Halo 4 Review
A few years ago, I was among a few friends to found a website called GrifballHub. Mainly, I wrote a few articles for them. Recently, they were gracious enough to have me represent the site at a Halo 4 review event. I wrote the following review for them. Please check out the awesome site for the review and other great articles.
Can 343 Industries follow-up on the highly successful Halo trilogy created by Bungie Studios with brand new trilogy beginning with Halo 4? We are about to find out.
Halo 4 takes place roughly five years beyond the aftermath of events which concluded the Halo 3 story. If you were living under a rock and do not know what happened at the end of the Halo 3, Master Chief is trapped on the other side of the universe in cryogenic sleep, on one half of the UNSC frigate Forward Unto Dawn, with no real way to get back to Earth.
As the Halo 4 story begins, the Forward Unto Dawn is boarded by rogue Covenant troops. Of course Master Chief has to repel these troops. The first mission (called Dawn) harkens back to previous Halo games with Master Chief fighting Covenant inside tight corridors, but that soon changes. After you begin clearing the Forward Unto Dawn, the ship along with the rogue Covenant ships are brought into the Forerunner world Requiem. On this world, you fight a new evil and face off against a brand new race called the Prometheans. Don’t worry, that will be as far as I go into spoiling plot details.
The campaign contains eight full levels, which fully immerse you into a story that can be completed in about nine hours, on solo Heroic. During the campaign you will face off against two races; the Covenant that we have fought since the inception of Halo and the previously mentioned Prometheans. Fighting the Covenant has not changed much, and tactics from any of the previous games will apply. Taking on the Prometheans, on the other hand, provides a very different challenge for you. They are a unique beast, without a doubt. The two races enable you to replay areas without it feeling like a rehash. Don’t worry, you will not feel like you are playing Library from the original Halo. Having this new race, the Prometheans really breathes a breath of fresh air, almost like a new game without having to change the player’s mechanics.
Halo 4 provides a wide range of landscapes for players to fight their way through and over. Throughout the campaign; you will traverse jungle landscapes, Forerunner structures, and the aforementioned tight corridors. The gorgeous scenery Halo is known for continues in Halo 4. Often enough you may be in a firefight and find yourself distracted by aerial battles or an endless ocean of stars. Sometimes, however, gazing at the scenery can lead to a lot of unfortunate deaths.
Technically speaking, Halo 4 has features which are pleasing to both the eyes and ears. The cut scenes used throughout the game are some of the best that I have ever witnessed. While perhaps not quite as stunning, I was reminded a little bit of Final Fantasy: Spirits Within. If you are unfamiliar, Spirits Within was an animated movie, released in 2001, featuring some of the most remarkable character and motion capture CGI to date. Halo 4’s CGI draws you into the story and helps to make it feel like one of the most most memorable adventures of the Halo franchise.
The sound of Halo 4 and the effects also greatly help to shape the story and world of Halo 4. A lot of jokes can be made about the dubstep music used in the promotional videos for the game, but it’s fitting when you consider the booming, bassy weapons of the Halo 4 sandbox. When firing at an enemy, you can literally feel that bass hitting you in the chest.
There are also little touches and changes that have been added to the heads up display. While some may argue 343 has added too much detail to the HUD, I think they’ve done a great job of making you feel like you’re actually in the game. As you are running around, you are able to see the tip of the visor in front of you, as if you were actually wearing the Master Chief’s helmet. It’s things like this which fully immerse you into the world of Halo 4.
Overall, the campaign is fantastic. This might feel like I am beating a dead horse, but Halo 4 feels just as good as any of the previous Halo games. The gameplay is superb and without many faults. The best part is that Halo 4 feels like a Halo game, and also has many surprises which makes the campaign exciting with a wonderful, coherent story. All the more sweeter, terminals make a return to expand the campaign story. Finding those terminals will unlock videos which can be viewed on Halo Waypoint.
Spartan Ops in Halo 4 will replace Firefight as the franchise’s new four-player cooperative mode. In Spartan Ops, you will take on the role of a Spartan from the UNSC Infinity, completing various missions. These missions occur six months after the campaign, so it is in your best interest to finish the campaign before beginning any Spartan Ops missions, unless you want spoilers.
Spartan Ops will be broken into seasons, although it is unknown if following seasons will be free or paid DLC, the first season will be free. It will begin the same week in which Halo 4 releases and will continue for ten consecutive weeks. Each week a new chapter becomes available with five new missions, along with a CGI cutscene. That is quite a bit of content added on top of the nine hours of campaign.
Spartan Ops evolves the four-player cooperative mode in ways that Firefight never came close to doing. Each week you’ll be able to gather your friends together to play through the Spartan Ops missions, very much like you’ll probably do during that first week or two when playing the main campaign. Unlike Firefight, your strategy is not just running up the score or survival time. Spartan Ops features goals that range from attacking an enemy encampment to retrieving a Forerunner objective. Not only do you have a more interactive objective, but you’ll hear the chatter from the Spartan commander as well as other Spartan teams completing their own objectives.
Spartan Ops provides a great way to expand the Halo story and still save something for Master Chief in the next Halo game. Judging by what I’ve seen, 343 is adding a ton of additional value for nothing. Two and a half months of extra content for free. Even if eventually 343 decides to charge for future Spartan Ops DLC, I would much prefer it compared to Firefight maps which quickly became repetitive, providing no objective other than to run up the score.
Let me get this out of the way and just say that no matter how much 343 may have changed in Halo multiplayer, it still feels very much like the Halo multiplayer that we have grown to love. In Halo 4, multiplayer is dubbed War Games, making it part of the fiction of the Halo universe.
Halo 4 brings a lot of new to the old as 343 looks to improve on the formula. The game will ship with ten maps and only one remake in the bunch, Raganrok, a very faithful recreation of Valhallo from Halo 3. Halo 4 also introduces a few game types that are new to the franchise – Extraction, Regicide and Dominion. There’s also an official Grifball gametype, and the reimagined Infection mode, now called Flood. Each game type and map flows well together to providing some interesting new tactics. With Sprint being default, maps never feel small and you never feel left out of the action. The most controversial change coming to multiplayer is the custom classes. The great news is that this is not Call of Duty and the custom classes are not overpowered. Every weapon is balanced in the classic Halo formula.
Multiplayer is what you make it out to be. Some people will only play custom games or others just matchmaking. Whatever your choice, Halo 4 multiplayer excels at its craft and Halo is still one of the best multiplayer experiences on the market.
What can I say about Forge? At first glance, all the first items from Halo: Reach have carried over for you to play with. Just that would be enough for most forgers to be happy with and still be able to create the wonderful maps that we see now. But Halo 4 goes a little bit further for better custom maps and game types.
First of all, Halo 4 has three different palette maps instead of the oversized single map Forge World in Halo: Reach. Forge World had its uses, but in the end most of the maps ended up looking the same no matter how talented the forger was. Now with three different maps; the possibilities become endless, just from an aesthetic view.
Then there are the additional tools at a forger’s disposal. Halo 4 introduces several tools that forgers have clamored for, which include: item duplication, item locking, and item magnets. Item duplication helps with those repetitive walls and items to help cut down on time going through menus. The item lock also helps the clumsy forgers, such as myself, that may bump or even delete items. The item magnets are an interesting tool, which enables items to connect with other items according to predetermined magnets on the edges. Item magnets will help beginning forgers, but veteran forgers may tend to forget about it.
The most anticipated addition to Forge is the customizable player trait zones. Just like everything else with Forge, it is the ideas of the players that really sell this feature. The trait zones allow for a slew of fresh ideas for the mini-games that spawned Grifball and Infection. Halo 4 gives forgers these tools to play with and it is up to forgers to invent the next big thing. With everything provided, the possibilities are endless and I cannot wait to see what the community will come up with.
Simply put; if you wanted more Halo you are getting more Halo. If you wanted to spice up the game you will not be disappointed. 343 Industries has successfully carried on the Halo franchise. Many games make the mistake of focusing on one feature to the detriment of the others, but Halo 4 did not fall victim to that common trope. For those who enjoy one specific feature for weeks at a time I believe that the detail put into each feature will not let you down. Just pop the game disc into your 360 and try it for yourself. Halo 4 is a wonderful first game to the Reclaimer Trilogy and I am excited to see what will come next from the franchise. Of course, that will be after I have spent countless hours playing Halo 4 first.