Halo 4 is finally here. The hotly anticipated game, first announced back in E3 2011, sees the return of Master Chief and AI Cortana; but under a new developer, 343 Industries. They have built a lot of hype for the game, and given that it is one of the most popular series on the Xbox and arguably the entire gaming world, there are a lot of expectations.
This is the first time 343 Industries has built a game that adds more to the story of Halo (Reach was developed by Bungie, and Anniversary was a remake), and is the first in a new trilogy of games. So, do 343 Industries deliver a story worth playing? Do they deliver in terms of graphics? And is multiplayer, the strong point of the Halo franchise, any better?
Of course they do. For all three counts.
This is a dual-review between Adrian Cajili and Ashton Bernard. The final score is an average of the two. Also, warning – this review does contain some spoilers.
Editor’s Note: Mobile users, unfortunately, this review is using the full-width template we have developed. It does not work on mobile devices, as of yet. Please use the full version of the site to read this if you don’t like seeing the markup. – Terence Huynh
Ashton Benard: I have been polishing my BR for 5 long years in anticipation of the moment when I get to slip back into my Mjolnir and save humanity from yet another threat. Halo 4 introduces a whole new class of enemies into the Halo universe delving into the mysterious Forerunners who’s creations have been the major focus of the previous titles.
The campaign in it of itself begins quite slowly, working your way from the Dawn onto the Forerunner shield world Requiem. The campaign quickly outlines some of the difficulties of Cortana’s rampancy depicting her as an AI with a temperamental alter ego whose condition deteriorates as the story progresses. As what 343 has stated, this story gives us a greater look into the Chief and his relationship with Cortana, but I was slightly disappointed with the supporting characters like Thomas Lasky and Palmer as they don’t have a significant impact to the story as I was hoping for.
The gameplay elements did at times feel a bit lacking with simple repetitive objects which could be easily bypassed (by use of a vehicle) or else seemed tedious and unnecessary. However, many of the unique gameplay moments towards the end of the campaign leave you on the edge of your seat and are some of the most intense part of the experience.
Halo 4 encapsulates that feeling of exploration and awe which first piqued our interest 11 years ago and delivers an ultimately incredible experience. The overall plot which threatens humanity, however, seems like a very distant threat. The game does make what should be an incredible species-saving journey into a covert galaxy saving adventure. Understanding the campaign from a uninformed background however will be a little confusing (such as terms like the Didact and the Mantle being casually thrown around without any explanation), but it does not hinder the experience of playing Campaign.
Ultimately the Campaign was incredible. The overall story and plot did justice to the Halo franchise and was a great nod to the fans who truly invested in the books of the series.
Adrian Cajili: After 5 long years, the story of Master Chief continues from where Halo 3 left off, with the ‘Chiefsicle’ and Cortana drifting around a Forerunner planet. The campaign starts of with familiar introductory missions, with elements of past Halo campaigns. Remember the Covenant boarding the UNSC space station in Halo 2, or the warthog run at the end of Halo 3? 343 have done an amazing job in re-creating these nostalgic moments, as well as improving the gameplay to suit the storyline.
The Mammoth, Pelican and Broadsword bring in new types of gameplay for campaign mode, and the new Promethean class spices up the campaign with the dynamic gameplay. Of course the Covenant make a return, but the main focus is on the Prometheans and why they’re attacking the Chief. The ferocity of the crawler, the support from the watcher, and the intimidating knights really make you think about how to approach them.
That said, the watcher has to be the most annoying enemy in the Halo series. As much as I liked seeing them work together, the watcher would find ways to make my campaign experience more challenging. Catching grenades and placing shields over enemies can get quite frustrating, but not overly annoying as the drones from past Halo games.
Overall the story was amazing, not only because of the Chief and Cortana, but the emphasis of their emotions, feelings and mentality, when Cortana is going skitzo. The campaign seemed to focus on Cortana’s character more than the Chief’s and how she felt about her rampancy. Although her ending was expected sometime later on in the trilogy, I was shocked at what happened, leaving me with many questions (we won’t spoil it for you). It makes me really wonder what is in store for the trilogy, especially with the Forerunners – it was hard for me to understand the story behind them as I haven’t read any of the novels. I would like to see more character development in the future Halos.
I enjoyed how 343 included old and new elements of gameplay, and I can’t wait for what’s in store for the Reclaimer Trilogy.
Graphics and Gameplay
Adrian: For an Xbox 360 release you’d think that the graphics would be a small step up from Reach’s, but the graphics for Halo 4 far exceeds any previous Halo title, using up most of the 360’s processing power to produce amazing graphics. First of all, the CGI for the game is PHENOMENAL. I am really impressed at how much detail is put into the cinematics and cut-scenes. Requiem introduces new environments and provide a sense of mystery to the players similar to Halo:CE. The second mission was most memorable as you look over a cliff and see the landscape of Requiem, but other environments in the campaign are also very detailed and mysterious, filled with pillars that reach the sky to the deep jungles, and even the core of the planet. 343’s creative team have really pushed the 360 to produce stunning visuals that enhance the campaign experience.
Gameplay wise, the campaign provided new elements by the introduction of new vehicles and enemy classes. I found the Broadsword mission to be one of the best parts of any Halo mission ever, it had a Star Wars feel to the game. Although it was a small part of the campaign, it was just exciting to see what kind of gameplay mechanics 343 would introduce in the series, like the space fighting in Reach. Multiplayer has been revamped to make the experience more personalised, and to cater to the player. They wanted to focus on creating and improving your own spartan, and making multiplayer connect to the campaign.
Ashton: The graphics push the old 360 hardware to there absolute limits creating the best looking game on the 360 to date. The breathtaking visuals crossover from both the single player campaign and War Games, the amount of detail is incredible but open very close inspection the textures appear basic (more a symptom of the 360 than a poor graphics engine).
The gameplay is also much faster than in any previous Halo title, with sprint being a default ability and instant respawns in regicide and infinity slayer gameplay moves very quickly and can often lead to recklessness, but if you can keep your patience you can dominate in multiplayer.
Music and Sound
Adrian: Halo 4’s audio director Sotaro Tojima, and composer Neil Davidge have done an awesome job in revamping Halo’s sound and music. Known for its iconic soundtracks, Halo 4 has really looked at creating a more cinematic approach to the music. The soundtrack works like magic on the emotive and eerie scenes. The weapons sounds are amazing, and seem a lot more powerful than in other games. Using real gun sounds for the weapons, it provide a sense of realism for game, even though its a futuristic shooter. Even the little music cues in multiplayer enhance the experience, motivating players to win, and make the game more intense and really immerse the players in the game.
Adrian: I have always been interested in the campaigns, but to me, what defines Halo is the multiplayer gameplay. The Halo 2 multiplayer campaign drew me into the series, and Halo 4 ups the ante.
Matchmaking, now dubbed War Games, is set on the Infinity where Spartan IVs are training for future operative missions. The great changes made from past Halo multiplayers is the fact that you can now change your initial load-out, choosing primary and secondary weapons, armor abilities and small perks to improve the way you play, but aren’t overly game-changing. Players can create their own Spartan IV and use them for both War games and Spartan Ops – including the customisations.
With an initial rank of SR1, players must work their way to unlock new weapons, armor abilities and mods, as well as armor sets and emblems, to build up their Spartan. After reach the rank of SR50, you can enlist into a specialisation, depending on how you play halo, and can earn more armors, skins and perks. Are you Stealthy, or more a vehicle driver? Are you one of those people who just want to rank up faster? There are 8 specialisations that cater to your own play style.
The unlock system is mainly based on your Spartan Rank, but can also be tied in with your commendations, which you have to max-out. They make you work hard for specific armors and emblems – the helmet I want gets unlocked by doing 150+ assassinations. However, you are constantly reward throughout.
There are a lot of features in War Games that create high replay value and draw players in the unlock system, the gameplay itself is fast paced and addictive, and with the different button layouts, the game is highly accessible for those who play other shooters.
Ashton: In Spartan Ops, we can see the development of your Spartan from War Games in a combat situation with 5 short missions being released every week for 10 weeks worth of “episodes”. Each episode also comes with a short cinematic which progresses the story. These free episodes are an incredible way to keep the story of continuing long after the campaign has finished. It is also a fantastic way to bridge the gaps between the competitive Halo community and those who only stick to campaign.
The story for Season 1 features Majestic Squad, giving a completely new light to these charismatic Spartan IVs. You find yourself, however, as members of Crimson Squad, a team comprising of your own Spartans from War Games.The first five missions, which were available for review, were short small missions backed up with other tasks like clearing an LZ and neutralising jammers. It is early days for Spartan Ops, but it is quickly proving to be one of my favourite modes.
I can’t wait to see what else they have in store.
The Final Word
Adrian: 343’s hard work has definitely paid off, and have exceeded my expectations of the game. Do I think the Halo Franchise is in safe hands? Eff yeah! Any one who would go into this much work to create such a complete campaign and multiplayer experience definitely has what it takes to handle one of the biggest gaming franchises in gaming history. 343 have really shown their dedication to not only their fans, but to the beloved franchise. I give Halo 4 a 9.5/10
Ashton: Ever since we saw that teaser trailer back at E3 2011, 343 has got me excited about Halo 4, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. I look forward to the future of Halo with 343, maybe a side game featuring Gray Team? Hmm hmm? I also give Halo 4 a 9.5/10
9.5 / 10
The story leaves you wanting more; Visuals are stunning; Muliplayer and rewards system very addictive
Campaign may be hard to follow sometimes, SitRec (Killcams) are terrible
The Bottom Line
An incredible game – a must have and worth buying an Xbox 360 just to play it