After the end of Bungie following their final game in the franchise, Halo: Reach, the burden of supplying one of the most passionate fanbases a game that suits their needs fell on the shoulders of 343 Industries. With new engines, new ideas, and a blank slate on the next battleground of The Master Chief, 343 delivered what I believe the general Halo base wanted and kudos goes to them. Halo 4 is a good mix of epic campaign and exciting multiplayer. The general Halo fan will love it, but discrepancies still linger among the competitive community.
The return of John 117
Most players, especially die-hard fans, enjoy Halo multiplayer but have waited a long-agonizing period of time just to find out what’s next for Spartan 117. Personally, I find the campaign mode has just the right amount of everything; from the action we all know and love to some new found emotion in the story that takes us deeper into the thoughts of both Cortana and Master Chief.
Halo 4 takes place directly after Halo 3, some 5 years after the end of the war. That’s a long gap of time but when I mean directly, I literally mean directly as we last saw the Chief enter cryo-sleep and the start of Halo 4 has him coming out of it.
The fortunate thing about what 343 had to work with is the fact that they didn’t have anything to work with. They had the privilege to create whatever happens next however they please, so long as it pertains to the Halo universe, obviously. The story ended at the end of Halo 3 so Halo 4 is the start of a whole new chapter in the player’s campaign.
As the player progresses through the campaign, you’ll meet the inevitable return of covenant forces, despite the war ending. A long the way, you’ll meet some new characters as well as some new baddies, like for the first time ever, the forerunners.
As far as the basis of general story-telling goes, the characterization of those you meet in the campaign are heavily emphasized. When you say blockbuster-hit, Halo 4 takes the cake. The voice-acting is superb, the character animations are unbelievable, and the cinematics are top notch. That’s not to say the player won’t enjoy very delicious gameplay along the way though.
The only let-down I had with the campaign is the fact that it’s actually not very long, even on Legendary mode. That’s not just because I’m a competitive player since I had the same things told to me by other people. Still, in the short amount of campaign goodness that existed, it delivers.
The return of John 117... and his clones!
We pretty much have come to expect it at this point but yes, Halo 4 does indeed have 4-player online cooperative play. For those of you who still enjoy the couch co-op, Halo 4 will treat you to two-player splitscreen. It’s as easy a pushing a button too, and if you play online and don’t have friends, then there’s also matchmaking so you can start making some!
This applies to the new spec-ops mode that will be covered later in the review as well.
Sweet cinematics and eargasmic sound
Halo 4 treats its players to an array of pretty cool and very well-done cinematics. All full of action or full of emotion depending on the scenario. It kind of reminds me of Metal Gear Solid 4 actually, where I paid $60 for a sweet movie. Whether or not you enjoy cinematics, the ones in Halo 4 are worth your time.
On top of the sweet cinematics, the one thing I noticed immediately before all else was the awesome sound the game had to offer. It was incredibly immersive. The weapon sounds were crisp and clear and the explosions were incredibly dramatic. So the overall level of immersion Halo brings to the player is incredibly high.
Weekly Campaign Goodness: Spec-Ops
The previous Halo installment, Halo: Reach, didn’t provide us with the satisfaction of beating grunts up as Master Chief. It did however, satisfy the craving to stab Elites in the back as other, very powerful Spartans. So yes, Halo 4 does fill that hole in the void for the Chief, but it also let’s us play as other Spartans in their weekly episodic campaign. I mentioned earlier that the Halo 4 campaign wasn’t all that long, however, this is where time is made up. In addition to the already-amazing campaign mode, we’re given even more hours of gameplay through spec-ops missions that are released on a weekly basis.
From the get-go, you’re given access to chapter one, which includes five missions and a sexy little movie. Here, you play as Crimson team in conjunction with Majestic team. The story here kind of takes places long before Master Chief even wakes from his sleep so we kind of get inside knowledge of what’s going on in those five long years of waiting time.
It’s only one chapter, so I’m not going to be too hard on this mode, but in all honesty, it wasn’t that great since this mode technically replaced the very repeatable Firefight mode. In fact, spec-ops seems like a stripped down version of the original firefight with an added story since all you do is go from one place to another killing things just because you have to. I guess for some, that’s not bad and I’m the last person who wants to complain about MORE content so what you make of this mode, I’ll leave to you.
Multiplayer we know, love, and hate?
Following Reach, Halo has had a lot of heat about what’s right and wrong for its multiplayer. Typically, that’s up to the development team, right? But when you have fans that analyze the game in every possible way, from Time-to-kill counts to damage and bullet drop physics, you’re going to want to turn to the fanbase, especially those who remain loyal. This time around, 343 turned to Major League Gaming, its followers, and its arsenal of professional Halo players. Even though everything has not been addressed from the previous installment, I can safely say that Halo 4 multiplayer, or War Games as its now called, is the most fun experience I’ve had since the days of online Halo 2 and 3.
First of all, I’m going to start off by saying the game has been sped up. The multiplayer is incredibly fast paced. Weapons kill faster, respawns are faster, and movements are faster. This time around, you actually feel like a Spartan; you can jump higher and move quicker especially since sprint is built-in to the core game mechanics now rather than being a power ability. That doesn’t mean it’s Call of Halo or anything. You still have the heated gun fights with the opposition so the game still feels like... well, Halo.
So the game feels like Halo, but there are some mechanics that need to be addressed. Not everyone will care, but some do.
First of all, Bloom from Reach returns in a very small form. It’s there, but is it as bad as before? Not entirely, but it exists. There’s also weapon recoil now, just not a whole lot of it since you’re a Spartan and all. So does the return of bloom and a combination of recoil reduce the skill-cap? Quite possibly since the two combined add a certain percentage of random outcomes to the game; perhaps recoil will help me get that headshot, perhaps bloom will help the other guy get 5 shots on me before I do. Who knows, but that could be something players might complain about.
Another thing is if you have a power weapon and you die, the weapons you drop on the floor disappear a lot faster than I’ve seen before. I once got sniped on my side of the field holding the Spartan laser and ran back to my body to find everything I dropped was gone instantly so you have to be weary of your surroundings when securing the power weapons. Of course, there’s enough time to kill someone in a gunfight and take the weapon from them but that’s about it.
Multiplayer we don’t know, kind of love, and somewhat hate?
The multiplayer, on its own, feels like Halo. And it’s, without a doubt, very fun. But let’s talk about the new features in the game, love it or hate it. Some of these changes, for some people, make the game more of a Call of Duty clone, but that’s up to you.
One of the new additions to the game that has been challenged by the game’s fans is the ability to customize your class load outs. That’s a huge gameplay change and one for the better and worse. Here, you’ll see the return of fan favorites; from the Battle Rifle to the DMR as well as the Magnum and Assault rifle. There are some new additions too like the Light Rifle and Boltshot but the new weapons are pretty similar to their older counter-parts. There are also new perks and abilities such as activating a regen-bubble and making you reload quicker. So in a way, Halo did take a few things from Call of Duty actually, heh.
Regarding class load outs, I find having the ability to start with plasma grenades, which were once an on-map power item, is the silliest thing Halo has ever done to me, and perhaps a few other people too. Nothing beats a guy spawning on the other side of the corner only to jump and stick you and then rinse and repeat with practically zero effort at all. SO that’s one issue that has me exploding, no pun intended.
Another change Halo made, regarding non-pro game modes (regular slayer, regular capture the flag, etc.) is the ability to call in a care package after three kills without dying. When you reach the amount of kills required, you’re given three random options such as a damage or speed boost and random power weapons of all kinds such as a sniper rifle or shotgun. The options will change every time so you can’t keep calling in more rocket launcher ammo. Also, the streaks don’t stack so you can’t get a 6 kill streak and have two packages on stand-by.
Personally, the care package is more of a fun than a serious system. In previous Halo installments, you had to fight for the power weapons because for one thing, there’s only one or so on the map, and another thing, they give you a huge advantage. This is sort of a way to add chaotic mayhem and speed up the gameplay but sometimes, it can be kind of rigged, but I say that with a smirk. On a losing team, I turned the tides of the battle by saving my package for the end of the match only to call in a rocket launcher in an attempt to re-control the much needed positions and secure a last-minute victory.
The last change I want to address is with on-map power weapons. Players now have indicators on their location so the moment you spawn in, you can see Sniper Rifle or Rocket Launcher on the map and make your way to them. That part isn’t all too bad, but the bad part is once you know a weapon is about to spawn in, the old way of Halo had your team position themselves to fight for it. Now, the weapons respawn in a relatively different location, albeit, a slightly different one. So the rocket launcher may spawn near the original location but it could be in the other room directly next to it.
Love it or hate it, those are the major new changes regarding Halo. I find they make the game eons more fun for the casual player, but if you’re a more serious gamer, you may not enjoy all these changes so you can stick to “Pro” type of game modes and be on your way.
Mechanical changes to Oddball and Capture the Flag
Both these modes are very iconic Halo gametypes that fans have been enjoying for years, and when I say years, boy do I mean it. But there have been two minor, yet very dramatic changes to each.
In Oddball, you now have the option to throw the oddball to your teammate in an attempt to secure the points for your team. All you do is aim at them and throw. As unprofessional as it is, sometimes, I’ll throw the ball at my teammate while they’re fighting only to get them killed. I’m terrible aren’t I? If this change applies to Griffball, which is currently unavailable, I’m sure that’ll be loads of fun.
In Capture the Flag, this change is pretty big, especially in competitive. Flag Carrier can now hold the flag in one hand and a Magnum in the other. Mind you, the magnum at certain ranges in the hands of an exceptional player is about as good as the rifles so the flag carrier is far from vulnerable. This change is big for small map CTF where the flag carrier can shoot you up and cruise along. But in bigger maps, there’s almost no difference to the classic CTF since you’re likely to get vehicle support anyways.
So is Halo… Halo?
Being a new company to take over a humongous gaming franchise, 343 had a lot of work cut out. However, I find the general consensus regarding Halo 4 has been so far, quite positive. Does it appeal to everyone? I feel in some shape or form, it actually does if you stick to your group and play whatever is most appropriate to your liking.
Since Halo is one of my favorite titles, I felt there was still a lot missing but regardless of “missing” things, I had fun ignoring what was amiss and enjoyed every minute of frenetic casual play to the more serious hardcore gameplay in Halo 4. Should you buy it? Well, if you like a shooter where you don’t die instantly and enter heated gunfights, pick this up. If you still prefer military based shooters where you don’t quite last as long, Black Ops 2 comes out soon. Make your choice and spend your money on what appeals to you most. Good luck!