My Humble Opinion
Mario, Nathan Drake, and Master Chief are names that are synonymous with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft respectively. Whenever one of these console mascots are mentioned gamers worldwide tend to listen. So when Microsoft Game Studios, and 343 Industries (343i) launched Halo 4 in November thousands of gamers sojourned to video game outlets at midnight for their chance to continue the adventures of Master Chief.
But much has changed since Halo 3, gone is Bungie, the progenitor of the Halo series, and Call of Duty continues to define online multiplayer, so can 343i encapsulate the essence of Halo and deliver a stellar game?
Quite simply, Yes! Halo 4 looks, feels, and plays like a Halo game. That last sentence may seem redundant, but it is significant for fans of the series. Most of the games changes are brought forth through the story. Master Chief’s fourth foray is more of a personal journey opting to delve deeper into the man behind the armour. Tidbits are revealed, but 343i are clearly laying the groundwork for successive games in the series. My only gripe about the story is the introduction of the antagonist. Without spoiling anything, the antagonist is new to the series, but when he is revealed to Master Chief, and Cortana they have prior knowledge of his existence and there is no explanation surrounding this contrivance.
After 4 years of drifting through space. Master Chief and Cortana find themselves ship wrecked on the forerunner planet of Requiem. At first glance Requiem may seem to offer different environs to explore, but players are quickly whisked away to metallic, cold, forerunner structures that are ubiquitous across all Halo games. This may seem negative, but there are new weapons to use, and new enemies to use them against. That being said, the Covenant is ever present, and fighting these decade old enemies tends to wear thin after a few missions.
Speaking of which, Halo 4’s campaign took me roughly 7 hours to complete on the Heroic difficulty, and is built around set piece battle, after set piece battle. The set pieces are beautifully constructed and encourage, “Just one more mission” gaming sessions. The A.I. reacts to your tactics, which makes every encounter different, and equally challenging. Gamers can also play through the game co-operatively, and turn on skulls that can increase enemy damage, limit shield recharge, or make confetti rain from a grunt when you score a headshot. There are 10 skulls in all, and they are designed to increase the challenge, and adds replay value to the campaign.
The biggest reason to keep coming back is the multiplayer. Halo 2 set industry standards for online multiplayer when released, so gamers expect a high quality multiplayer suite in their Halo games. Halo 4 delivers, but the changes are not nearly as groundbreaking. Returning is armour customization, and the ability to select custom loadouts before entering matches. Also included is a progression system akin to Call of Duty. Players earn Spartan Points as levels increase, and these points are used to unlock, weapons, grenades, and perks. Forge Mode also returns, and allows for players to create Maps, and Custom Game Modes to play with friends.
Fans of the Firefight are in for a shock, as this mode has been replaced by Spartan Ops. These missions are loosely tied to the story, and can be played through cooperatively. There is not much meat to the plot, and without having consequences for death challenge ceases to exist. I much preferred the frantic wave based action found in the Firefight mode of previous games. Although, 343i has stated that they will be introducing more missions as time goes on.
In short, Halo 4 does not redefine what Halo is, but it certainty iterates on a proven formula, and the result is a game, despite some story contrivances, is a lot of fun to play.