“Wake up, Chief… I need you.”
This may be the quote that defines this game perfectly, with what Bungie put to sleep being awoken by 343, and as in the game they have done it with a bang! That’s right, Halo 4 is finally here, after months of hype, heavy advertising and hundreds of questions being asked. Millions of fans can now sit at home peacefully forgetting about their real lives as they drown in the triumph that has been the reawakening of the Master Chief, and what a triumph it is!
Halo 4’s story leads straight off from the end of Halo 3. Well, 4 years later, but you wouldn’t know if you weren’t told so. Anyway, something strange is happening to the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn and on the orders of the Chief, Cortana wakes you up because she needs you. Straight away you are thrown into action, and realise two things; this looks different, but this looks cool! After a quick reminder of how to look and move around, the action begins. The control setup is, for the most part, the same. Sadly, the grenade change button has been changed to the left and right arrow buttons, meaning you can’t change on the move. This is pretty annoying, and it is not clear why the developers felt the need to change it, but this is a pretty minor thing compared to the good in the game.
So what else is new to playing as the Master Chief? Well, sprinting is no longer an armour power-up, which is good because the new developers have re-acknowledged the fact from the earlier games that people can run. The power-ups themselves are also different, including a hard light shield, a bit like the ones the Covenant carry, an auto turret, and sentinel vision, which is basically sonar. Some of the classics from Reach have been kept, like the jet pack and hologram, but the most pleasing thing is possibly the fact that sprint is not on the list, because frankly I don’t think anyone could make sense of that decision in the first place. There are also new weapons in the game from all three of its factions; UNSC, Covenant and the “Prometheans”, the Forerunner “minions”. For the most part, these are good. Some are very similar to each other, and some are a little overpowered, but you can choose not to use the ones you don’t like so there is little negativity to be seen here.
The graphics of the game are stunning. It looks sharper than pretty much anything else out there at present, with fine details clearly having being carefully worked on. The cutscenes could even be perceived to be real life acting and Hollywood movie special effects by an untrained eye; everything is almost too perfect to believe. Whoever 343 have got working on their graphics, they deserve a pay rise. Kudos. The sounds of the game are, well, strange. The weapon sounds aren’t quite like what you might expect, for example the assault rifle which now sounds something like a helicopter when you fire it, or the magnum which simply sounds a little unusual. Other than this oddity, the rest of the audio in the game is pretty good. The voice acting is good, and everyone will be pleased just to hear the Chief speak again for sure. There is emotion in there as we will now discover, but the harsh monotone we all know and love still manages to inspire awe even if the pure look of the guy doesn’t for you. Sadly the multiplayer voice over is not quite as epic sounding as it used to be, but it is nothing to frown too much about. The music doesn’t even need any analysis; it is still probably the best game music that has ever been made. You may disagree, but it’s pretty darn awesome and there is no denying that, whether you like orchestral pieces or not.
Halo is a game that many will play simply for its multiplayer, and these people should not be disappointed. The system however is very different from what they will be used to. Some people will probably give it one look and claim that it is a sorry copy of the Call of Duty multiplayer, but this is not essentially the case. It is true that you now customise your own loadouts, and that you can unlock more weaponry and equipment for these as you increase in level, but the customisation still allows you to change the look and emblem of your Spartan too. The game modes are a mixture of new and old too, with classics such as slayer and capture the flag still being present, but new additions such as flood and regicide making a debut appearance. At the core, these are very similar to infection and juggernaut, but with subtle differences. Flood is the same as infection, other than the fact that when you are killed you become a member of the flood, changing you character model so that finally the infected stand out, but also causing you to make annoying noises for the rest of the round. Regicide is a new mode which makes the leading player the “king”, giving them more points for each kill they earn, but the longer they are king the more killing them is worth in points. In a sense it is juggernaut without the wildly overpowered player who eventually just gets on your nerves. As a whole, these new competitive multiplayer modes are fun to play, and more fast paced than those from the older games, which it is probably fair to say is an improvement.
As well as competitive multiplayer, Halo 4 includes the new Spartan Ops game mode which can be played cooperatively or as a single player. This game mode follows your Spartan as a member of the crew of the UNSC Infinity, along a storyline running parallel to that of the Chief’s. Following the release of the game, there is to be a staggered release of missions to keep up a continuing storyline going for players, as well as cinematics released in the same way. Each mission takes around ten or fifteen minutes to complete, and works in a similar manner to missions in the main storyline. If not for its multiplayer, this game mode is likely to be enjoyed by fans for the additional storyline it produces. For the developers of a game to make the effort to keep its content up-to-date for fans is quite commendable in itself.
Halo 4 has a lot to offer to fans of the series, with a brand new storyline to interact with but at the same time maintaining the quality that has been with the adventure since it began. The look of the game is fantastic and no doubt players will be impressed with the level of care that has been put into this. The multiplayer is new, but whether it is improved from the previous games is likely to be a hotly contested issue among fans and review artists. The quality does seem to have been improved to allow more freedom to the players, and a faster paced experience to keep them engaged, but the likely argument will be against its similarity to the Call of Duty games in some of its aspects. The opportunity for cooperative missions will likely prove popular, but in any case the chance to engage in a parallel storyline will certainly grab the attention of bigger fans of the series. All in all, Halo 4 seems to have been a successful rejuvenation of the Halo series by its new parents at 343 Studios, and it will be interesting to see how they continue to keep it alive in the future. Oh, and don’t forget to play the game through on legendary difficulty to see the alternative cinematic after the credits. For fans, it’s really quite a surprising one!
The Good – A fresh new storyline with all the quality of the previous games, beautiful graphics, a revamped multiplayer experience and a continually updated set of missions following a parallel story to the main one to keep fans interested even after they initially complete the game.
The Bad – Some slightly unusual choices for weaponry sound effects, and a multiplayer experience that may no longer appeal to some players, let alone spike controversy amongst them.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.