With the Halo mantle passed down from bungie and onto a new dev team named 343 industries many were skeptical whether Halo 4 would even be good. Well, 343 shocked us all by delivering one of the best Halo games since Halo 2.
Halo 4 takes place 4 years after Halo 3. Master Chief has been drifting through space ever since. It is now time for him to be awoken as his ship is approaching a foreign planet and is breached by The Covenant. The story is usual Halo fare here but it revolves around a new story that begins this new “Reclaimer Trilogy.” The Halo story has gotten quite convoluted over the years and unless you paid close attention to all of the Halo games, watched all the hidden terminals, read some of the books, then some of the story may just seem like foreign hieroglyphics to most. It has to do with Master Chief protecting humanity from a resurrected Promethean (an ancient and powerful race) called The Didact.
There is also a subplot in the story about the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana. With Halo 4 they try to make it a more touching and personal adventure, I feel they succeeded in this aspect. After 8 years a spartan’s AI is suppose to be deactivated because the AI goes into rampancy. Rampancy is when the AI deteriorates and over thinks itself to “death”. Chief wants to save this from happening to Cortana at all cost. It’s also the most cinematic game in this series featuring some gorgeous and exciting cutscenes that go along with some intense playable set piece moments.
The game feels like Halo but recharged with some freshness. It has a perfect mix between Reach’s abilities and control scheme with Halo 3’s fun and vibrancy. There are finally new enemies here, the Prometheans, but The Covenant are back as well. There are tons of new guns here as well to play with. Just about all of your favorite weapons have returned here like the assault rifle, battle rifle, pistol, covenant carbine, the needler and so on. Off the top of my head I didn’t notice any weapon that was in Halo 3 that wasn’t in Halo 4. Only difference is some of their stats have been slightly tweaked like for example the needler is faster and more powerful than ever but holds less ammo. The battle rifle looks different but may be the most powerful and well balanced iteration of it yet. The low down is the human UNSC guns for the most part have been completely redone from looks to stats and even added a new gun called the Saw (a high powered machine gun). There is also another new UNSC weapon called the sticky detonator where you shoot a sticky bomb at any enemy or location and press the trigger button again to activate. Both are very welcomed additions. The Covenant weapons remain mostly the same from looks to sound.
Then there is the biggest bulk of new weapons from the Promotheans. They essentially shadow most of the UNSC and Covenant weapons once you realize it. It’s standard fare as there is an assault rifle, there is mid range rifle, there is a powerful long range rifle, there is a shotgun, then there are big powerful explosive weapons. But damn, they are easily the coolest of the bunch. They have this high tech, futuristic, transformer vibe to them. They have completely different stats from the covenant and UNSC weapons so it’s essential to get a feel for them all to know what’s best for use at different moments. To give you an example of the differences, the Promethean shotgun called the scattershot has a wide range that shoots out wide red energy beams that bounce of walls to hit enemies if you miss a shot. It has a wider range than the UNSC shotgun but is significantly weaker. With the scattershot you have to be extremely close to your enemy to get a one hit kill, like up in your face close. Where is with the UNSC shotgun you can be about 5 feet away and get a a single kill. But the scattershot counters that by having a faster shot rate. Each weapons has it pros and cons against each other despite the glaring similarities. This game is jam packed with new guns and would honestly take an entire blog post to explain it all. All in all it helps Halo 4 feel fresh.
The campaign is average Halo length. I played it on hardcore for the first time and finished it in about 11-12 hours. Playing it on normal will significantly take less time at about 8-10. It was still a very enjoyable campaign, especially with the new enemy types, the Prometheans. But taking them down is much more of a chore compared to the Covenant so sometimes fighting them can become slightly stale because they take so much longer to kill. The Promethean knights are what will cause you the most trouble. They can send out flying drones to shield themselves or revive fallen enemies so you always have to make sure you kill the drones first. The Knights can also teleport all over the place and it’s always when they’re about to die and it feels like they heal themselves in the process so you have to take them down as quickly as possible. There also these Promethean dogs that run and shoot and look eerily similar to Ravager in that terrible live action Transformers film. They are not even challenge as a single headshot will be enough for them to explode. Sometimes you’ll fight Covenant, sometimes you’ll fight Prometheans and other times you’ll fight both. It’s changed up quite a bit so it never gets too stale. Also for some reason fighting the Covenant never seems to get old to me and thank the heavens for no flood this time around. Hands down the most annoying enemies in FPS history.
The campaign is also absolutely gorgeous. The vistas are constantly a sight to behold and is easily the most gorgeous Xbox 360 game. Not just for graphics but for design as well. The Promethean architecture looks fantastic and well, shiny. Unfortunately some of the Promethean environments repeat and you will feel a case of deja vu from time to time. Some of the stages give me a very tron vibe as well as some of the new music. With a new composer, Neil Davidge, he mixes orchestral tracks for more touching moments and a pulse pounding electronic sound for the action. Even with out Martin O’ Donnel the music still excels.
I don’t have many complaints for the campaign. It’s bug free and runs smooth. It’s was a great ride and easily one of the best campaigns in the series. I only wish we saw more of the villain, The Didact. He only physically appears in about two scenes and while they’re cool there simply isn’t enough. I’m hoping we get to see more of him in the sequel, if not it’s a huge waste of finally giving the Halo series a cool and threatening big bad.
Next is the multiplayer, which has always been the biggest draw in the Halo series. For the first time in a Halo game I found myself playing multiplayer hours upon hours before ever getting around to finishing the campaign. The multiplayer does a few new things as well as keep some of the old. Now there is a load out system where you can customize your main weapon, sub weapon, grenade type, and other perks and abilities. You unlock more goodies as you level up or finish multiplayer challenges. The same goes for new armor customization. It feels a bit more like Call of Duty, yes, but the Halo series needed it. I was getting tired of the “start every match with the assault rifle” schtick. The same is that you can still find more powerful weapons littered across the map. The maps are also still robust and exciting as ever filled with large ones with tons of vehicles and smaller ones for much more up close and personal warfare.
Another new addition are ordinance drops. When you get a certain amount of kills or points you get the option to pick from one of three randomized weapons or power ups. These range from the most powerful weapons in the game, to extra damage or over shield power ups. The game rewards you for playing good and it allows you to rake up more kills. It doesn’t make things unbalanced because no matter how good your weapon or power up is, someone is always gonna be good enough to take you down. It just adds a hell lot more randomness and excitement to matches. It’s hands down the most fun I had in multiplayer in a Halo game and I look forward playing it for more months to come. 343 needs to add a lone wolf playlist, asap.
There is options for co-op up to 4 people over the campaign though I have yet to try it. I’ve played co op in all of the other halo games where it’s available so I’m sure it’s just as fun. There is also another game mode named Spartan Ops. It’s episodic content designed for co-op play but you can play it solo. Unfortunately you need a gold account to play this mode at all which feels like sort of a rip off. It takes place some time after Halo 4 and has a slight story you won’t really care about. It’s only there for the sake of objectives. I only had a chance to play it solo and it’s a decent distraction. It’s epic scale battles with varying objectives per chapter. I would have liked firefight as an option here as well but that’s unfortunately gone.
This game is jam packed with content. Unfortunately despite the $60 pricetag you still need an Xbox gold account to access all of the content. Its a great game and whether you enjoy Halo or not you may find yourself loving this game. The campaign is great and the multiplayer is addicting. 343 Industries has done a good job with a beloved series. I look forward to Halo 5 on the next xbox.