Review by Goukakyuu91

"Halo 4 - Ascent to Transcendence"

Bungie's Halo has been a fairly enjoyable series of futuristic shooters, but what about the latest installment? Is it still a Halo game, as many people voice their doubts about? In this review, I will explain my views clearly based on what's factually good and bad about the game; the positives and negatives. You won't get a 10/10 or a 3/10 from me, as that kind of grade is born of bias. Want to know the grade? Read on and find out.

STORY (6/10)

Halo 4's plot is a bit confusing and only decent, to put it mildly. Without spoiling too much, I can say that it involves an alien bad guy who wants to exterminate all human life. The problem with the plot is that it's never explained in the game. I found out that you can find the background story in the game, in so-called ‘terminals'. These terminals would seem to be hidden, or at the very least off the beaten path. I think it's preposterous to expect people to know what the story is about beforehand. Sure, some things might have been explained in previous Halo games, but not enough to know what on earth is going on. Who is this ‘Didact' – the antagonist - Cortana and Master Chief keep talking about? And why does he deal in platitudes? I never expected the main antagonist to be such a typical evil mastermind. And if you haven't played Halo before, how do you know who the Forerunners, the Flood and the Covenant are? Should I just shoot now and think later? Well, okay.

Another of the game's problems is that it just doesn't tap into its potential enough. Cortana, Master Chief's A.I. partner, is basically dying after all those years of keeping him company. She seems fairly phlegmatic about it, though. This is an A.I. with emotions, and I'd make full use of them. Cortana's rampancy, the cause of her problems, doesn't have much of an impact in the end. She just does some yelling and turns red, like I did when I found out Devil May Cry was being ‘rebooted'. Oh, and don't forget her reiterating to Chief that ‘'nothing about it is alright'' every time he tries to comfort her. Don't worry, I won't spoil the ending. Although I liked 343 Industries' attempt to make Master Chief seem more human, his monotonous voice and faceless appearance don't lend themselves to an emotional story well. According to the Halo wikia ‘'Spartan-117's personality is explored more thoroughly in the books than in the games for gaming purposes, so that the gamer can incorporate their identity with the Master Chief.'' If that is the case, then why is 343 starting to focus on his personality and identity? To alienate him from us? The only performance that stood out was the one by Mark Rolston, as Captain Andrew Del Rio. Performance notwithstanding, I feel a lot more could've been done with his role in the plot.

Overall, it was basically the same as any Halo campaign; go there, shoot and save the day. It's a bit disappointing when you consider the emotional backdrop.

GAMEPLAY (9/10)

Considering this game is a first person shooter, it's obvious the stress should lie on the gameplay. Let me get one thing out of the way first. Halo 4 takes ideas from Call of Duty. Now, before you go into a fanboy rage, I think this is actually a positive thing. Gone are the days when you had to pick up weapons you find on the battlefield, hoping to play the way you want, but never getting the chance.
Now that you can create custom classes, you can play the way you want to.

Aside from that, new weapons have been added, such as Forerunner weaponry. The battle rifle always seemed a bit overpowered to me, but thankfully, that has been mended. Halo 4 still rewards you for headshots, so if that's your thing, try to get five headshots with a DMR. That should do the trick. All weapons are in fact equal to each other. I don't mean in terms of power, but in terms of types. You've got a Battle Rifle for close to mid-range fights, you've got a DMR for medium to long distances, you've got a Suppressor for close range, and all that. There are still weapons that are more powerful than others, but they seem to spawn at random intervals, so that's a plus. You can bet there's people waiting for you to come around to shotgun you in the face, but you can handle it. By more powerful weapons I mean the SAW, the Rocket Launcher, the Sniper Rifle and so on. One big issue I have with Halo 4 is the Needler. Suffice it to say, you will die if somebody uses it on you. Unless that person aims like one of my carbonated drink intolerant childhood friends does, you won't stand a chance.

You can now run without having to set it as some kind of skill. Furthermore, you can call for Ordnance Drops when you get enough kills. I do think it's odd, though, that the game rewards you for doing well. Why not help some players out when they're losing? It just seems like overkill to me to get a Sniper Rifle when you're already winning. Heck, you could even randomize when you get Ordnance Drops, and which weapons you get.

Despite the customization possible with regard to firearms, I found the customization options for your individual Spartan lackluster. Sure, you can choose exactly how you want to look, but that's it. If you choose a different visor, you won't feel the difference, as it's a purely cosmetic alteration. For instance, there is a visor that was created for use in cold environments. How sad, then, that there are no multiplayer maps geared towards that in the slightest. If a certain armor set looks more lightweight than others, why then, do I not run faster, punch faster or jump more easily?

I'm glad to inform you that the gameplay isn't as choppy as in Halo 3. Whereas in Halo 3 I got the sense that the game responded very slowly to my button press inputs, I don't get that sense at all in Halo 4, unless it happens to lag in multiplayer matches. That only happens if the map is huge and there's a lot of people playing, by the way.

Overall, the gameplay is nearly perfect. While there are some who exploit situations, like lying in wait while invisible, toting an energy sword, that can't be attributed to the game. Lag is too insignificant in multiplayer mode to be much of a problem. You just watch out, alright?

GRAPHICS (9/10)

Believe it or not, Halo 4 looks amazing. I've never seen anything like this on the Xbox 360, and it's no doubt the best it can do. Textures are sharp and Master Chief hasn't looked more real. I got the sense that the game shows environments in a superior way, with more depth. The scope of things is incredible. Huge structures and even a huge vehicle will stun you as you gaze at their magnificence. That said, I do have to make the point that the game's graphics consist mostly of smooth surfaces. Of course, that's not news. It's not like Halo 3 tried to pack as much detail into everything as possible. Everything looks well-designed – even the vehicles. The particle effects are insane. It's just… wow. This is the pinnacle of Xbox 360 games.

Facial animations are still a bit awkward sometimes, mainly the mouths not moving enough to fit what the characters say. Nevertheless, it's still some of the best I've seen on the Xbox 360.

Greenery still looks a bit weird to me, as though Halo games can't process the color green very well. Whenever I get into foliated areas, I get the sense that they're lacking in contrast or lighting. It's just a big green soup. Still, it's not as bad as in Halo 3.

Sometimes, the Tron-like colorful appearance of things can get a bit tiresome, but I have to laud 343 for trying to make Halo look less bland, or purple and pink. I'm referring to the level that I believe was called Midship. Yeah, aliens just love purple. Now to throw in some tentacles and boobs, and… sorry, never mind.

Overall, the graphics are excellent and will remain stunning to you for at least a few hours.

SOUNDTRACK (8/10)

The soundtrack is pretty amazing, even if you don't like it. It's just composed very well and conveys emotion like not many games do nowadays. I do find the music to be very similar to Marty O'Donnell's work, though. I guess that was done intentionally. I can't say I'm surprised, as Halo 4 is still very much like Halo 3. It's a slightly different take on Halo, but it works. I'm just waiting for games to match the awe of certain musical pieces. Halo 4's music seems nicer when you take it out of the context of the game. Yes, it's piano and violin again, among other instruments, but hey, that's Halo.

As I said, voice actor Mark Rolston did a great job. Cortana's Mackenzie Mason did a good job, but nothing that made me prick up my ears. She sometimes even puts stress on the wrong syllables, or just pronounces things in the wrong tone of voice. It draws your attention away from the game. Steve Downes does his job again as Master Chief, but I wonder what role he will play if Master Chief's humanity starts being explored. Will he sound just as monotonous? I wonder if somebody else should be chosen in order to convey emotions better. It goes without saying that replacement would be disappointing.

The gun sounds are amazing, at least, that's what I thought at the beginning. They're clear, sharp, powerful, and every other appropriate adjective. Right now it seems the magic has worn off, but compared to the last Halo, it's leagues ahead.

What else can I say? It's great sometimes, and mediocre other times. I rate it an 8/10.

CONCLUSION

Halo 4 is a very good game. It has managed to reinvigorate the Halo series. It combines top notch gameplay with a nice soundtrack and excellent graphics to create an amazingly valuable game. The only problem lies in the execution of its plot and characters. I can't believe it's not in the top ten here. If you liked the previous Halo games, you will love this. I rate Halo 4 an 8.2/10, which means it's pretty darn boss. Thanks for reading!


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/13

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


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