Halo 4

Posted On: 11/1/2012  Publisher: 343 Industries

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Amazing. From the moment I turned the system on and Halo 4 fired up I knew something was different. Put aside the fact that you donít see a Bungie logo but rather the Microsoft and 343 Industries logos. There was something really different. As the title screen hit and the newest Halo score began to play I knew I was in for a treat. Right then and there it appeared that the Halo franchise was all grown up. Bungie did a hell of a job for the time and effort they put in to build the franchise and I am grateful to them. But it looks as though the franchise has now grown out of its diapers and put on big boy pants in a big way.

So before you continue reading this review, I want you to know that I will do everything to keep spoilers out completely. Itíll be a little tougher to describe some of the things on the screen but I can tell you one thing. Youíll thank me for it when you play because the game is worth every penny you spend. Visually, the game has turned a massive corner. This game looks fantastic whether itís the cut scenes or the actual gameplay. From start to finish everything is crisp, colorful and falls in line with exactly what you would expect from such an iconic franchise. The environments are detailed and gorgeous and there is also plenty of homage paid to the Halo lure. The HUD looks superb and really puts you in the Chiefís uniform and makes you feel part of the game. I canít say enough about how this looks and the animations that coincide with the game. Wait until the first time you pick up a Forerunner weapon. Wow.

The audio is nothing less than spectacular. Chief and Cortana really come forth and support the story to max throughout and youíll quickly develop feelings for the situation. You begin to realize that Chief is human after all despite his massive armor and size. The environmental sounds are phenomenal and I think one of the best display of this is in the level you are meandering through a lush forest. Many of you have seen this level as itís what was show at E3. Do I have to even mention a stellar soundtrack? Itís fresh and new but still holds the roots of the soundtrack we have come to know and love. I am telling you, the Halo franchise has turned a corner for the better.

 
 

So as most have heard, the game comes on 2 separate discs. Thatís not a bad thing folks. The single player campaign is housed on disc one while all things multiplayer are on the second disc. When you want to access multiplayer you will be prompted to install it from the disc or download it the package from online. The amount of content that is in this game truly warrants the fact they decided to go with 2 discs. I am sure there will be plenty of folks who arenít happy with this decision and thatís fine but honestly itís not that big of a deal. Just some more ammo for advocates of the Blu-Ray argument.

As soon as I got my review copy of the game, the first thing I did was fire up the single player. Last we saw Master Chief and Cortana they were in the middle of space floating aimlessly in the Forward Unto Dawn wreckage. So I definitely wanted to know how things were going to play out, and they actually lay out pretty quickly. Youíll quickly realize though that there are other aspects of the storyline that intermingle too and make this quite a dramatic tale. If you have not had the chance to watch the Forward Unto Dawn live action mini-series than please do yourself a favor and watch it. There are actual tie-ins between the game and the film short which I found to be genius. One of the characters plays a huge role in the game as well; so do yourself a favor and watch the series. Much of the story actually takes place on a Forerunner planet and many secrets are revealed as you progress.

The gameplay in single player is what you would expect. Halo brethren will quickly find themselves right at home in gunplay, driving vehicles and navigating the environments. There are a ton of new gadgets at your disposal from a deployable shield to an auto sentry. The weapons are solid and picking up that Battle Rifle felt oh so good. Oh that and the Magnum pistol. Anyhow, youíll find everything from a Warthog to a Banshee throughout the early portions of the game which feel and play just like they have in the past. I was actually quite surprise at one level where you have to race against the environment when using a ghost to escape some bad things happening. The gameplay is mixed up pretty good yet still holds true to its roots throughout.

As you scour the levels in the single player campaign be sure to be on the lookout for ďDomain TerminalsĒ. These terminals will actually unlock content on Waypoint. The interactions between Waypoint and the game are deep and detailed. As usual, you will see your career and stats and you can modify your Spartanís appearance as well as loudouts and call sign. There is plenty of information to be found that ever Spartan can use as itís almost an encyclopedia of Halo information for everyone to enjoy.

 
 

The enemies you will face in the game called Prometheans actually fight alongside and at times against the Convenant. Along with one badass enemy that you'll get to meet a few chapters into the game. Youíll have your hands full with this new foe and they have quite a few stellar weapons as well as some fancy offensive attacks of their own. It definitely changed up the gameplay a little for me and Iíll say the AI is pretty good. Now I was playing on Normal as I wanted to hold off on the higher difficulty to play with some friends in co-op. Anyway, even on normal the AI would flank you, get out of the way of incoming shots and take cover quite a bit. But they always kept a hailstorm of gunfire on you at all times. Halo 4 is definitely not a walk in the park, but itís not overly hard either on the normal level.

So once you finish the single player mode, which should take out 6-8 hours on average, you definitely need to hop on and check out all the multiplayer options including the new Spartan Ops. When you fire up the multiplayer portion of the game which is found under the Infinity option in the menu youíll be whisked away to a brand new hub for anything and everything multiplayer. Career Stats, Customization, Forge, War Games and Spartan Ops are the options before you for your competitive and cooperative gameplay needs.

Spartan Ops is a new game mode that features episodic gameplay and cinematics. The Spartan Ops mixes storyline and gameplay to extend and further expand the story of the UNSC Infinity after the events of Halo 4. Youíll watch the cinematic episodes that appear weekly and then complete the gameplay challenges associated with the current episode. You can play this mode in single player or with up to 3 of your friends in co-op. This mode alone adds in a ton of replay value as long as the mode continually gets supported with weekly content.

War Games is the competitive multiplayer mode. There are 10 maps available at launch with a huge variety of game modes to compete in. And of course you have the ever popular Forge mode that allows Halo player to get creative. Youíll have 3 vast arenas to build your dream gaming arena whether itís or racing, competitive multiplayer or just creating little film shorts with your buddies ala Red vs. Blue.

 
 

Halo fans, this game is everything you want and holds true to what you have come to know as Halo. Even with the fancy new visuals and musical score, youíll quickly settle into your groove as you enjoy new enemies, environments, game modes and more. 343 Industries Certain Affinity can hold their heads high as they maintained the Halo lure and feel. Many people were nervous to think that there would actually be a Halo franchise game featuring Master Chief and not have Bungie involved. Well that thought has been cast aside and all doubters should have 100% confidence in this game and future Halo games.

Youíll find a few quirks here and there. For instance in one level where you enter into a Covenant stronghold, there is a Banshee sitting off to your left. The Elite jumps into the Banshee once he sees you and usually flies straight into a wall getting stuck. Itís an easy kill, but itís definitely not meant to be. Youíll get some other graphical hiccups here from time to time but overall the game is solid and these little issue should not worry you at all. The rest of the game makes up for any flaws you might find. The game definitely seems to be technically sound.

My final thoughts on Halo 4? Spectacular! 343 Industries took this franchise and all the baggage that comes with it and propelled it into what looks to be an even more iconic franchise that people will talk about for years to come. The story engrosses you throughout, the multiplayer will easily be the biggest selling point for the game and the options and wealth of perks throughout the game is absolutely outstanding. I have enjoyed Halo games in the past and even the knock off titles, but I am so glad Chief is back and the story has been continued. And I can honestly say I am already excited for Halo 5. You must go grab this on Day one. If you werenít planning on attending a midnight launch, I suggest you do and take Tuesday off for a day of Halo goodness. You wonít be sorry.

 
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