode called Spartan Ops. This is an episodic series that follows a team of Spartans that work out of the Infinity, a large ship that shows up in the campaign. These episodes are going to be released for free on a regular basis as downloadable updates and will contain video clips that help set them up. The first such episode is included alongside the launching game, and as such that's the only one I can really review at this point. The story opens with a video showing Spartans reporting for duty on-board the Infinity. From there, you're tossed into a set of five missions. The locations are ripped from other parts of the game and are extremely combat heavy. And once you're past that initial cutscene, any additional dialogue is delivered via radio chatter. If you're into the combat of Halo and like playing with others against occasionally overwhelming batches of enemies, the missions are passable. But don't go in thinking that this is some sort of elaborate and unique segment of the game that's going to give you a campaign-level experience. It's a set of co-op missions with a loose story wrapper around it, nothing more, nothing less. You can bring in your custom Spartan from the other multiplayer modes and earn experience points by playing Spartan Ops, and there are mode-specific challenges to complete here, as well.

Shoot the flying dudes first.

The presentation end of Halo 4 is quite nice. The music is outstanding, breaking away from the franchise's past a bit by updating the sound and getting away from some of the overt monk chanting that one still tends to associate with Halo. It helps make Halo 4 sound like its own thing, and that goes a long way. Visually, Halo 4 has some terrific moments that really stand out, but it also holds up well on the technical end with a good frame rate, great lighting, and, for the most part, sharp texture quality. Again, these things help to make Halo 4 look and feel different from its predecessors, probably more than the gameplay does.

From the moment I saw Master Chief put himself back to sleep at the end of Halo 3, all I could think about was how his next adventure--if he would even have a next adventure--should be something dramatically different from the adventures we had already seen. Moving him out into the middle of nowhere and cutting him off from his allies is an idea with huge potential. So that's why I find the storytelling side of Halo 4 to be fairly disappointing. Within the first few hours you've fought enemies that go all the way back to the first game in the franchise and you've reconnected with the human race. That's not to say that the entire story is a bust--and it does set up some potentially interesting things for the next couple of games to address--but it's good that the developers have backed this story up with sharp, time-tested gameplay that gets enhanced in meaningful ways across all modes.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
413 Comments
Edited by CptBedlam

@Tarsier said:

@GioVANNI said:

@Tarsier: Have you actually played Halo 4? Maybe you should write a review about why you think it's awesome

thanks trolls

Back at ya. I love watching fanboys like yourself melt down in comment sections. :)

Always remember when you play the game one day: 4/5, four out of five, not perfect, 80%. Have fun.

Posted by Cold_Wolven

Great review Jeff, I had a feeling that this game might play a little safe to what predecessors in the series have done. 343 Studios just needed a little momentum making their first Halo game before they can jump into the deep end and come up with crazier ideas for Halo 5.

Edited by mshaw006

Thanks for the review. Just want to point out that here: "I felt like much of the promise inherit to this potentially new setting had been squandered," it should be "inherent." Good job, but (in Gob voice) come on!

Posted by Masakari

Inb4 Jeff gives BO2 4/5 despite being even more tired than Halo. lol

Posted by bunnymud

I'll pick it up when it goes on sale or something

Posted by Elazul

8.8? WHAT THE FUCK, JEFF????!!!!!!!!!11!11

Posted by Napalm

Is that byline true? Emulate the style of their predecessors? I'm pretty sure that wasn't the goal. That sounds like a hilariously back-handed compliment.

Posted by Winternet

Wait, what happened? Why are the comments so damn dumb and laughable? Oh, it's a Halo review and it did not get 5 stars. Got it.

Posted by MrMonotone

I'm personally curious about the whole customisable starting weapons thing. I always thought having the better weapons be placed around the map led to a good flow of combat and rewarded map control. I'll be interested to hear how this change affects the multiplayer.

Posted by Phatmac

Whoever cares about review scores so much that they need to complain about it here is a loser. Grow up. You were going to play the game regardless of Jeff's review. He didn't like the game as much as other reviewers so what?

Posted by CookieMonster

Think this might be the first Halo I'll miss in a while. The CoD style gloss of the multiplayer and co-op and the lack of Firefight has really put me off this.

Posted by zyn

Thanks for the review. I look forward to the Quick Look!

Posted by Anupsis

I am very disappointed to hear how much you fight the covenant.

Posted by mbr2

"The new developers behind the Halo franchise successfully emulate the style of their predecessors as a new trilogy begins with Halo 4." *4 stars*

*barf* Why the fuck do I keep coming back to this site again?

Posted by csl316

Well, expected this score since it's Jeff on Halo on GB. Still looking forward to the coverage.

Posted by JoeyRavn

So, this roughly translates to what in number? 8.8? :O

Just kidding. Halo 4 looks solid. I've never been a huge Halo fan (I never managed to finish 3... maybe the fact that I have it Spanish with a horrible dubbing may have influenced), but I may do the effort and pick this game up when it's a bit cheaper.

Edited by GetEveryone

So the previous game director left because he wasn't given enough artistic control and they pushed for a 'Halo' game.

It's no doubt a decent shooter, but I'm just not that interested in playing more of that story arc. Having been excited as hell for this, I probably won't be getting it.

Here's hoping the next installment branches out in a more exciting direction.

Posted by Gordo789

I would play this if I had an Xbox. It sounds good.

Posted by MjHealy

Interesting review Jeff. Seems I will pick this up anyhow, I could do with a bit more Halo.

Though, I have to say, pretty surprised to see so many bitchy comments for this review. Usually it's just people warning of bitchy comments but we are getting some here.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

Video review?

Posted by KingBroly

Jeff is eerily consistent with his Halo reviews. I wonder what it'll take for that trend to buck?

Edited by rallo

Not usually a grammar Nazi, but considering the nature of the text and where it's being posted, I'd like to point out two spelling mistakes:

ordnance, not ordinance

inherent, not inherit (just noticed someone else pointed this out as well)

If I'm mistaken about these, let me know.

Posted by JerichoBlyth

For a Halo game to get anything above a 4 is an achievement at this point of its run.

343 - I salute you...also I'm going by the Destructoid score...first 10/10 they have dished out since...um...Deadly Premonition lol

Posted by masterpaperlink

Seriously starting to believe that franchises should stop at 3 games, even then i think 3 is 1 too many. 1 to create something new, 2 to perfect it (3 if you cant manage it). Every series of games i used to like dropped off a cliff when they hit 4. Its sad to see so much talent and effort put into something thats already been done 5-6 times.

Posted by Neurotic

@Tarsier said:

he should have let drew or vinny review this game imo

You do know that Drew and Vinny are video guys and not editors, right? What you should have said is 'He should have let someone who would have given it 5 stars review this game imo'.

@mbr2 said:

*barf* Why the fuck do I keep coming back to this site again?

Fucked if I know. You're obviously way too good for this place. We should be grateful that you put up with it.

Did people really expect Jeff to go crazy about Halo 4? If you want hyperbole, I'm sure you can find it elsewhere. People's reactions to game scores never cease to baffle me.

Anyway, Halo isn't my thing but I'm glad that the transition of studios seems to have gone off without a hitch. It's always sad when franchises start sucking after a developer change or what have you.

Edited by algertman

So Mortal Kombat Vita is a better game than Halo 4.

That's a joke.

After the shit storm with the gaming press this last week Jeff was never going to give this game 5 stars. Especially when they he just gave another 360 exclusive, Forza, that score. And to hear Jeff talk about Forza in the NFS QL you could tell it didn't deserve that score. He mentioned NFS had a far superior multiplayer and he would end up sinking more time in NFS than Forza. So Forza got a 5 and NFS got a 4. But hey, here's some free DLC codes for Forza.

Jeff is smart and knows people will always see him as some unmovable rock that's better than your average reviewer because he got ran off from Gamespot years ago. Now people will claim Jeff was above it all again because he gave Halo 4 just 4 stars. Jeff knows that and that's why he gave it 4 stars.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

I wonder if CBSi took away their right to do video reviews to get people to visit Gamespot, watched their video review and got more idea that a block of text would giv me.

Posted by SargeGulp

At the end of the day, more Halo may not be a bad thing. But it's sad to hear that it's just more Halo.. rather than a new Halo. Maybe a successful Halo 4 will give them the clout/confidence to take things off the reservation.

Posted by DharmaBum
There are also additional armor abilities to play with and, overall, it feels like the team sat down with a recent Call of Duty game and found ways to plug some of those concepts into Halo.

Tellin' it like it is.

Posted by EuanDewar

Fuckin pumped as hell

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

80 is currently the lowest score on Metacritic, Gamespot - 9 Polygon - 9.5 IGN - 9.8 Destructiod - 10 Joystiq - 10 Wasn't expecting this CGI looks fantastic from video reviews

Posted by Ravelle
Posted by Daneian

I really really love Halo but I already have 5 games that play the same. Was really really hoping to have something genuinely new from this.

Posted by Hockeymask27

Finish the fight again.

Posted by Cincaid

@algertman said:

So Mortal Kombat Vita is a better game than Halo 4.

That's a joke.

After the shit storm with the gaming press this last week Jeff was never going to give this game 5 stars. Especially when they he just gave another 360 exclusive, Forza, that score. And to hear Jeff talk about Forza in the NFS QL you could tell it didn't deserve that score. He mentioned NFS had a far superior multiplayer and he would end up sinking more time in NFS than Forza. So Forza got a 5 and NFS got a 4. But hey, here's some free DLC codes for Forza.

Jeff is smart and knows people will always see him as some unmovable rock that's better than your average reviewer because he got ran off from Gamespot years ago. Now people will claim Jeff was above it all again because he gave Halo 4 just 4 stars. Jeff knows that and that's why he gave it 4 stars.

Your constant disrespectful view of the staff here (and other places) continue to amuse me. Man it must be bothersome to live your life, seeing things everywhere in the corner of your eye.

Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

I'm disappointed about the Covenet being players in the story. I would have liked Halo 4 to get away from all of that completely.

Posted by MonkeyKing1969

I think this is about as fair and level headed of a response as you are ever going to see. The game is competent, but that is a low ball achievement for this series because nobody expected a bad job.

I can see how there will be variation in the score across all teh review sites, because "What you want from a Halo 4" will be different for everyone. There are people out there that probably wanted as few changes as possible, and for that group this game must be a 10/10. There are people like me who actually wanted the game striped down to the frame and a whole new set of weapon ideas, enemies, and game play concept to be tried; therefore none of that happening means the game is a disappointmet. Then there are people in the middle who must wonder what woudl have been better risk or continutation of what works so well. Why break what was not broken, and why change something no one was asking to be changed?

I wanted a a game that shifted genres and added different game play, but some fans would have hated that. But I can't get behind anything that does not grow, my mind rebels against just making "another one".

Edited by Abendlaender

@algertman said:

So Mortal Kombat Vita is a better game than Halo 4.

That's a joke.

After the shit storm with the gaming press this last week Jeff was never going to give this game 5 stars. Especially when they he just gave another 360 exclusive, Forza, that score. And to hear Jeff talk about Forza in the NFS QL you could tell it didn't deserve that score. He mentioned NFS had a far superior multiplayer and he would end up sinking more time in NFS than Forza. So Forza got a 5 and NFS got a 4. But hey, here's some free DLC codes for Forza.

Jeff is smart and knows people will always see him as some unmovable rock that's better than your average reviewer because he got ran off from Gamespot years ago. Now people will claim Jeff was above it all again because he gave Halo 4 just 4 stars. Jeff knows that and that's why he gave it 4 stars.

I have to say, this is a spot-on impression of a troll. Well done.

And for all the people that complain "oh god it's not a perfect score! What a shitty asshole dumbass reviuwe!". Watch this. And shut up. You are embarrassing yourself

Posted by Eojay

Man, watching people get riled up in review comment sections is one of my favourite pastimes.

@algertman said:

So Mortal Kombat Vita is a better game than Halo 4.

That's a joke.

PROTIP: Review scores, especially those of a completely different genre, are not relative to one another.

Posted by Abendlaender

So that means Halo 4 is just slightly better then Medal of Honor right?

I was going to buy an Xbox for this game, but now that I know that Rythem Heaven Fever is a much better game I'll probably buy a Wii!!!

How did I do? Maybe a little too exaggerated?

Posted by Pr1mus

Stupid comments from stupid people that don't even know they're stupid are the best!

Posted by TheWesman

Should have saved yourself a lot of trouble and just given it a five, Jeff. The fanboys are flippin' out!

Posted by PatientBeast

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

I wonder if CBSi took away their right to do video reviews to get people to visit Gamespot, watched their video review and got more idea that a block of text would giv me.

No, no conspiracy. The guys have said in the past that they haven't had enough time to record and edit video reviews though it is something they want to return to eventually.

Posted by skadbob

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

I wonder if CBSi took away their right to do video reviews to get people to visit Gamespot, watched their video review and got more idea that a block of text would giv me.

I remember hearing Jeff mentioning that there is an embargo on any video containing the campaign until November 6th (when the game comes out). Multiplayer and Spartan-Ops videos are not restricted. This is why there is no QL, yet. So... I could be wrong about this, but I believe GameSpot's video review of Halo 4 is composed of promotional footage (some of which feature campaign cinematics), their 2012 E3 Stage Demo, stringed together with disjointed moments from Multiplayer and Spartan-Ops.

Posted by vinster345

@Abendlaender said:

So that means Halo 4 is just slightly better then Medal of Honor right?

I was going to buy an Xbox for this game, but now that I know that Rythem Heaven Fever is a much better game I'll probably buy a Wii!!!

How did I do? Maybe a little too exaggerated?

LOL, Goddamit. You actually had me going for a second there.

Sounds like an excellent game and definitely worth a play. I won't touch the multiplayer so may be just worth a rental or wait until a deal.

Posted by NTM

@DharmaBum said:

@NTM said:

Over at IGN the guy's jizzing on the game, that's how good he makes it seem.

You mean that annoying guy in all those pre-release map previews? Fancy that.

I'm not really sure. I think it's the guy that was opening the Halo 4 360 bundle, and he looks like he wants a scooby snack.

Posted by iAmJohn

@Tarsier said:

@Mystyr_E said:

heh, it's funny: Gamespot, IGN, Destructoid, Game informer, they're like WOW dude! holy crap!

here it's like "ya know, it's good"

its because jeff is biased and always has been and he sucks at the multiplayer so it hinders his enjoyment levels. hes a racing game / fighting game guy not a FPS player he should stick to what his taste is and not give un fair reviews to other games. OF COURSE i am not assuming this is the case in this review. for all i know he could be right in not giving it 5 stars. but the past has shown that he is probly not.

he should have let drew or vinny review this game imo

Your bitter, angry fanboy tears, let me drink them.

Edited by Alorithin

So buy Syndicate and rent Halo 4.

Got it.

Edited by devilzrule27

@GnaTSoL said:

If it were any other franchise not changing the formula after numerous sequels, GB would have taken a dump on em.

It's kind of funny. Heck Jeff was getting down a bit on the 2nd Batman game. Not actually a big deal though given his tone of it was a bit down in the review. But hell he's outright dismissed other franchises that have suffered from sequelitis.