Developer: 343 Industries Publisher: Miscrosoft Genre: First Person Shooter Release Date: 6.11.2012 Official Site: http://www.halowaypoint.com/
Master Chief and Cortana return to, once again, save humanity in the next chapter in the Halo saga. New developer, 343 industries, not only deliver an instantly classic Halo experience, but also raise the bar for the series... and for console shooters as a whole.
4 years after the events of Halo 3, Master Chief and Cortana are still adrift on a derelict ship after having ended the long running and devestating Covenant campaign against the human race. Cortana brings Chief out of cryo-sleep when they stumble across a mystical mechanical planet and a rogue Covenant fleet. Before long, the duo find them selves on the strange forerunner world,Requiem, where they discover a new threat to humanity’s existence.
Halo 4’s story is expertly told with great emotional weight focusing on the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana as they find themselves at the center of a new grand conflict. Their story is finely woven into the greater narrative, raising interesting questions about the essence of humanity and the relationship between humans and machines as both Cortana and the Chief find themselves somewhere in between the two. Gorgeous cutscenes and the great pacing of the campaign drive the story forward, but it’s the excellent voice acting that really sells it. The performance of Steve Downes as Master chief lends some much needed humanity to the character, but the star of the show is without a doubt Jen Taylor as Cortana. Halo 4 delivers the most engaging story in a Halo game so far.
Halo’s greatest strength however has always been the core combat. 343 industries manage to retain all the familiar elements that make Halo so much fun, while successfully introducing some new things. For the first time in a Halo game there’s a default sprint function, which is a welcome addition and is well integrated into the Halo experience. Armor capabilities return with some familiars, like the jetpack, and some new ones such as the light-shield. The addition of new enemies and a bunch of cool new guns and vehicles is a breath of fresh air and add a new dynamic to the combat.
You’ll be taking on the familiar covenant baddies; your grunts, elites, jackals and hunters and they still offer a fun challenge. But it’s the new forerunner race, the Prometheans, which really add some spice to the mix. Fighting these foes simultaneously makes for some of the most interesting battles in the franchise. The canine-like Crawlers are agile and have the ability to climb on most surfaces. They will lay down suppressing fire and swarm you to flush you out of cover. The other two Promethean enemy types are the Knights and Watchers. The big hulking Knights are a mean bunch and can take a lot of punishment before going down. Armed with a projectile weapon as well as a devastating energy-blade, Knights can teleport around the battlefield and will employ this ability both aggressively and defensively. The Watchers are flying sentinels that provide cover-fire and also act as medics on the battlefields. They can catch grenades in mid-air and generate energy shields, and will resurrect fallen Knights, so making them a priority target in any skirmish is vital.
The Prometheans introduce some new toys to play with, adding to the already substantial arsenal of Halo 4. While the new guns fit familiar niches, they standout with their distinct aesthetics and tweaked functions. The scattershot is essentially a Promethean shotgun with bullets that ricochet and the boltshot pistol can be charged up for a devastating blast of energy. Human and Covenant favorites are also present along with a couple of new goodies thrown in on either side. The key to success in Halo’s combat has always been choosing the right tool for any given situation, and the clever and responsive AI in combination with outstanding level design usually offers the player many different approaches to deal death to the alien scum that stands in your way.
The engaging combat is complemented by the exceptional art design and gorgeous visuals. Halo 4 is one of, if not the best looking game on the Xbox 360. The graphics are a feast for the eyes and show that there is yet some untapped potential in the current generation of consoles. Animations are smooth and lifelike, the textures and character models are crisp, and the lighting and bloom effects are at times mesmerizing. Every now and then I had to stop for a moment just to take in the view when not in the heat of battle. The vast colorful landscapes and distinctive architecture of human, Covenant and forerunner structures come together to create a world that is unmistakably Halo. A welcome sight for sore eyes in these days of the grey and brownish modern military shooter that defines and over saturates the FPS genre.
Halo 4 is not only pretty to look at but sounds stellar too. The guns sound better than ever before and deliver that extra punch and oomph that has been a bit lacking in recent Halo games. Great attention has been giving to the smallest of details and every little sound effect is spot-on. Master Chief’s armor makes clinks and clanks as you move around, and while subtle, it really adds a lot to the immersion. The musical score is also superb most of the time. British electronica producer Neil Davidge replaces longtime Bungie composer Marty O’Donnell, with some mixed results. Davidge’s score complements the new storytelling approach magnificently, and really underlines the great voice acting during dramatic scenes. The soundtrack falls a bit short during the more intense action moments in comparison to O’Donnell’s grandiloquent compositions. Nevertheless Halo 4 provides an outstanding audial package.
Multiplayer is what made Halo the king of console FPS’ back in the day, and Halo 4 shows that the franchise still offers some of the best multiplayer action around. 343 industries carry Bungie’s torch high and offer an online experience that is instantly recognizable by longtime Halo fans, as well incorporating some modern genre mechanics that makes the game a bit more accessible to newcomers. A level-up system similar to Call of Duty has been introduced as well as custom class load outs. Combined with the sprint function and the inclusion of a perk system and ordinance drops, Halo 4 is closer to its competition without losing touch with that classic Halo feel. The distinctive Halo gunplay is still at the core of the experience.
The map design is good and well balanced and most maps cater to various play styles. There are some new modes like Dominion, essentially the equivalent to Domination in CoD, where there are three points on the map that teams battle for control over. The twist is that if one team holds all three points, a sudden death round is initiated where the leading team can instantly win the round if every player on the opposing team is eliminated before they manage to re-capture a point. Flood is 343’s way of tipping their hat to the Halo community as the mode is based on a user created gametype called Infection. The Forge once again gives players a playground where they can create their own maps and gametypes, now with more tools and options than ever. The Theater mode makes a return as well for fans to review, edit and share great moments from recent matches.
The Halo franchise has never settled for only competitive multiplayer, so of course there is co-operative multiplayer too. The campaign in its entirety can be enjoyed with up to 3 friends, and it feels organic and is just as much fun as always to blast through the story with some friends to back you up. The firefight mode of Halo:ODST and Reach has been replaced by Spartan Ops; an episodic co-op campaign that takes place six months after Halo 4’s main campaign. Each episode is divided into several short chapters and provides some story content with a lush CG cutscene and in-game radio communications. The only gripe is that there isn’t much incentive to re-play the episodes once beaten. At the time of writing two episodes have been released, and 343 will release a new free weekly episode for ten weeks. It’s hard to say at this point how deep the overall story of Spartan Ops will end up being, but it’s a fun and interesting approach nonetheless.
Halo 4 is not a groundbreaking game by any means. What it is however is an expertly crafted FPS experience and a step forward for the series. With a thrilling campaign and a plethora of multiplayer options 343 industries have created a great new installment in one of gaming’s biggest and most prolific franchises. It’s a new series high in storytelling and visual and sound design, and I’m confident that this new Halo trilogy is in good hands. Master Chief is back in the fight, and he’s bigger and more badass than ever!
We liked Thrilling and Well Paced Campaign, Tight and Engaging Combat and Gunplay, Co-op, Huge Multiplayer, and Gorgeous Presentation,
We disliked Soundtrack is Occasionally Lacking During the Action, and Spartan Ops has Limited Replay Value.