Giant Bomb Review

412 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+
412 Comments Refresh
Posted by WasabiCurry

The last time I had "more of the same" was Borderlands 2. Trust me, I am disappointed in the game and I do hope for the third installment to be different. Either that I will not buy it. I believe I'll pass on Halo 4 and let my friend buy it instead. Saves me sixty dollars in the end and I will chill at his house.

More of the same does not equal a good thing.

Posted by Colourful_Hippie

Well that's a bummer. I'll still get it but I'm done with Halo if they really plan on playing it too safe with the formula for the rest of the new trilogy.

Posted by Alorithin

@thornie: Writing a user review would imply I care about this site's editorial authority.

I come here for humor and personality. Every video game topic without these is a total wash.

Posted by Deathpooky

About what I was expecting, and I'm in pretty much the same boat as Jeff - loved Halo 3 for being a polished end to the trilogy, ODST for being something different and having great atmosphere, and Reach for the story it told. But I was looking for something new, and seeing what this is, I'm far less excited. I'll probably play it eventually, but not at full price today.

Posted by betterboulder

@thornie: That's probably what Jeff was mulling over in his head when he was talking about changing the way the site writes about video games. I know a few movie review sites that are better for it.

Edited by algertman

@Alorithin said:

@algertman: I read it. He gave it a 9.8 out of ten and described everything with a postive quality.

Eurogamer, Edge, and Giantbomb all gave 8/10 in the same "well done but no change" camp.

These are opinons. They are all allowed.

Look at this bit from the IGN review.

After soaking in the new game, I am beyond thrilled to be so in love with Halo again, more than I’ve been since Halo 2. Halo 4 is a masterstroke everyone can and should celebrate, and its two guaranteed sequels instantly make the next-generation Xbox a must-own system, with Halo 5 its most anticipated title. Halo has been rebuilt. It has been redefined. And it has been reinvigorated. The Xbox’s original king has returned to his rightful place on the throne.

That's so over the top it's hilarious. If that person isn't on the pay roll of MS they should be.

Posted by honkyjesus

From the reviews I've seen I notice the usual. Some sites giving it a perfect score. Hard to tell who to believe with this stuff, as there is no demo for it and I haven't played it.

I really didn't enjoy Halo 3 that much, but this one had me excited mainly because it didn't look like a Halo game.

Posted by YoVideoGamesAreSerious

Jeff gave ODST and Reach 4 stars too. That people continue to be this fucking retarded over any of the content within this review speaks to the fall of our civilization and humanity in general.

Posted by Arker101

Good Review, but the part that bums me the most is the "modernization" of Halo. Reach started down this path of emulating COD sure, but to see the focus going away from balance and skilled play and instead focusing on random elements and shallow rewards is troubling.

I like what COD brings to the table, heck I'll get BLOPS2, but I hate seeing every other game dilute what makes it unique to appeal to that crowd. I guess that's business, and a side effect of a growing industry.

Posted by hakunin

Is is just me, or does that Mecha look a lot like a mini Metal Gear?! Rex. It even has a little radome thingy.

Posted by CaLe

@Alorithin: Does calling people bro give you the mental distance you need to feel like it 'ain't no thang'? Grow up.

Edited by MeatSim

Some more changes to singleplayer would have been nice but if the changes to mutliplayer are worthwhile and refreshing I think I will be content enough.

Posted by iAmJohn

@RAMBO604 said:

Surprised Jeff gave it the same score he gave Reach, reading other reviews seems to indicate 4 is a superior game in every way to Reach.

You do not understand how scores work.

Posted by DharmaBum

@Humanity: but dude... the grunt giggling is the most crucial part of the combat "puzzle." :P

Posted by avantegardener

My God! Jeffs opinion DIFFERS FROM OTHERS! How could this have happened given THE HUMAN COLLECTIVE HIVE MIND! I for one have zero interest in Halo as franchise (I think it's for babies, if your interested), but this seems like well reasoned opinion piece.

Posted by bhlaab

Yesterday: Game journalists are all lying scumbags who are on the take

Today: Why the FUCK didn't he give Halo 4 the best score possible

Posted by zombie2011

200+ comments on a Halo review sounds about right. People love to comment on this franchise even if they have no intention of playing it.

The comments seemed ok until people started bringing up other reviews, now it's getting fun.

Posted by Skillface

People who compare game scores (i.e. "WHAT MORTAL KOMBAT VITA IS BETTER THAN HALO 4?" or "SOUND SHAPES IS BETTER THAN FALLOUT 3? WHAT?") need to re-evaluate both the scoring system, then their own lives.

Posted by TheHBK

Great review. Score seems about spot on with everything I read. Sucks the story and approach to enemies hasn't changed all that much. Some might like it, some like Jeff and I wanted something crazy and more mythic since they are going into the forerunner planet. Oh well. But that with the missing firefight is a star gone. Plays like Halo and the best part is that it finally looks amazing. No Sgt Johnson and the faces are not all fucking ugly. Kudos 343.

Side note, I wonder why Jeff didn't mention the new Flood mode game type. Also still wonder if the flood will be in the story since Microsoft put out screenshots of flood forms last month.

Posted by bassman2112

Thanks for the review , it is fairly concise, and feels like it's your true opinion rather than serving some proverbial master.

To be honest, it's kind of what I'd expected - which is rather unfortunate. It seems like the kind of thing that Halo fans will enjoy though. Rightfully so, too. It still sounds like a good game, just not a massive hop forward like most people were anticipating.

Anyways, thanks again =)

Posted by dropabombonit

Sad to hear that they didn't do something completely different but I will be happy to play a great Halo game

Edited by Sooty

@Tarsier said:

@Nadril said:

Kind of disappointing that it's just "more halo". Not like I care, I don't even have a 360 and I've not played Halo since the 2nd one, but some of the early footage looked to be a bit different from the original trilogy which was interesting.

Good news is if you're a Halo fan you'll probably love it. 4/5 makes a lot of sense overall.

i can see that its more than just 'more halo' by watching trailers and gameplay videos. jeff didnt piss on the new mortal kombat game for just being 'more mortal kombat'.. and i would say that game was much more of the same than halo 4 is. there is a massive amount of evolution in this game.

If he's a fighting game guy then he's not a very good one.

Mortal Kombat sucks, but even I can admit that game brought a lot of cool single player stuff to the table and did actually add new mechanics to the fighting. Don't be such a moron.

Halo is still Halo, it's a pretty tired series even with the change ups in this game, also FPS fatique.

Posted by RAMBO604

@iAmJohn said:

@RAMBO604 said:

Surprised Jeff gave it the same score he gave Reach, reading other reviews seems to indicate 4 is a superior game in every way to Reach.

You do not understand how scores work.

Same reviewer, same franchise, if that is not a solid basis for comparison of review scores of Halo 4 and Reach then nothing is. Plus "surprised" and "seems to indicate" doesn't instantly equate to Jeff is fucking wrong. Merely his text reads nearly identical to Reach's and the consensus of opinion among other publications seem to be 4 is a better game and his text even reads a lot like those other sites. Hence surprised.

Really don't care one way or the other, I've known since the GameSpot days to typically expect Jeff to be a little lower than what I think something would be for myself. Part of that know and trust a reviewer discussion they were having on the Bombcast ehh?

So knowing Jeff's reviews almost every time hit a point or two lower from what I usually think something should be I can trust his 4 to probably be a 5 for me.

And thats the way review scores work if used correctly. Know how someone typically slants to your own tastes and base it off that.

Posted by BlueWolverine

Cortana is really the only interesting thing going for Halo for me, personally. If they do something really interesting with her character, I'll be intrigued.

Posted by Ravenlock
"The action opens with the Master Chief being woken out of his stasis only to find danger."

Has Master Chief ever been brought of of stasis to find anything other than danger? Hell, has any videogame character? Danger is kind of the standard "we've brought you out of stasis" scenario.

Shame to hear that they haven't stretched their legs as much as I think people assumed they had from the preview events and early footage. Yet Another Halo Game was not a very high bar to aim for, IMO, even if they did have to live up to a lot of expectations set by the former developer. I'd rather they'd come along and put their distinct stamp on it than made more of the same, but I guess they either didn't feel they had the freedom or were told they didn't.

On an unrelated note, anybody else feel like this review just kind of ends without a conclusion? I get the sense Jeff was notably underwhelmed, but I feel like he kind of signs off here by throwing in the towel. "Eh, it's alright. The gameplay's still tight. Goodnight everybody."

Posted by mems1224

Finally got a chance to read this, great review Jeff. As a giant Halo fanboy all these reviews have my hype level through the roof. Tuesday needs to get here fast!

Posted by mems1224

@BlueWolverine said:

Cortana is really the only interesting thing going for Halo for me, personally. If they do something really interesting with her character, I'll be intrigued.

From what I've read and heard the story is pretty much centered around her. IGN even said Halo 4 was her story.

Edited by brandonleedy

"Blargh! / Anger! / Only 4 Stars?! / (*Insert Reviewer*) MUST be on the take! FOLLOW THE MONEY!" -What Jerks Say On Comment Threads

<PSA after reading a handful of comments from some jerks>

Can we please all be a little more mature and realize this is a video game, there are many other games like it, there will be many more till the end of time and arguing over it really only wastes YOUR life? You all could be such better people and make such cool things if you didn't expend so much energy and time blowing hot air about things that ultimately have no real effect on your lives. When you die, no one will care what score Halo got, or what your opinion is on it. They will care that you were a good person and maybe care that you made something cool. Giant Bomb is here for entertainment, it's fun to read a well written review. Jeff did a good job with a well-written and reasoned review of a game. If you didn't like it, you don't have to read Giant Bomb anymore. But writing something negative/argumentative in the comments literally is the least you could do to "solve" anything. Go out and make something for yourself. Be better people.

</PSA after reading a handful of comments from some jerks>

Posted by Krabonq

Oh, look, it's another generic space shooter !

Posted by BlueWolverine

@mems1224: It sounds more focused on her. But I'm not buying a game that hopefully pays it off in its sequel. This is one of the many things I hate about the money making franchises like Halo. They never finish off their stories. It's always just "To Be Continued" BS.

Posted by Carousel

I hate all of you.

Posted by bybeach

Okay. More of this Halo game I've learned to like with a third faction( thankfully not the Flood ,but rather predator-bunch of look-alikes) kicking in their weapons set and whatever bad attitudes thev'e brought to the table. Gertsman seems to like it, so I also might, I will wait for a few other reviews, but it looks like the 360 gonna get powered up.

Unless I hear of it coming out for the PC in a year...... BUHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

I know,.... I won't.

Posted by erona

I feel for 343 knowing how much pressure is on them to stay true to the series but also wanting to do something new. While it sounds like they definitely played it safe, at least I know I can count on it to be consistent with the rest and they've all been fun to play. Looking forward to this one and I enjoyed the review.

Posted by Abendlaender

What a great day. The Sleeping Dogs QL: Hilarious.

the Harvey's new eyes QL: Fantastic

Halo 4 Review Comments: Probably the funniest thing I've seen today. Thanks internet, please never change. I'm actually close to laughing tears right now.

Posted by Keen_12

Congrats 343, halo continues to survive and be awesome.

Posted by Vegetable_Side_Dish

Halo 4(out of 5)

Posted by cikame

Crosshair still not in the center? no deal.

Posted by i77ogical

@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

Nice that someone here sees through Jeff Gerstmann. You all worship his "truth-telling" style, but can't see the truth in front of your face: Gerstmann is an elaborate troll who hates video games, except for those games that remind him of his childhood. (Fighting games and driving games.)

Gerstmann is a modern day Charles Foster Kane, a broken down man looking for his Rosebud in every new release ... does it remind me of when I was 10? No? Then I'll give it some faint praise and slap a 3-4 onto it. And the ego of Citizen Gerstmann prevents him from giving this review to someone who actually likes video games. So we get more "damning with faint praise" reviews of major releases, while the blind GB fans clap.

Posted by MichaelBach

Great review, not sure if I just want "more Halo"... might skip this one.

Posted by spiceninja

@cikame said:

Crosshair still not in the center? no deal.

Yeah, that drove me nuts in Halo 3 but I eventually got over it. It's just something you have to deal with with Halo.

Posted by CaLe

@i77ogical: That's quite an elaborate piece of fan fiction you've got going there. I've seen better though.

Posted by thebigJ_A

I don't know much about Halo fiction, but I read those terminals in 3. Wasn't that Didact fellow a good guy? Like, he didn't want to use the halos and such? Preliminary googling on my part confirms, and he was even against war apparently. So how's he a bad guy?

Posted by handlas

These comments... oh so glorious. Nothing against Halo but I enjoy reading the comments of these people. Like someone kicked their puppy in the face. Put into context that most likely these people havent touched the game, makes their comments all the better. My favortie one "if this doesnt look like a 5 star game then I dont't know what is!".... i laughed hard.

Posted by Tactical1

Giant Bomb, the place where Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is a better game than Halo 4.

Posted by downtime58

What's the ratio on angry comments by non-members? Pretty high methinks.

Edited by i77ogical

@CaLe said:

@i77ogical: That's quite an elaborate piece of fan fiction you've got going there. I've seen better though.

It's 5 (?) years of experience with this site, so ... it's historical fiction if anything, haha.

Giant Bomb has failed as the site it wanted to be. It had to be sold because it doesn't sustain itself. The main reason it has failed, IMO, is Jeff Gerstmann. Imagine Andy Rooney running 60 Minutes. It doesn't work. Too many gamers want to enjoy gaming. Giant Bomb is the sour site that makes fun of gaming in the news articles, finds the jaded attitude in an industry that is meant to be fun, to take us away from crappy real life when we want to.

I've sat by while JG gave Fallout 3 a 4 star review. I've seen this rerun too many times. Giant Bomb the IDEA is a great thing. Jeff's execution of it isn't.

Posted by Tactical1

@handlas:

I did make an account to make that comment. I don't have any alters. Nice try though.

Posted by Forum_User

Uh-oh, Jeff stirred up the hornet's nest with a four-star score for a highly anticipated game again. ; )

Posted by SHADOSTRYKR

@iAmJohn: that's not even close to what I said

Posted by pompouspizza

@Tarsier: Are you serious?