When I first heard of Bungie’s departure from the Halo series I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect from developer 343 Industries. I’ve been a Halo fan since 2001 with the release of Halo: Combat Evolved. I fought the Elites on the Pillar of Autumn, battled Brutes on High Charity, blasted Flood and Sentinels alike on the final mission of Halo 3. Where was the new developer going to take us with their version of Halo? Was Microsoft going to run this franchise into the ground or will they go with quality over quantity? Luckily, we have nothing to worry about with 343.
When you first start the campaign you’ll step right into where you left off in Halo 3: as Master Chief sitting in a cryo-tube trying out his best imitation of Iceman. Cortana has to wake up the Chief-sicle and get him to help her because something has latched onto their ship. Like slipping into a nice pair of old jeans, everything just seems natural with Halo 4. The the controls are refined as ever and the guns work the way you expect them to. The one thing you will be surprised by is how the weapons sound. I will go out on a limb and say these guns sound better than anything you’ve ever heard in a game, bar none. The hiss of energy from the Covenant weapons to the clicks and grind of the human weapons, you’ll be in eargasm heaven with Halo 4. The score of the game is phenomenal as well. I loved the urgency it gave you throughout the single player and even the title menu had me veined up and ready to play the campaign all over again.
Speaking of the campaign, you’ll find it weird that you’re fighting the Covenant again if you’re familiar with the story of past Halo games. It’s covered briefly and settles the blood of us die-hard fans. Basically, I imagine that 343 studios wanted us to fight an enemy we’re pretty familiar with because after Halo 3 who’s left to fight anymore? Another thing you won’t be used to was how much Master Chief actually talks in this one. Surprisingly, I wasn’t bothered by it and I personally loved that he had some sort of personality. The plot line shouldn’t really be about who you’re fighting; it should really be about what the Master Chief is fighting for: Cortana.
If you watched any of the trailers that accompanied this game before launch, you would’ve learned that Cortana is on her last legs. Artificial Intelligence like Cortana aren’t exactly timepieces and she’s slowly deteriorating into rampancy. You’ll feel the urgency of John aka Master Chief trying to find a way to help his friend (or love interest) back to normalcy. It’s a touching story and unexpected for such an action-packed first person shooter.
Halo started a revolution with shooters on consoles; many first person shooters still to this day copy many of the things Halo did almost 11 years ago. Sadly, 343 stuck to their guns and played it safe. They didn’t really try anything new in terms of mechanics but everything works extremely well if not better than most current action games. What I liked most was the variety of weapons and vehicles- granted, I’ve been using these items in previous Halo games for years but they still felt fresh as they ever have. Everything just felt scrubbed and fresh for me to tinker around with.
A highlight to such things has to be the new Promethean weapons. When you first pick one up from a fallen enemy it will contort and shape itself into your Spartan’s hands. The weapons feel different enough from other faction’s weaponry and that’s saying something. They were some of my favorite guns to use.
Ah, but you don’t really care about the campaign do you? You just want to know how the hell the multiplayer is! Well, to be honest, it’s as fun as ever. The weapons are balanced, the maps are fun to play around in and the progression system is never frustrating and always rewarding. Though there are a few things that I wasn’t thrilled with.
One: I really don’t think Halo needs to be like Call of Duty. Specifically, in that here you have a custom load out that’s eerily similar (scratch that, a rip-off) of Call of Duty’s class system. They could totally do away with the Spartan point system where you have to buy your weapons and other abilities. It’s kind of useless and you’ll just get what you really want after your first 15 levels anyway. A fresh Spartan could easily get frustrated with someone’s abilities while they are limited in what they have access to in the beginning.
Two: Where are all my game modes? I feel disappointed when all I want to play is just regular team slayer. In previous Halo games I loved to play Big Team Objective, or Headhunter from Halo: Reach. I just feel like I’m not getting enough variety from my game modes. Also, there isn’t a true Forge map like Forge world from Halo: Reach. I spent hours upon hours playing around in that setting and racing mongooses from waterfall to valley. There’s just something missing here.
Granted, all my gripes are incredibly minor compared to what you have access to. You’ll always have something to do with Halo 4. This is especially true since they introduced Spartan Ops. Which basically amounts to small focused single-player like missions you can play with your buddies. They’re interesting enough and the cut scenes are phenomenal, though honestly I would’ve just been happier with Firefight.
I was incredibly nervous but 343 Industries convinced me that they could easily hold the torch of the next Halo trilogy. I’m a huge fan and it’s nice to know that they’re not just making sub-par games with this franchise. I’m ecstatic to see where they lead with Halo 5 and 6, because it’s only going to go up from here. I personally can’t wait to see where they’re taking us next.