Halo 4 Review

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Publisher:

Microsoft Studios

Developer:

343 Industries, Certain Affinity (Forge Mode)

Platform(s):

Xbox 360

Release Date:

November 6, 2012 (INT), November 8, 2012 (JP)

Player(s):

1-4 (Split screen & Online)

Genre:

First-person shooter

-Jovan St. Lawrence

An Ancient Evil Awakens

The time has finally come. After four long years of cryo sleep, the universe is once again in great peril and Master Chief, John-117, is the only one that can save it.  The Spartan has been aboard the Forward Unto Dawn for the last four years, following the events of Halo 3. He’s been presumed dead/missing in action. However, our hero faces an even greater burden on his shoulders since Halo 3 was released five years ago.

A Love Story Nobody Saw Coming

The more difficult task for the Chief is saving his long time AI, Cortana from herself. She is now suffering from rampancy, a condition that plagues all UNSC AI after they’ve been in commission for more than seven years. Their knowledge base will expand and eventually, as Cortana explains, think themselves to death. Chief hopes to return to Earth and find Dr. Catherine Halsey, the creator of the Spartan program, to reverse the condition and damage that has already been done to Cortana. This time around, the plot digs deeper into the characters of Master Chief & Cortana, revealing them as more humanistic in nature, showing the players that these two characters are more than simply a super-soldier and an artificial intelligence. More than anything, however, Halo 4 is more about Cortana and the inner conflict she has for her own “humanity”.

The campaign starts with a beautifully well done CG cutscene that is just a strong notification as to where the franchise is headed under new developer, 343 Industries. The movements, lighting, and animations are damn near flawless in this introduction, as well as the remainder of the cutscenes due to the fantastic motion capture acting, another first for the series. In the opening mission, Master Chief is thawed and immediately put back to work as you’re shooting up the Covenant (very reminiscent to Halo: CE). This leads to the crash landing on the Forerunner planet, Requiem. You’ll be spending most of the game on this planet and also fighting the new Promethean enemies, including the Covenant. The campaign, although short, is well paced throughout the eight missions, giving players the perfect mixture of vehicle sections, on-foot firefights, diversity in environments, and important as well as memorable Chief-Cortana dialogue sequences.

Now Hear This

What really stands out in addition to the beautiful look and feel of the game is its top of the line sound design. Sotaro Tojima, best known for his work with the Metal Gear Solid series has been commissioned to sound director for Halo 4 and it shows. Using surround sound headsets or speakers will really bring out the gunfire and background voices from various Marines & the Covenant or Promethean enemies in ways previous Halo games didn’t. Unfortunately, as Bungie is not developing this game, long time series composer Marty O’Donnell isn’t composing the original score this time around. Nowhere in this game will players hear the famous theme that signifies the Halo franchise. Thankfully, British electronic producer, Neil Davidge has brought a fresh sound to the series while still keeping the sound that is familiar to Halo fans. Brilliant new pieces really bring out the atmosphere in the environments that you are set in throughout Requiem. Some of these new tracks do have a sort of epicness to them (especially in the ending mission) so there is quite a bit of enjoyment to be had out of this new original score.

Locked & Loaded

Halo is best known for its weapon variety and Halo 4 brings more firepower to the table. Covenant & UNSC weapons such as the Plasma Pistol, Energy Sword, Gravity Hammer, Beam Rifle, Assault Rifle, Shotgun, DMR, Battle Rifle, and Sniper Rifle all return and haven’t been changed much from the previous Halo games and are still very well balanced for multiplayer. The Promethean weapons for the most part are a great addition to the series and are well balanced themselves. To add to the already diverse Halo arsenal we now have the Suppressor, Binary Rifle, Light Rifle, Scattershot, and Boltshot. The Suppressor does exactly what its name implies, suppress. It gets the job done but it is not the most accurate gun ever. The Scattershot has a bit more range than the standard UNSC Shotgun but relatively the same damage. The Boltshot is the Promethean equivalent to the UNSC Pistol and Plasma Pistol and the Binary & Light Rifles serve the same purpose as the Sniper Rifle and DMR respectively. 

To Infinity And Beyond

There isn’t a multiplayer quite like Halo multiplayer. You might be asking: “How did 343i maintain the legacy that Bungie left for the franchise’s multiplayer?” Allow me to answer with an emphatic “Exceptionally Well Done!” What has now been dubbed as Infinity, this is the real reason to keep coming back to Halo 4. War Games, Spartan Ops, Forge, and Theater make up the impeccable Infinity section of the game. The 10 maps in Halo 4 are incredible and of course balanced as well. An even more nice touch is Ragnarok, formerly known as Valhalla in Halo 3, making a triumphant comeback, blending in nicely with the new default maps. Three additional Forge-built battlegrounds are brought in as well making for brand new creations. It is truly an impressive collection of battlegrounds, certainly focusing on large scale combat. The best new addition to Halo 4’s multiplayer is Spartan Ops. Halo 4 doesn’t have the 4-player co-op “Horde Mode” known as Firefight from Halo 3: ODST & Halo: Reach. Instead we have Spartan Ops which takes place four months after the campaign. Season One of Spartan Ops offers five objective based missions to up to four players cooperatively over the next ten weeks with an additional CG cutscene per week. Commendations & challenges are present from Halo: Reach and much more so in Halo 4 in the form of Daily, Weekly, & Monthly challenges in both campaign and multiplayer. Ranking up your custom Spartan-IV in Halo 4 will reward you with Spartan points that you can spend on weapons, armor unlocks & abilities for you Spartan. The only drawback to all this is the menus in the multiplayer this time around are a bit more clunky and cluttered to navigate through than in Reach. This is only a small problem considering how much depth there is in the multiplayer now and in the future with frequent playlist updates as confirmed by 343.

After soaking in Halo CE Anniversary last year, I was convinced that one of my favorite shooter franchises was in good hands but I didn’t expect to be surprised by how deep 343 Industries was willing to go into the Halo lore with the Forerunners. All now will know what this studio is capable of and hopefully no longer will have to be negatively compared to Bungie’s success and can accept this new trilogy as something new, fresh and pure. A brilliantly well done multiplayer guarantees more depth to be had for future installments and a great campaign gives us more memories piled on the ones we’ve had from previous Halo games. Halo fans can rejoice from Steve Downes and Jen Taylor respectively returning to voice Master Chief and Cortana as well. Master Chief and Cortana offer players a brand new perspective on already established characters, making their return all the more memorable and special. Halo 4 is simply a triumph of a game.

The Pros:

  • Astounding Presentation
  • Smart and Challenging, but not unforgiving enemy AI
  • Flawless CG cutscenes
  • Well paced campaign
  • Impeccable sound design
  • Well balanced multiplayer
  • Spartan Ops offers great new replayability
  • Master Chief is back!

The Cons:

  • Not the longest of the Halo campaigns
  • Infinity menus are hard to navigate through 

Final Verdict: 9.5/10

At the time of this review, Halo 4 is $60. If you are a Halo fan and don’t already have this, buy it immediately.