It has been a Long time since we saw the Master Chief in action on our beloved Xbox 360. Since 2007 Master Chief has been sleeping in his cozy Cryo Tube aboard the Forward Unto Dawn. Since then Call of Duty has taken over the online FPS genre and military shooters are the norm. Other Halo games have been released since then but none of them were true successors to Halo 3. Does Master Chief have what it takes to thaw from Cryo sleep and retake the Crown?
Master Chief and Cortana have been floating in space for a little over 4 years awaiting rescue aboard the Forward Unto Dawn. During this time Cortana has reached and surpassed her normal lifespan. The remains of the DAWN drift toward a Forerunner Planet known as Requiem. The first few moments of the game draw you in with the strong emotional tone from Cortana. Master Chief is thawed just as Cortana says “Wake up Chief, I need you”. These wonderful lines that continue from quotes of earlier games are nothing short of classic. Shortly after arriving a splinter faction of the fragmented Covenant board the UNSC ship to prevent Human contact with the Forerunner world. Master Chief is awoken by Cortana to find they have visitors aboard. Soon Master Chief is killing those Covies just like old times. This brings back memories of exploring the Pillar of Autumn or the MAC space station from Halo 2. Chief eventually finds a way to fend of the Covenant aggressors by manually firing a Missile on a Covenant Cruiser. Some how the Forerunner world of Requiem opens its great doors and the Covenant fleet and Master Chief are sucked inside the Planet. Master Chief shakes off the orbital landing and begins his quest to return to earth.
It becomes apparent that Cortana is suffering from Rampancy, a form of insanity that takes over Artificial Intelligence after 7 Years. Cortana, being the most advanced A.I in the UNSC, was created from a flash cloned brain of Dr. Catherine Halsey the creator of the Spartan Program. This means that Cortana is a smart A.I and has cognitive processes far exceeding traditional A.I. This also makes her Rampancy much worse because she already operates on such a high level of intelligence. She also retains much of the data from Instillation 04 adding that much more strain on her memory. She is literally thinking herself to death. This quest to save Cortana from her fate becomes the true story of Halo 4.
The game takes you along on a wonderful adventure. The kind that you have been missing for quite some time. This game gives brings back the memories that you felt playing the original. There are spectacular set pieces and such a grand sense of scale and wonder. You really get the feeling you had when you first landed on the Halo rings back in 2001. From there a new class of enemy is introduced called the Prometheans. These Forerunner A.I are formerly defenders of the the once great empire led by the last living Forerunner being known as Didact.
A UNSC ship known as the Infinity arrives and crashes on the alien world only to be rescued by Master Chief. Throughout the campaign you embark on a quest to stop the Didact and the Prometheans from executing a plan stopped over 100,000 years ago. Members of the UNSC Infinity accompany the Chief on the part of this quest for a good portion of the game. It is a pleasant surprise to find that the Infinity has also brought along a few companies of Spartan IVs to help your fight against the Covenant and Prometheans.
Before Long you find yourself fighting in Jungles, Canyons, Space stations, and at the heart of the Forerunner Stronghold. One level harkens back to something straight out of Star Wars with a Death Star style trench run. Some of the elements of that mission even remind you of Starfox 64. Each level is vastly different from the next. The pacing of the campaign is darn near flawless. One of the levels gives you the opportunity to fly a Pelican (FINALLY). There are some great battles to behold during the campaign. On higher difficulties like Heroic and Legendary some of them seem impossible but there is the great feeling of success once you see the checkpoint indicator after killing your last foe. It is highly suggested you play the game in COOP. Yes its back and you can bring up to 3 other trusty Spartans with you. A fire team of Spartans will open up lots of options in a Legendary run. Most of the maps give you several ways to engage the enemy or several weapons and vehicles to engage them with. Playing in COOP is such a treat that cannot be missed.
Fans of the lore, books, comics, and other Halo media will be pleased. Halo 4 takes a deep slice of the lore and presents us with a masterpiece. Even words like “Combat Skin” are a reference to the type of body armor used by the Forerunners. In the novel Halo: The Flood , 343 Guilty Spark mentions that the MK 5 armor worn by Chief is only a level 2 combat skin. Spark recommended he upgrade to level 12 armor used by Forerunner Soldiers. Such small details really help paint the deep universe at play here. Pay attention and other Forerunner terminology can be found throughout the game. Be sure to find those Terminals too! Later on in the Halo Waypoint section we will go in depth on how finding these terminals get you more back story for your gameplay time.
Overall the Campaign is probably the strongest not just because of the pacing, the dynamic environments or epic battles, it’s the story. Even though Master Chief is once again saving Humanity for the 4th time. His hardest fight is to save Cortana. Of all the battles and every firefight Chief has won this one is almost out of his hands. For years Chief has relied on Cortana to get him through the toughest almost no win senarios. The reversal in roles is makes for an engaging narrative and character development. The all knowing Cortana is at times flustered, confused, and right out insane. Master Chief finds himself keeping Cortana assured and aware of whats going on. The two have always been very loyal to each other. Despite odds the two have gone to great lengths to keep their promises including when Master Chief traveled across the galaxy just to retrieve Cortana from the Flood. Of all the video game characters of the last decade or so the connection between the two is nothing short of Iconic. The image of Chief holding a small Hologram of Cortana is iconic in the gaming world. The bond is simple yet so powerful. The story is the ultimate test of that bond and goes great lengths to show just how much they depend on each other. Will Chief be able to save Cortana from her impending doom? Beat the campaign and find out, heck play it on Legendary while your at it with a few Spartans at your side.
The UNSC Infinity is a capital ship in the UNSC fleet. Its home to the Spartan IVs and a vessel tasked with exploring forerunner worlds. The ship is far advanced than its predecessors and comes equipped with shields, a holo deck, and enough guns to make a once powerful Covenant warship flee in terror. This is the hub where Wargames, (Red vs Blue), takes place as well as Spartan Ops. From here you also have access to Forge mode the map modification tool and Theater mode. With so much to do you would wish the Navy had a vessel this decked out these days for all you sailors out there.
Welcome to the fight Spartan!
For years we have fought as Red and Blue Spartans. Infinity finally provides and explanation to why that is. It is simply a simulation program where the Spartans practice force on force operations. Much like how the U.S Army and Marine Corps train today. From War games you can create your own custom matches for you and your battle buddies or join together on the online frag fest on Xbox Live.
Halo 4 comes out of the box with a slew of ways to fight online. There are currently 10 game modes including the recently added SWAT mode. So far every game mode plays very well. Some obviously require more team work or coordination to win. Getting your buddies together is essential to win many of the gametypes. 343 will be adding more popular gametypes to the ever growing playlist in the weeks ahead.
Classic Maps are always a staple of Halo. Great examples like Blood Gulch mean that 343 has a lot to live up to here. The game ships with 10 playable maps on the disk. Right now among the crew Exile is a favorite for the bigger game types like Dominion or Big Team Slayer. Haven is my favorite for the close quarters types of games like King of the Hill or Regicide. Every map brings a different type of fight to the table. On larger maps the DMR is a must to have. Smaller maps will call for the Battle Rifle or even the Assault rifle. Over all the map choice is solid with more on the way.
Maps on release:
Map Packs: There are currently 3 map packs announced the first of which is released in December
Spartan Ops delivers a weekly Episodic side story for you and your buddies to play cooperatively. Each week five chapters of the weekly episode are released for operations. This game mode is a mix of objective play along with some DNA of Firefight. A mix of destroying objects and fending of waves of baddies creates a fun mix on each mission. Plenty of weapons and vehicles are at your disposal. Your loadouts created can be utilized here as well so be sure to test them out here.
Each mission can be completed rather quickly but to make things interesting grab some Spartans and bump this bad boy up to Legendary. Each Episode has 5 chapters. At the time of this review 2 episodes are playable with a third a few days away. With 10 weeks of content and more to follow Spartan Ops is a great addition to the game. Its too bad more games don’t deliver free Episodic content like Halo 4.
Loadouts, Kits, guns and gear. Every FPS game these days allows you to customize what you bring to the battlefield. This time around Halo incorporates that feature to amazing degree without taking away from Halo’s core game mechanics. This balance is important as many feared this would turn Halo into Call of Duty. This keeps the multiplayer fresh and rewarding as you unlock new abilities and packages for your Spartan 4.
Right now a personal favorite of mine uses the Battle Rifle, Magnum, Pulse grenade (for dropping shields) Promethean vision, Mobility for added sprint, and Jet Pack to get the height advantage and navigate maps quicker.
One of the best things since Halo 3 has been the ability to customize your Spartan. There are plenty of variants and the variations are literally endless. Each piece has a manufacture and lore behind it. That extra depth gives every piece that much more meaning to the lore. Hell you can look it up on Halo Wiki on what country manufactures the helmet you just donned. Along with the Specializations you can unlock once you reach max level its just ridiculous. You can also customize the Emblems as well to give that special touch to your Spartan.
Introduced in Halo 3 Forge mode is the best in class console map editor known as Forge. Days after the games release the legion of fans have already built hundreds of maps with custom gametypes. Soon the fanbase maps will be available via the fileshare in Halo 4. This brings infinite possibilities to the multiplayer. Its also been a funny way to create Halo art. With so much to do here you can literally play with the revamped editor for days or weeks. Only time will tell how many awesome creations the community will create.
Introduced in Halo 3 and emulated by games like Call of Duty the Theater mode returns. The controls remain the same so it’s very easy to jump in for those who have used it in the past. The file share system makes it so easy to save your gameplay. Nothing beats watching this no scope Headshot over and over again. Watch it from any angle, from any perspective, with or without the Hud. For those who make videos this is always a huge plus. If only they allowed one to stream or directly link to a users Youtube account this would be a perfect mode.
Halo Combat Evolved created a mantle for Xbox titles. It established the console as a technical powerhouse. Since then the Xbox has been powerful but not quite on par with current generation PCs or even the PS3. Halo 4 is a visual treat from start to finish. From the first scene on the Dawn the lighting really stands out. Facial animations and motion capture some of the most realistic human expressions seen in a game.
Halo 4 is arguably the best looking game on Xbox. It has been way to long for anyone to say that about Halo. It is so far ahead of Halo Reach it makes 343 look like magicians. Every environment is extremely detailed. Every screen, bolt, vehicle, or set piece is a serving of awesome. This game reminds me of what a triple A title should look like.
There are huge battles throughout the game. Its amazing that along with the stunning visuals that so many enemies and vehicles can be in the fight as well. only very few times was there any fps drop . This is arguably the most polished FPS title this year with practically no visual glitches. Every level and map is a sight to behold. Playing Halo 4 simply is such a visual treat I could play the game and get lost in the visuals..
If you thought the Graphics were good then you will be just as surprised that all the sounds have been redone. The first time you fire the assault rifle you will be very surprised to hear how beefy and badass it sounds. 343 Has gone back to the drawing board and given every weapon and every enemy the audio love it deserves. Not a single weapon was left untouched. Human weapons had audio captured from a U.S Army firing range. Sounds for the Covenant and Promethean weapons sound surreal and brings a new sense of alien to them.
voice acting is truly superb in this game. Jen Taylor and Steve Downes provide the very best acting in the entire franchise. This was the first Halo title that they both had actually recorded their lines together. They are able to play of eachothers voices and emotions so well that it makes the experience very deep. Never before has the performance in Halo been more human and strong.
The soundtrack in this game is amazing. Even though the classic theme is not here there is definitely Halo DNA in the soundtrack. This really makes the game sound like the beginning of a new era. Every track is nothing short of amazing. Hell myself and some of my battle buddies got the entire track to listen to. Its great to know that Halos trademark soundtracks continue to be that good. 117 and Arrival are my two favorite tracks on in the Official Sound Track so far.
Halo 4 feels like a true successor to Halo CE while still innovating. Controls in Halo have never been this tight. There are a few new control sets as well that are custom to Call of Duty players called Fish sticks. The gameplay is the most polished of all the Halo titles. Everything is on point from how it feels to how it works. Even after years its great to be able to pick up Halo and have it feel just like the way Halo should be.
The A.I will kick your ass. If you thought the enemy was tough in past games prepare to get handed. When played on Legendary or Heroic the A.I really kicks into high gear. Unlike other games where the enemy is just more accurate. This game makes them more lethal, higher health, smarter, and in greater numbers. The covenant has similar tactics as before. Watch out for those beam rifles, grunts with fuel rod cannons, and elites with fuel rod cannons. They will destroy you in tight spaces.
The new enemy the Prometheans has a Pyramid style class set up. The Crawlers will swarm you and apply pressure on your advance. Keep a headshot weapon to deal with Crawlers quickly. They can attack from high walls or from behind. Watchers are the biggest pain because they support, heal, revive, and shield every enemy in the game. Hell they even throw that perfect grenade right back at you. The Knights make the elites look like push overs. They are more lethal up close, stronger shields, teleport, and spawn watchers. These guys are a “Knightmare”. On later levels its very hard to drop their shields and up close one melee will spell your doom. The Incinerator will end your life more ways than you can imagine from any range. Binary rifles are an instant kill no matter where you are shot. This all together makes the last level in the game VERY challenging.
One of Halos trademarks has been Vehicles. The classic Warthog is back and has a futuristic more modern look to it. Even the small details of the gas cans on the back is a nice touch. Reminds me of fueling the trucks with JP8. Scorpion tanks return and pack just as much punch as ever. You can even fly a Pelican drop ship during the campaign. As mentioned earlier the new Broadsword fighter section gives you a Star Wars style trench run to fly through. With all these flying craft its only a matter of time before Halo has Multiplayer Space Combat.
The Mantis is the newest ground vehicle to the fray. It packs a heavy machine gun, rocket pods, and a powerful ground stop to deal with close encounters. It is the only vehicle in the UNSC ground arsenal that has Shields. It also has the longest down time when struck with a plasma pistol. Without the proper tools to take on this beast you will find yourself fleeing in terror in multiplayer like an Ewok in Return of the Jedi.
Guns, Grenades, Melee is the tried and true core of Halo Combat. The way each of these can change a battle always makes Halo a deep combat experience. Every gun plays very well and services a specific role. The DMR is definitely the Pistol of Halo 4 for my Halo CE veterans. It might be considered over powered but there are situations where the DMR will be at a disadvantage. The Battle Rifle handles most medium and close engagements with ease and is a staple for Halo 2 and 3 Players. The Assault Rifle is more useful than its ever been. Halo has taken a page out of the real world by adding the SAW. The SAW is a powerful mid to close range weapon that literally shreds anything in its way. It literally feels like having two assault rifles in one gun. The sticky gun is challenging and rewarding to use. One fired sticky grenade will make dispatching any foe in campaign or multiplayer extra gratifying. Halo 4 has the fewest grenade types but each serves a purpose and will swing a fight in your favor.
Melee combat is as fun and up close as it has always been. No other shooter captures quick precise butt stock to face combat better than halo. The pistol delivers the quickest melee attack in the game and keeps it a viable close range back up. Hands down Halo has the most balanced weapons in the entire FPS genre hands down.
Halo was one of the first franchises to offer Online stats and gameplay info post game. 343 continues that legacy by adding Halo 4 stat functions to Halo Waypoint. Being its own separate free app on Xbox Live it provides a great way to check out what your buddies are up to and the latest news straight from 343. Make sure to find those TERMINALS. You will be rewarded with a special treat when you log into Waypoint. If you haven’t seen the tie in series Forward Unto Dawn be sure to check it out on Waypoint or Youtube. This gives some extra back story to some of the Characters in Halo 4.
Campaign, Coop, Spartan Ops, Wargames, and Forge mode help create the most SOLID gameplay experience on XBOX 360 to date. It has been a long time for a game to give you so much and continues to give you that much more. I have already lost days playing this game bringing the LAN parties back together. Each mode has years of gameplay to keep you occupied before Halo 5 is released.
So does Halo 4 have what it takes to take on the Crown once more? Not only Yes. But HELL YES! In such a crowded space of shooters the Classic that made console shooters what it was has returned with vengeance. Halo 4 gets it right in every category. From Graphics to Gameplay. From Playlists to Plot. Halo 4 has attained the mantle. Halo 4 was so good that both myself and Checkmate11b have a hard time finding flaws. This game was so polished that it’s as if they went over it with a magnifying glass, a fine tooth comb, and every QA tester alive. Sure It might not sell as many copies as Black Ops 2. But we are very confident this game will begin to retake the throne on Xbox Live. Definite contender for Game of the Year. This game brings back the nostalgia and the epic story we know and love, Characters that are timeless and iconic, and gameplay that takes such a high degree of skill. Being a longtime Halo fan. The game that made me a gamer returns. Huge props to 343 for getting it done and exceeding the standard and expectations. Welcome back Master Chief, welcome back to the fight.
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