Sorry guys about the delay on the Halo 4 review. Honestly it’s just way too hard to stop playing it.
What it is: Halo 4 marks the return of the Master Chief and his faithful AI companion Cortana in the first Halo game not made by Bungie. 343 industries is now in charge of the series and for the first in a new trilogy they decided to take a more human look at the Chief as he faces Cortana’s inevitable deterioration. In the midst of this the two stumble onto a Forerunner planet, Requiem, and discover the dark secrets it holds.
Why I dig it: Where do I even start?
Before I jump in, I need to make it clear that while I may be considered a diehard Halo fan I didn’t come into this game expecting to love it automatically. A big part of my love for the franchise was the community that Bungie established on top of the in depth statistical analysis provided by bungie.net. It wasn’t just a game that 343 had to live up to but almost an empire.
With all that being said, 343 has more than lived up to what I had hoped for. From the story, to the multiplayer, to the support and the direction as a whole the game exceeds at ‘em all. As I have mentioned, the campaign kind of focuses on Cortana’s deterioration and this brings out a really human aspect in the game. The Master Chief has historically just been a very mechanical and cold bad ass soldier but this time around we get to see some emotional weakness in him as he struggles with losing Cortana.
Paired with this more involving story we get some of the most exciting and fun enemies in perhaps all of Halo history. The Prometheans are an enemy which spices up the story with a new challenge and the fact of the matter is that they bring something new to the combat table. The Crawlers are just a blast to unload into with head shot weapons and the Knights provide a new level of challenge and require the player to think about battle with them in a new way.
Thankfully the Prometheans are not restricted simply to the campaign but they also make their way into the new episodic Spartan Ops mode. Spartan Ops is made up of episodes that are released on a weekly basis. Each episode is accompanied with a short cinematic video and five chapters or missions for each player to play through. Spartan Ops is awesome. The single best thing about it is that it provides a narrative aspect of the game that will continue to draw people in long after they have completed that campaign. It is going to keep people coming back time and time again to see what is happening with the story. One of the cool aspects about Reach was that you were able to really create your Spartan and from there play with them through out every single game mode creating a more immersive experience. While we might be stepping into the boots of the Chief again this time instead of your own Spartans, Spartan Ops acts kind of like this mode where we get to be the Spartan.
Now the actual game play of Spartan Ops is decent but nothing amazing. Each chapter in episode one at least plays very similarly to a mission straight out of the campaign with one real exception: respawning. Normally in campaign at least upon death you restart at the latest checkpoint you hit but Spartan Ops does this a little differently. Upon death you simply respawn as you would in the multiplayer. You can rush two knights and kill one and get killed by the other and simply respawn and then dispatch of the other one. Things don’t reset upon death. The thing about this is that it makes these missions incredibly easy and provides us with little to no challenge. You are able to set the difficulty when starting a chapter but difficulty more or less just decides how many times you are going to die over the course of the mission instead of how much challenge is going to be presented to you. With all that being said there are quite a few Red vs. Blue easter eggs scattered throughout the mode that more than makes up for any of its down sides.
Now for the multiplayer. Oh my god the multiplayer.
Right off the bat I want to address some of the bigger alterations they made to the multiplayer. When it was first announced that custom load-outs were going to be added to the game, in addition to perks and ordinance drops everyone thought that Halo was becoming Call of Duty. While it might have gained inspiration from CoD among other FPSs out there the game still feels so much like Halo. At no point during multiplayer have I felt like this was anyway less Halo-y and more CoD-y. The load-outs really just allow players to start out with specific weapons that they would normally pick up along the way as well as fine tuning their Spartan to fit their play style. Other load-out based shooters provide players with a plethora of options allowing for a lot larger ranger of character designs i.e. shotgun classes, snipers, run ‘n gun, etc. but in Halo 4 it is much more focused. You aren’t able to design a completely broken class which you can destroy players with. This narrow range is absolutely perfect for Halo. It allows for variety among players while simultaneously allowing people to use the gear they want to use. It is a significantly superior upgrade from previous Halo games.
The ordnance was another point of concern of CoD mimicry in the game but ordnance doesn’t really fill the same role kill streaks did. Kill streaks were game changing events that were potentially devastating and again Halo has taken a much lessened approach. Ordinance is only dropping power weapons and brief custom power ups. The power weapons definitely give you an edge but they really just help perpetuate the game. Even if they give you a temporary advantage the fact of the matter is that for the most part they are all weapons that can be taken by enemy players as easily as allied players. Ultimately they just intensify the game in a completely fair manner as well as allowing players to choose the power weapons they stumbled onto into the late game.
The multiplayer also introduces a couple new game modes to the mix which both are amazing. The first is regicide, which is more or less free for all slayer and the leader has a mark over his or her head. The game plays like normal free for all but because of the cursor over the leader the game has a much more structured feel, almost a king of the hill kind of vibe. The king or leader draws everyone towards him or her providing everyone with a focused battle zone preventing things from getting slow and keeping the action coming.
The next is a new objective game type called Dominion which is one of my personal favorite playlist in the game so far. Dominion plays kind of like domination. Players try to capture key locations and then hold those areas as they become more fortified. A friend of mine kept comparing it to TF2 in the sense that each player really needs to take up different and specific roles if you want to be successful in the game. I am normally not much of an objective game kind of guy but I can’t seem to stop playing Dominion.
The entire time I was playing through Halo 4 I tried to remain as critical as possible so I would be able to identify any and all flaws but the thing is there really aren’t that many. The biggest complaint I have about the game is actually one that is entirely fixable and will probably be tweaked in the future but I found that Flood mode, the mode that I was most excited about, was a bit underwhelming. The problem I had with it was that 343 tried to make being infected less underpowered than being human and they did this perhaps too well. First off they nerfed the pistol. The pistol is normally a single shot to the head kill but they have replaced this with simply a three shot kill. In addition to the humans being weaker they gave the zombies some ridiculous armor abilities. The zombies are able to spawn in with a super ramped up thruster pack that can effectively take a zombie from one side of a map to the other in a matter of seconds. While they are using this ridiculous boost they are also still able to swipe with their flood claw removing the momentary safe zone that occurred when zombies rolled in Reach. On top of all of this they also cranked up the lunge distance for zombies ultimately making them the most powerful they have ever been.
It’s cool that they made being infected more bearable but the thing is that people don’t play zombies to infect as many people as possible. People play zombies because they enjoy lasting as long as they can, killing and wrecking zombies as they go. In previous infection modes you see players ending games with as high of score as 30 but here the highest score I have seen someone get is in the teens. This is my single biggest complaint about the game but like I said, a playlist update or two is all that is needed to really fix this and maybe it is a little counterintuitive complaining about how 343 made a game mode more fair.
The only other complaints I have about Halo 4 are all little nitpicky things which really don’t hinder the actual game playing experience. For example, the in game score chart is a little confusing at times in the sense that it is a little tricky figuring out how many kills you have in comparison to points. The only other notable complaint was the pre-game multiplayer lobby which is a tad confusing to navigate compared to previous games.
Other than that the game is incredible. While the game has seen many renovations, many non-traditional Halo changes, the game still feels like Halo. Its finds that perfect middle ground of new and familiar. I have thoroughly enjoyed ever single game mode I have tried so far with the exclusion of zombies which still isn’t terrible. So many things have been streamlined and while I have a couple complaints about how things are they have fixed an innumerable amount of complaints I have had about previous Halo games. I would argue that the campaign is the strongest story and narrative experience in a Halo game to date and the multiplayer is unmatched in its glory. All of this comes packaged in the best looking and sounding Halo game out there. While I have yet to fully explore all the juicy tib bits in forge I am familiar with quite a few of its features and I am sure that the potential maps that it offers will keep the game fresh and interesting for years to come.
Bungie left some big shoes for 343 to fill and they more than exceeded in doing so. Halo 4 is the definitive Halo experience and the single best installment in series to date. The franchise has been passed to more than worthy hands. I give Halo 4 a 5/5.