Even before you gain the controls for Halo 4, you just know you’re in for a treat. Not just because, well…it’s Halo, but the opening scenes gives you a sense that the proverbial sh*t is about to hit the fan.
As usual, you’ll be tasked with saving humanity but Master Chief will also focus on helping Cortana avoid self destruction. As with every UNSC AI construct, they will eventually die if they are in service for more than seven years and well unfortunately for her, it’s been longer. Perhaps that aspect of the plot is the most unexpected and cool, as Master Chief holds the heavier burden of getting her the help she needs, while of course trying to keep himself alive. In the long run, Halo 4 is more about Cortana than anything else, and strangely enough, that works out magnificently.
After an eye-popping CG cutscene, you see Master Chief getting thawed out (as seen in E3 trailer), and is placed into the action almost immediately. Aboard the Forward Unto Dawn, John has to rid the ship of the Covenant, before eventually finding his way onto the Forerunner planet Requiem, which is absolutely gorgeous to look at and where you’ll spend most of the time. This planet is where you’ll come across the new Promethean enemies, which I must say, are pretty freakin’ smart. These guys won’t just stick around and let you shoot them in the face; no the AI in these enemies is impressive and they’ll seem to have a plan of attack, while maneuvering themselves in and out depending on your own return fire. Even if you’re inside of a vehicle, you’ll find the Prometheans very adapt and bringing you down if you aren’t careful. Speaking of the Prometheans, they have some really sick weapons. Though you’ll find the usual Covenant weaponry, I really dug the Promethean’s weapons, not just because of the damage some of them caused, by how they looked and pieced together out of thin air when you pulled one out.
Halo fans will surely appreciate the openness of the game, which offers up quite a sandbox. There are various routes and methods of arriving to your goals while never feeling like you have to do something in a specific way. You want to run up a hill? Jump inside a Ghost or perhaps get inside the new Mantis robot, which by the way is pretty bad ass. The Mantis has a machine gun and rocket launcher, while a foot stomp will flatten anything in its way. It was also great to get to fight alongside other Spartans during the campaign, as you’ll come across early in the game when you arrive onto Requiem. It’s not something you do that often, but it’s a good feeling to have some teammates alongside you during the story. Taking the reins of a Pelican is also another cool thing to do as you get the overwhelming sense of power when you taking out Phantoms out of the air.
I also appreciated the pacing of the game, which had a nice dose of edge-of-your-seat action, deep interactions between Master Chief and Cortana, cutscenes, vehicle use and more. The dialogue is impeccable and the game’s audio is unreal. Mixed in with a great score, you hear the detailed and ground thumping noise of explosions, gunshots, enemy chatter and thunderous effects of flying ships.
My only beef with the campaign was that you have to watch the videos from the eight hidden Terminals on Halo Waypoint instead of within the game, which removes you from the experience, literally. That being said, the content itself is pretty cool as it gives you a lot of backstory to enjoy.
Forge Editor returns as does Theater, but where many Halo fans will find themselves is multiplayer. So how does it stack up? Wonderfully!
Weapon balance is on point, with each weapon seemingly useful for specific situations and more importantly 343 Industries packs in some really maps for War Games, 10 stage maps and 3 battlegrounds from Forge. You’ll find maps ranging from large, which work great with vehicle-heavy battles, to Ragnarok, which is a remake of Halo 3’s Valhalla that takes advantage, or rather highlights the use of the Mantis – one of my personal favorites. You’ll also get some smaller settings for the on-foot mayhem, such as Settler, which will no doubt, be a fan favorite. Did I also mention that multiplayer has some cool narrative attached to it?
Gamers will find all the great features they have come to love from Halo, such as matchmaking, custom games, playlists and some nice social options. Another addition is Spartan Ops, which is a series of 10 side missions, released in episodic format for players that have an Xbox Live Gold membership. The first episode has five chapters, which can be played with up to four players. Difficulty is dependent on your skill level and of course on how many friends you bring along. The content itself is quite enjoyable though you’ll likely not play each episode more than once since it lacks replayability, but the cinematics are pretty awesome.
With the Halo franchise now in the hands of 343 Industries, I’ll admit I was a bit concerned, what with Halo being Bungie’s baby for all these years. Fortunately 343 not only seems to be more than capable of handling the franchise, but in my opinion, have made one of (if not THE) best Halo titles to date. Halo 4’s Multiplayer rocks, the campaign is absolutely solid and it plays like a marvel. Bravo 343 Industries, bravo.
As for you Halo fans, get ready for another sensational ride!