Published on November 8th, 2012 | by Wes Starr2
Halo 4 Review
Summary: Arguably one of the best additions to the epic franchise.
Since 2001, Bungie Studios has been setting the pace for console FPS games with the introduction to Halo: Combat Evolved. Now, 11 years later, they have passed the torch to Microsoft’s 343 Industries. When diving into the Halo universe, 343i had to both change Halo 4 to make it their own and still stay true to what all Halo fans have come to know and love. For this installment in the franchise, they decided to go back to the thing that Halo Reach got away from: the story of Master Chief and Cortana.
It’s important to note that there will be minor spoilers.
The story picks up 4 years after the concluding events of Halo 3. If you saw the legendary ending, you would know that Master Chief did survive aboard the UNSC vessel, Forward Unto Dawn (yes, that’s the name of the webseries). The ship floats in space until it stumbles upon a Covenant fleet sitting outside the atmosphere of a Forerunner planet called Requiem. Events unfold…I won’t get too spoilerific. Let’s talk gameplay.
The sandbox looks absolutely gorgeous. The grass, the trees, the snow, the stars, the weapons, all of it just looks unreal (and when I say unreal I mean incredibly real). Both the gameplay, cutscenes, and CGI cutscenes are simply spectacular. If you press Y to skip, you are missing out of one of the best parts of the game.
343i tackled the sound with a completely different approach. Not a single sound effect from a previous game was reused; the entire library was built from scratch and it sounds great! And Marty O’Donnell, who made the soundtracks from the previous Halo games, can’t take credit for the soundtrack. Neil Davidge is the composer that 343i went with for the Halo 4 OST which you can buy here. Although this is a criticism that I must convey. The soundtrack from the previous games were fantastic; they were driving and the player just felt like jumping into battle. The new approach is more atmospheric, which is still really good but it doesn’t drive the player.
The user experience is a little difficult at times. With sprint being available to everyone on top of their armor ability, the controller layouts needed inovation. Although there are several different layouts, I can’t seem to find one that feels completely right. Also, there are moments in co-op campaign that leave the other players a little sad. For example, in parts where you pick up an armor ability, there is only one available. Also, in one level when the player uses a new vehicle specific to the campaign, the other players trail behind the first player while doors and walls are closing in. The other players don’t have much time to react and thus die..a lot. It’s almost instant with each spawn. Very poor consideration.
Overall, the campaign is a good play. It’s nice to see the Master Chief back with more character and emotion. You can really connect with him in a way that you really couldn’t in other Halo titles.
This is a new concept that 343i has developed as an expansion to the campaign. There are minor spoilers if you jump straight into this mode before playing the campaign. You have been warned.
Spartan Ops is essentially mini campaign levels that you can play with up to 4 player co-op or lone wolf it. It has difficulty just like campaign from easy to legendary. The big difference is that there will be Spartan Ops seasons. Season 1 will consist of 10 episodes of 5 missions. A new episode will be available every week with the first available now. Each episode should take about an hour to complete. This is a really good way to extend the campaign experience (I finished it 2-player co-op in 6 hours, and I took my time) into another 10 hours of gameplay. Props to 343i. The best part of Spartan Ops is the spawning. If everyone dies, it doesn’t matter. You spawn back in the beginning location (not very big maps) with the previous enemies and objectives still intact.
The new multiplayer experience has been dubbed War Games. It has a little story line to go along with it: you are a Spartan IV on board the UNSC Infinity vessel. The War Games serve as training exercises for the ongoing war against the Promethians and the rogue Covenant.
This is why most fans of Halo are diehard. The multiplayer experience is always simply amazing. There are some old aspects that 343i decided to keep around but some new inovations as well. The best one by far is the fact that everyone can sprint. 343i has adjusted maps to incorporate that. Some of the maps may seem huge but in fact you can get from one end to the other in no time. Armor abilities are still intact, some old and some new. The best one is by far Promethian Vision, which allows the player to have a short radar sense that can see through walls. It gives the enemy players a red silhouette and allows the user to get a jump on the enemy.
The addition of loadouts (similar to COD) have changed the game as well. As the player progresses and earns XP through playing, earning commendations, and achieving challenges, the player unlocks weapons, armor abilities, and new items called tactical and support packages. These enhance the player in various ways to give them an advantage in battle. As the player unlocks them, they can purchase them and add them to their loadouts.
There are also a few new gametypes aside from the classic ones. These include Infinity Slayer, a take on classic Team Slayer in which players gain points to earn an ordinance drop in which the player chooses 1 of 3 power weapons or power-ups; Regicide, a replacement for Lone Wolves or Rumble Pit in which the top player is the King and killing him/her earns the player more points; Dominion, a team based game in which teams take over, protect, and fortify bases to earn points; Flood, a replacement for Infection in which the zombies are now Flood infections from the previous Halo trilogy; and Extraction, in which teams must ‘research’ sites and protect them to earn captures.
There are 10 maps aside from the 3 forge spaces. These maps include a good mix of small, medium, and big maps and are tailored for each gametype. 9 of the maps are brand new designs and the 10th one, Ragnarok, is a remake of the classic Halo 3 canyon-style map Valhalla.
The one criticism I have for War Games Matchmaking is the menu. Yes it looks nice but that’s about it. If you party up with friends, you can’t even see who’s with you without hitting the X button. It’s a hassle to find things and there is no sound indication that you can vote for a map. If you’re looking at stats or your service record, you’re at the mercy of the people that see that it’s time to vote. The Halo Reach lobby was great! Don’t fix what isn’t broken, 343i.
This portion gets a lot of criticism. There are 3 forge maps that are very small in scale compared to Forge World from Halo Reach. There is not a lot of space to make big maps and your are stuck with the terrain and permanent buildings that 343i designed. They tried to innovate it with the addition of magnets, which allow pieces to snap together. It’s a good theory but there are only magnets in certain points on each object. If you don’t want to place them in that way you’re stuck with manual placing. That wouldn’t be so bad if they included the right thumbstick snapping that Halo Reach had, but they failed to include that feature in Halo 4. As much as I hate to say it, forge has gone to crap.
There really isn’t much to say here. It’s the exact same as Halo Reach except you can’t go back and look at Campaign and Spartan Ops. Kinda frustrating. You would think a game with a whole second disc install required for multiplayer would include better theater and forge innovation.
Overall, Halo 4 is a fantastic game; I have minimal complaints. It’s a great experience that all Halo players should enjoy as well as new players that have never played a previous Halo title. Congrats to 343i on a job well done.
Have you got your copy yet? What do you think of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.