After a long five years of anxious waiting for player and what seemed to be an eternal sleep cycle from cyrosleep for Master Chief, Halo 4 is out and it was worth the wait. From the wonderful classic multiplayer to the episodic missions of the campaign, the latest in Microsoft’s favored franchise has a lot to offer.
343 Industries were given the reigns to the Xbox's flagship series officially last year with the high-definition remake of the first Halo. I can confidently say after completing the campaign and clocking in close to six hours of the multiplayer that Halo 4 is the most entertaining of the franchise but it’s not perfect as some people presume it to be.
BACK IN THE FIGHT!
Multiplayer - Just like the Call of Duty series, a lot of people pass up the campaign and just dive straight into the multiplayer. Halo 4’s multiplayer is actually based upon fiction that was introduced during the Forward Unto Dawn series. Upon the UNSC Infinity, there is a simulation room (similar to Star Trek’s Holodeck) within which the Spartan IV’s combat each other to test each other’s strength and valor. Other than the entry of multiplayer into the Halo canon, the new multiplayer lobby has a completely new design and menu system.
Featuring nine different playlists from the start, Halo 4’s multiplayer options will curb your appetite no matter what kind of mood you are in. From traditional Slayer (now called Infinity Slayer) to a refurbished Oddball match, there are plenty of options for objective or frag fans. If you want to play in a team, I suggest you get in a Xbox Live party with a few of your friends. Halo 4’s multiplayer is aimed towards a competitive crowd as all the weapons are balanced enough to warrant them worth picking up one at a time or another.
Locked out the Armor Lock - When it comes to actual in-game multiplayer gameplay, it’s exactly what you’ve been playing for over a decade now: Halo. This time though, they’ve fixed what Halo Reach should have been and molded it into an entirely better experience. As Reach was supposed to introduce abilities properly but instead they just seemed to snag players from having a good time like Armor Lock. No, Armor Lock isn’t back so don’t worry about it but classic abilities are back with some new ones.
Master Chief Gets a Visual Upgrade - One of the most important factors in a AAA title is how well the game presents itself to the gamer. Between the menu design and actual in-game graphics, Halo 4 doesn’t disappoint visually. It seems like the series has finally gotten to the point where the graphics look exactly similar to what the world would look like through John’s eyes: colorful in a futuristic world, yet still gritty. Not only have the in-game graphics been upgraded, but the multiplayer menus have completely changed. Originally having a vertically arranged series of lobbies or menus, Halo 4 now offers a similar design to Microsoft’s new operating system: Windows 8.
One thing that you can’t forget about when you mention Halo is the music. Neil Davidge was given the helm from Marty O’Donnell to compose the music for the next Halo titles and he took the familiar scores and made them brand new again.
The Campaign: Part One - This being 343 Industries' first official outing for the Halo franchise, they didn’t do anything too radical with the campaign. Going from gameplay to cinematic and back into gameplay usually is a rough transition, but 343 was able to patch the two together with a smooth stitch as the cinematics seemed sometimes to be part of the gameplay, creating a more dynamic experience. The story for the campaign was excellent with the exception of around the fifth or sixth mission. You’ll start to want to take a break there, since the story seems to die down creating an action movie snag.
Extended Campaign - While there are plenty of people upset that Firefight is gone, 343 figured out something that might catch people’s attention as well as appease those people that wanted to keep Firefight around. I wasn’t really a fan of Firefight outside of the competitive 2v2 style, but Spartan Ops similar to Modern Warfare 2’s Special Ops, players can go in with friends and compete on through different missions that are somewhat derived from the single-player experience but set up so it feels original.
Generic Spartan Ops - Honestly though, Spartan Ops isn’t all that great. As you go through the chapters for each episode, there isn’t a real story that’s going on other than you are a Spartan and you must do things that marines can’t. Outside of collecting XP and mindlessly shooting enemies with a few buddies online, I don’t see any reason to actually play through the Spartan Ops content that seemed like it was going to have a lot more to offer. With plenty more episodes to come, I was anticipating something with a little more depth and everything else.
The Campaign: Part Boo - Clocking in at four hours and thirty-four minutes playing on the suggested normal difficulty, Halo 4’s campaign just seemed to be a rush of Spartan-117’s comeback party. The main issue I had is that the AI for both UNSC troops and enemies in the campaign seems to not have the most dynamic system. When you enter an area filled with enemies, you immediately are willing to stay back to try to fight them one by one. Eventually, you want to charge into battle and those enemies will all of sudden become better shots and shoot more often while using better tactics. Perhaps, the normal difficulty was a little low for my skill level but I expected more flanking like the Covenant did in Halo 2 instead of tower defense style where a few enemies come in and then more after that.
It’s great to see the Chief back so soon because after we watched him sail away during the Halo 3 Legendary ending I feared that I wouldn’t see him for at least another decade. Thankfully, he is back and the game is good. While Halo 4 isn’t everything I expected, the campaign and multiplayer far exceed any other console first-person shooter out there. The AI system for basic combat takes away from what could have been an interesting & dynamic single-player campaign and extended story campaign, though.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about that in multiplayer which is probably the reason why you will end up picking up this game if you haven’t already. There is plenty to do in Halo 4, so go and buy it if you haven't already.