The lights are on
When Bungie announced they would be leaving Microsoft to
pursue other projects, the question on everyone’s mind was “what will happen to
Halo?”, the franchise that saved the Xbox when it debuted back it 2001. Bungie
was leaving behind some pretty big shoes. Who could fill them? When the torch
was passed to 343 Industries, many were unsure if these Halo newcomers could
continue Bungie’s nearly 10 year Halo hot streak. Whatever they did, it was
enough to convince me to take a look, and now I can confirm that Master Chief
is in good hands. Halo 4 a strong start for 343i’s Halo trilogy, and my
favorite entry in the series.
In a possible call back to Halo: Combat Evolved, the story
begins with Master Chief waking up from deep sleep and being rushed into action
to defend the ship he was occupying from the attacking Covenant forces. Pulled
onto a foreign planet by a gravity well, Chief quickly stumbles upon an alien
who is bent on wiping out the human race, and it becomes his responsibility to
prevent that from happening. Making matters worse, his AI partner Cortana’s age
is causing her to deteriorate, putting her in a maddened state called rampancy
that will eventually end in her death. As someone who isn’t well versed in the
Halo lore, I found the overall story to be a little confusing, and I couldn’t
buy into the idea of rampancy, especially given how advanced the rest of their worlds
technology is. Still, this was the first Halo game where Master Chief felt like
a character with presence, thanks to strong voice acting from both him and
Cortana. You feel like Master Chief is a hero, and is integral to the story.
This feeling pairs excellently with the gameplay, which will
help you fully realize your fantasy of being Chief. Master Chief feels much
faster and floatier than any other first-person shooter protagonist, but once
you get a handle on him you will be putting Covenant in their place left and
right. There are a wide variety of weapons to use, as well as multiple armor
abilities to choose from like invisibility or a jetpack. The game only lasts
about 8 hours, but that is just long enough for it to exhaust all of its
mission ideas, which are varied and never feel repetitive. The game hits its
stride when the new enemy race, the Prometheans, show up. I enjoyed using their
all new arsenal, and it was nice to get away from the Covenant and human
weapons for a while. The only problem I ran into was the constant lack of ammo.
The game does this to force you to use all the different weapons, but at times
I had to scour the battlefield just to get a few more shots, leading to some unnecessarily
long firefights. When things go just right you will be using the games full
range of guns, grenades, and vehicles to tear through enemy forces, and that is
when the game shines.
Halo 4’s world is beautiful, but feels a little familiar.
Over the course of the 8 missions you won’t visit any particularly interesting
locales, but they are all so gorgeous you aren’t likely to care. Cutscenes look
especially good, sporting the most realistic facial animations I have ever
seen. Master Chief’s new design is stylish, and weapons (especially the
Promethean guns) are very cool. The soundtrack didn’t catch my interest as much
as ones in past Halo games, but all of the sound effects are great, especially
the powerful sounding guns.
“But how is the multiplayer?” asks the impatient reader.
Well you really should play the campaign, but the multiplayer is possibly the
best the series has seen. Halo 4 falls in line with other modern shooters,
intergrating load outs, weapon unlocks, and kill streaks (kind of), but that
isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These new systems are easy to understand, and
allow you to customize your Spartan better than in any other Halo game. Most
players will stick to Slayer, but the game has a ton of game types, including
fan favorite mods Zombies (now called Flood) and Grifball. You can still play
splitscreen with up to four players on one Gamertag, which makes it easy to kill
a few hours with friends. As for how it plays? Feels like the same old Halo you
have put hundreds of hours into, and that feels good. The other multiplayer
offering is the new Spartan Ops, a series of mini story missions that will be
released gradually. These are fun, and I like the continued story, but I would
have liked to see Firefight return as well.
For a long time I thought no Halo game would ever hook me in
the same way the original did. Reach came close, but it wasn’t until I played
Halo 4 that I felt that same Halo magic I remember getting with Combat Evolved.
Halo 4 is like no other first-person shooter that will release this year, and
you owe it to yourself to check it out.
No one has commented on this article.