- Game: Halo 4
- Release Date: November 6, 2012
- Publisher(s): Microsoft Studios
- Developer(s): 343 Industries
- Genre(s): First-Person Shooter
- Platforms(s): Xbox 360
Halo 4 takes place in the year 2557, four years after the events of Halo 3. The series’ iconic protagonist, Master Chief, is back in action as the playable main character. Master Chief is considered missing in action by the UNSC after the finale of Halo 3 in which he was left drifting in space aboard the Forward Unto Dawn. After being in cryosleep for four years, Master Chief is awakened by his AI partner Cortana. Cortana has found a strange disturbance aboard the ship, and deems it necessary to wake up Chief. As Chief ventures through the ship to investigate the disturbance he discovers that the Covenant, who were previously at peace with the UNSC, are attacking the Forward Unto Dawn. Upon further investigation, Cortana and Chief also discover they are orbiting a strange Forerunner planet. The Forward Unto Dawn is being destroyed and our protagonists are faced with a greater threat as their ship is pulled down with the Covenant towards the Forerunner planet. As the story unfolds, Chief and Cortana find themselves stranded on the Forerunner planet named ‘Requiem’ only to uncover a sinister unknown enemy bent on destroying the human race. Help arrives in the form of the UNSC ship Infinity, but the help is short lived. Chief and Cortana race against time and odds to fight back as they risk everything to rise against their enemy.
As a first-person shooter Halo 4’s gameplay is straight forward, but it becomes much more in depth that the average shooter. Much like past Halo games, weapons like the assault rifle are back in action. The fan-favorite battle rifle is also back in Halo 4, but a large variety of new weapons are also available. Throughout the campaign players will have access to UNSC weapons (assault rifle, battle rifle, DMR, shotgun, etc.), Covenant weapons (storm rifle, Covenant carbine, needler, beam rifle, etc.), and Promethean weapons (suppressor, scattershot, light rifle, boltshot, etc.). The Promethean weapons are the newest addiction to the Halo weapon family and feature both new and revised styles of shooting. For example, the Promethean scattershot is much like the UNSC shotgun, but it’s also very different in the way it’s fired and used. Armor abilities are back with new and classic abilities. Abilities such as the hologram and jetpack are back, but there are also a few new abilities. In the campaign the abilities are found around randomly and when needed. Players will have to switch them out for certain objectives, but they are also available to be switched based on preference throughout the game. As was the case with previous Halo games, players will play through the campaign by getting an objective, fighting through enemies to get to said objective, and then move on to the next objective. What separates Halo 4 from previous games is that it offers a more immersive gameplay, mainly based on the games new environments, characters, and plot. Players have more to explore and different routes to take, Halo has never been linear and Halo 4 is no different. The campaign can be played cooperatively with a partner, either split-screen or online through Xbox Live. There are four difficulties in which the game may be played: Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. There is a minor piece of the final cutscene after the credits that can only be seen when the game is completed on Legendary, but the piece is extremely minor, players who play on lower difficulties will get the main part of the cutscene. As is the case with most Halo games, Skulls can be turned on in the campaign, making the game more difficult than the difficulty choices offer. A couple of the Skulls are availble for fun such as the Grunt Birthday Party which causes an explosion of confetti if a Grunt is killed with a headshot. Other Skulls such as Famine, making it harder to find ammo, offer up a challenge to players who are looking for a more difficult experience. These are of course option and don’t effect the game’s story or outcome.
Halo 4 offers stunning visual with both graphics and scenery. The graphical content of the game is unbelievable well done, cutscenes in the game are so visually clear that they almost look real. The in-game graphics are also done very well, leading to the scenery being nothing short of brilliant. Being in new environments and new places, the whole feeling of the game is different that it’s predecessors. Environments throughout Requiem are visually enticing and the game’s graphics make them whole, not a single piece of the players surroundings look out of place or wrong. New environments make for fresh gameplay as well. Past Halo games have all looked similar to one another, taking place in the same areas as other games and most places looking much like Earth and not too terribly outstanding. Halo 4 is the beginning of change in that vein, since everything looks completely new and different. I cannot stress the importance of the amazing graphical content enough when it comes to Halo 4 and it’s intriguing setting and new destinations. The music in Halo 4 is also fresh, taking a step away from classic Halo music yet being in the same vein, making the change subtle and beautiful. Alongside the games stunning graphics, the music is a friendly reminder of how beautiful Halo 4 truly is. The orchestrated tones and vocals make for a new gaming experience that is nothing short of classic Halo, while also being completely new. Setting the tone for the games objectives, emotions, and action sequences, the music is simply delightful. Voice acting is always important to a Halo game, Master Chief as well as other main characters are so deeply established that too many changes could destroy the image. Master Chief does talk more in Halo 4 than he has in most other games, making his character more relateable and insightful as opposed to what seems like a robot who follows orders. Steve Downes does an amazing job at bringing Chief to life. Cortana goes through interesting and emotional transformations in Halo 4, and the voice acting done by Jen Taylor brilliantly captures the emotion, making Cortana more than an AI. There are plenty of new characters to spice up the story and all of these characters play a different role to Chief and Cortana.
Infinity is the new hub for all of Halo 4’s multiplayer content.
War Games is the basic multiplayer, in this section players will find all of their favorite game modes such as:
- Big Team Slayer
- Capture the Flag
- King of the Hill
- Team Slayer Pro
More modes are said to be available at later dates. Modes like Griffball can only be played in the Custom Games mode at this time.
Spartan Ops is the new cooperative multiplayer mode featured in Halo 4. Played in episodic campaigns, players can partner up with their friends either split-screen or through Xbox Live, or simply play them alone. The story is completely separate from the game’s campaign and spotlights a different team of Spartans. Each episode comes with a video and new episodes are released often by 343 Industries, making for a fresh experience each time rather than having to play the same episodes over and over again. Achievements can be earned as well as XP.
There are a few new features to the multiplayer side of Halo 4, one of them being the XP and way players level up. XP is gained through playing online in War Games or Spartan Ops (it can be earned in custom games, but the amount is significantly less) and is used to level up and unlock new customization features. Features such as the players loadouts, their armor, and Spartan ID are all affected through XP. Loadouts are a new feature to the Halo series. Players can now put together up to five custom loadouts which they can choose and change at will while playing through any Infinity game mode. The loadouts consist of:
- Primary weapon
- Secondary weapon
- Armor Ability
- Tactical Package
- Support Upgrade
The tactical package and support upgrade are interesting additions to the Halo 4, allowing players to customize each loadout to a specific play style. Each piece of a players loadouts must be purchased with spartan points, which are earned through leveling up. The mutiplayer now offers Ordinances which are gained through getting kills and accomplishing spectacular feats. The Ordinances offer the player three choices, one being a grenade type and the other two either being weapons like an Energy Sword or Shotgun, armor upgrades like an Overshield or Speed Boost, or both. The player chooses and the Ordinance is dropped, ready for use by the player who ordered it. New and old armor is available for customizing a players Spartan, or the character they will play as in the Infinity modes. There is a plethora of new armor, but players will also find some revised classics in the list. Armor is unlocked by leveling up, but specific armor sets can only be unlocked through completing commendations. Commendations can be progressed though in various ways. There are commendations for weapons, enemies, vehicles, player, and game types. An example of a player commendation is the Assassin commendation, which players can progress though by assassinating other players in War Games. There are commendations for War Games, Spartan Ops, and Campaign and all are earned separately. Another new feature to Halo 4’s multiplayer is the addition of specializations. As players rank up, they can chose a specialization that will assist them in their gameplay style. Plenty of other subtle nuances have been added and tweaked in Halo 4’s Infinity game modes, the multiplayer now offers a more complete feeling rather than the same mulitplayer that has spanned throughout the past games.
This game really wowed me. I have to say that I always had faith in 343 Industries when it came to them taking over the Halo universe and I’m pleased to see that my faith was well placed. I think that as far as Halo games go, this was the best I have ever played. I was shocked when I started the campaign and thought that I was watching a movie, only to realize it was an animated cutscene. I tried to hard to come up with reasons not to give this game a 10/10, but there was nothing there to change the score. It was as good as it could be and set up the future of 343’s Halo franchise. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next, and I would highly recommend this game to anyone and everyone who likes video games. It’s a must play for this generation and definitely a top contender for Game of the Year.