Review by Galactus21

"A masterful rendition of the Halo series"

Atmospheric, brilliant, intense…words I would use to describe 343 Industries' superb rendition of the Halo series. 343 Industries had a daunting and unenviable task of living up to the legacy that Bungie had crafted with the original Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo Reach. Without much hiccup, 343's first attempt is able to not only duplicate much of the essence that made Halo great, but also breathe a slew of fresh air with its distinct art design and atmosphere. With a fun and action packed single player, filled with strong A.I., intense action, and beautiful art direction, coupled with a stellar and addictive online multiplayer, Halo 4 is easily one of the best games I've played this generation.

Halo 4 follows the ending of Halo 3, where the war with the Covenant is finally over. However, Master Chief's heroics led to him being whisked away into unknown space. As chivalrously told in the beginning scene, Master Chief has become missing in action. Shortly after the initial scene, Master Chief will find him in unfamiliar surroundings facing familiar enemies – the Covenant. Master Chief and players will quickly find out reasons behind their nemesis' presence, as well as the mysterious introduction of new enemies. The story behind Halo 4 quickly grabs gamers with shocking news, and keeps you enthralled in it throughout.
While the story is certainly entertaining, the meat and guts of Halo 4 like previous installments is its intense fire fights, slick controls, and solid A.I. During intense fire fights, the game will throw hoards of enemies at once. As a result, this provides battles at a fanatic pace. To make things more interesting, vehicles are present to enhance the battle experiences, which have come a long way from the original Halo. I recently played the Anniversary edition of Halo and the improvements of vehicle controls have evolved drastically over the last decade.

Halo 4 also has a nicely balanced game play of tactical and gun ablaze style combat. I felt the game allowed one to be aggressive and try to emulate someone like Rambo, but did not go overboard in a sense that opposition would often force one back when one became overly aggressive. Halo 4's weapon selection also helps with these scenarios. There will be times where Master Chief will have certain weapons available to him that require a different strategy. For example, when I used the saw, I attacked much more aggressively than scenarios with a sniper rifle that required more eloquent precision. 343 did a great job at strategically placing weapon availability throughout the game, which kept fire fights interesting.

More importantly, with all that's going on, the controls are superb and allow users to maneuver and target enemies seamlessly. The left and right analog sticks on the Xbox 360 controller work extremely well for this game, as I can look and move fluidly, allowing me to engage enemies without frustration. As I was playing, I was impressed with how I could finish one enemy, move onto another, or move and evade throughout the field with little effort. The controls come through exceptionally during online multiplayer, which is key due to all the action taking place throughout the field of battle.

Halo 4's single player is certainly fantastic, but Halo's multiplayer options are even more impressive and fun. I found myself addicted to Halo 4's online multiplayer. While I certainly enjoyed previous Halo installments and its multiplayer options, Halo 4 felt so fluid, so fun, and just so right. There are several key options to Halo 4's online offerings. There are war games, which features a host of sub-options in itself. For instance, there's big team slayer, which pits two teams of eight against each other, where the first team to reach a certain point total wins. Other options like oddball and capture the flag are also present, which mixes in objectives on top of all the action that is taking place. There is also Spartan Ops, featuring a mission based online option. Admittedly though, I haven't played much of it due to immensely addictive options featured in war games. The main source of the addictive online multiplayer is the various options made available. For instance, maps for infinity slayer are large and well designed for numerous battles – large and small – to breakout. More powerful weapons and vehicles appear enough to provide a variety of methods to engage in combat, but not frequently enough for users to constantly spam said powerful vehicle or weapon.

Online multiplayer not only felt balanced, but the exceptional controls certainly play a part in carving out an amazing experience. During a large battle outbreak, where numerous players converge on one spot, Halo 4 brings an intensity rarely seen in other games. The most important part however, the game's online multiplayer remains fun even when you're not being particularly successful. What I mean by that is often times with other online multiplayer games; the online piece isn't quite as fun when you're often on the short end of the stick in a confrontation with another player. Halo 4 doesn't have that problem. I had just as much fun being the slayed as the slayer. Often, being defeated only provided further motivation to get back on the battlefield and give it another go.

In addition to the superb game play, Halo 4's graphics are gorgeous. From the opening scene to the end credits, gamers are treated to a plethora of stunning visuals. When real game play first came on, I was equally impressed. The background was vibrant and highly detailed. The art direction reinforced the visuals, as I was traversing through the fictional environment, I felt like I was present on an alien world. The influence from former Metroid Prime developers in this incarnation of Halo was quite apparent, which ultimately helped enhance the experience. Character models also looked good. One particular instance that really caught my eye was the Captain of the Infinity speaking. The visuals captured his life like movements so well, I could read his lips. With all the non-stop action that takes place in Halo 4, the frame rate also runs smoothly and holds up quite well throughout the game. Additionally, the soundtrack in Halo 4 was quite nice and is reminiscent of previous Halo games. Voice acting was superb, with the voice actors for Master Chief and Cortana leading the way.

With about 8 hours of single player experience, Halo 4's campaign is a little on the short end, but the fantastic multiplayer component will keep you coming back for more. I've put in over 30 hours already, with no end in sight any time soon. The game's fluid game play, brilliant atmosphere, intense action, slick controls, and addictive multiplayer makes Halo 4 not only one of the best games on the Xbox 360, but on any current generation console. 343 Industries did a phenomenal job at not only capturing the Halo essence, but also bring their own flavor to the series. As a result, this incarnation has that Halo feel, but with a fresh and dynamic environment that helps propel the series to new heights. Halo 4 is one of this generation's bright stars. I would recommend it to anyone with an Xbox 360.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/12

Game Release: Halo 4 (US, 11/06/12)


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