Review by BigReed
"For the first time in five years, Halo feels fresh. 343 has crafted the best game in the franchise."
343 Industries was given an almost impossible task. Microsoft and Bungie broke off what felt like a lifetime long engagement, and Microsoft kept the legal rights to the Halo franchise. There had been some conflict between the two in the past, mainly with Microsoft wanting the Halo series to be released often and in many different formats. Halo Wars was originally a new IP, but Microsoft was weary on if the game would succeed, so late in the development cycle they had the developers slap a coat of Halo paint on it. Needless to say however, Bungie wanted to move on in the industry and gain some of that creative freedom back. This is seen constantly in the gaming industry with companies who are so ingrained into a game series that they lose the passion to try new things.
Microsoft has passed Halo onto 343, and they were given the assignment to bring back Master Chief for a brand new trilogy of games. Halo: CE was a landmark title. A video game that regardless of what genre you like, you have to acknowledge the impact it has had. The gaming and especially the shooter landscape drastically changed from that point forward, and even to this day, shooters can look back to Halo: CE and see the opportunity it gave them. For the first time in the past five years, I finally feel that the Halo franchise is back on track, and I eagerly await to see where the series is headed. 343 did a hell of a job making Halo 4, and I do not think I will be missing Bungie anytime soon.
Halo, by far, has always been about the gameplay. No other shooter on the market has the physics, sounds, and look down like Halo does. Shooting a weapon in Halo feels like it actually should. Watching the recoil and listening to the sound effects makes it feel like the game is running in real life. No other shooter has ever given me any of these feelings, and at times it is almost comical watching my character fold like paper in other games.
Halo 4 is broken into both single and multiplayer modes. Single player offers the campaign, which has one of the very few stories in the shooting genre worth paying attention to. With Halo 4, 343 has finally had the courage to change things up. Before, Bungie only concentrated on the very core concepts that the original Halo had created. The most out of the box thing they did was change the main character to someone other than Master Chief. Halo had become stale big time, and after pioneering an entire genre, had fallen behind the times. Other online shooters like Call of Duty had once again innovated (CoD 4) the genre and with certain key changes, left Halo in the dust. After ODST and Reach, I honestly felt like I would never play Halo again. I took a chance with Halo 4, and it is not one I will regret.
Multiplayer was probably the core reason to Halo's success. Before online gameplay exploded, gamers grouped up and gathered Televisions, and played Halo all night on the split screen. As you can tell, a lot has changed since then. Halo 4 has finally updated the multiplayer with features that other shooters have long brought into the market. Before, Halo was heavily about knowing weapon spawns. Certain weapons were also grossly stronger than others, and something as simple as obtaining a Battle Rifle could mean a killing spree. Accurate weapons were always much more effective because Halo's multiplayer levels are always very open. Halo 4 allows for players to choose Loadouts, or customized weapon and ability selections. You can build multiple loadouts that can cover different strategies. Finally allowing players to pick what weapons they like or are good at has drastically made Halo more balanced. It is no longer a race to the shotgun, sniper rifle, and other powerful weapons, but more so gives players a choice in how to play their game. Allowing customization like this has not taken away from the Halo feel either. I believe Bungie may have been worried that by allowing player customization, Halo would be like every other shooter. But Halo still feels like Halo, and Halo 4 has the best online multiplayer by far, in the series.
Before I actually purchased Halo 4, I was surprised with a gift that was a 47 inch high definition television. I was floored at how beautiful of a game Halo 4 was, and I had never experienced the high attention to detail in past because of the smaller television I was gaming on. Master Chief in Halo 4 is by far one of the most visually impressive things to view in a video game. Several times I had to really focus my eyes to check if the game was still running on the 360 hardware, and was not one of the CG movies.
For how great Master Chief looks however, there are plenty of other instances that show how old the 360 is in terms of technology. The face graphics in the game are improved from past entries, but mouth movements are still terrible and stiff. All in all however, I was very pleased with the graphics. With new hardware though, one can only imagine how great the series could look.
The Halo series has always had a fantastic soundtrack, and Halo 4 continues that tradition. Halo also has some of the best gun firing sound effects. All of the human weapons have a very realistic sound, and I was very impressed at the detail of all the sound effects.
Halo 4 is loaded with content and game modes, and after gamers finish the single player campaign, there is almost an unlimited amount of gameplay to be had with the online portions of the game. Big Team Slayer is by far my favorite multiplayer game mode in any shooter. The levels are large, there are tons of players, and the vehicles continue to be a blast to drive. Single player keeps the legendary difficulty which lets players challenge themselves with a brutal difficulty. The campaign was roughly 9 to 10 hours for my playthrough, and online multiplayer can go on for as long as your attention span will allow. Halo 4 is one of those games that gives gamers a ton of content for their dollar. Multiple playthroughs and multiplayer will keep Halo 4 active until the eventual sequel hits.
Halo 4 is a game that deserves to be on the shelf of every 360 owner. For the first time in five years, Halo feels fresh again, and online multiplayer has borrowed features that were extremely necessary. 343 also crafted a much more personal storyline than ever before for the franchise. Master Chief finally feels entirely human, and his relationship with Cortana is touching and only somewhat weird considering she is an AI.
After Bungie parted ways with Microsoft, many worried where the Halo franchise would go. After 343's first effort, I no longer worry about the Halo franchise. 343 has created the best multiplayer of any game in the series, and also did an excellent job with the story. Halo 4 may not be the landmark game Halo: CE was, but 4 is definitely the best game in the series.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/16/12, Updated 11/23/12
Game Release: Halo 4 (US, 11/06/12)
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