‘Halo 4’ takes place four years after the events of ‘Halo 3’ and marks the return of the legendary ‘Master Chief’ and his A.I sidekick ‘Cortana’ and a new trilogy to the new developers on the throne ‘343 Industries’. The ‘Master Chief’ and ‘Cortana’ have been lost in spaaaaace since the events of ‘Halo 3’, after waking from a Cryotube, the ‘Chief’ finds himself aboard the wreckage of the ‘UNSC’ frigate ‘Forward Unto Dawn’. But before they have any time to dust themselves down, the shit really begins to hit the fan and the ‘Chief’ and ‘Cortana’ find themselves near an unknown and mysterious ‘Forerunner’ planet known as ‘Requiem’.
It’s not long until the ‘Chief’ and ‘Cortana’ soon realise that there is something not right about this planet and what appeared to be a ghost planet, the pair quickly discover that they are very unwelcome guests on the plant ‘Requiem’. But if that wasn’t enough problems for one day, ‘Cortana’ is coming to the end of her production life cycle and not only does the ‘Chief’ find himself in a battle for survival, fighting to save the galaxy, he’s in a desperate bid to save ‘Cortana’ who is more than just an A.I to him. Will this be even too much for the ‘Chief’ to handle, will he save the galaxy and a dear friend? Well their fate is in your hands fellow Spartan.
The simplest way in which I can describe my initial reaction when I first laid my eyes upon ‘Halo 4’ was WOW! In all fairness this was with the opening CGI cutscene and not the initial in-game footage, but I would struggle to think of a more impressive looking cutscene in any console game, it looked that impressive and life like, I actually thought it was a real person and not CGI!. The opening cutscene features ‘Dr Halsey’, she is a particularly special character to anyone that has read the Halo books and during the cutscene she speaks about the gruesome methods that are put upon training there Spartan warriors.
Below I will share with you the opening cutscene of ‘Halo 4’, just in case you haven’t seen it yet and you can see where I’m coming from in terms of its visual quality, but don’t worry, the footage won’t give too much away, nor will it lessen your ‘Halo 4’ experience, if anything, it should hype you up even more. If you can, watch the video in 1080p to benefit it in its full glory.
As pretty as the cutscene’s look, the most important visuals are of course is in the actual gameplay. It would be an impossibly tough act to ask of any game to have gameplay visuals on the current gen console to the standard of Halo 4’s opening cutscene. But I am pleased to say that the in game graphics are as good as your going to see, I know I’ve said that a few times now over a few of my reviews, but there’s been several games this year that continue to raise the bar and ‘Halo 4’ is without a doubt one of those games.
Much like I found myself doing whilst playing ‘Mass Effect 3’, I stopped on many occasions just to admire the visual splendour. There have been many times when I’ve just stopped what I’m doing and just thought ‘wow’, which then in most cases resulted in my untimely demise and a checkpoint restart. It amazes me how good this game really does look; I truly believe if this was presented as a next generation game, it would stand a very good chance of passing as one. It just amazes me how on earth has ‘343 Industries’ got to make this game look so fricken awesome (I think that’s my cue to watch some behind the scene development footage), the developers have clearly dedicated alot of time and passion in making ‘Halo 4’ what it is and that shines through in the opening minutes of the game.
As I’m sure you’ve already guessed from my previous words, the environments look totally stunning. The textures are superbly well rendered, the settings are very intriguing and they tease you to explore them (even though you can’t, that’s best save for an open world game) and the regular change of setting and pace help keep you switched on and interested. The character animations and weapons have a certain shine to them, you can clearly tell that ‘343 Industries’ have worked from the bottom up and this is by no means a copy and paste job, which would have been the easy option. In fact they could have cloned ‘Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’ and just jazzed it up a bit, but thankfully the developers chose the hard route and without them talking that path, ‘Halo 4’ simply wouldn’t shine with the high amount of quality as it does.
On principle of course Halo 4’s gameplay is that of a simplistic First Person Shooter, but it brings so much more to the table then your bog standard FPS. ‘Halo 4’ is one of those games where it’s practically impossible to have a ‘quick’ go, just me I’ve tried, it encourages you to play just a little more, just five more minutes can easily turn into several hours and that’s just the single player campaign.
Following on from the awesome ‘Halo Reach’, you have various skills and abilities at your disposal. Some of the early abilities that will become available to you is a cloaking device, an ever so important shield, which is particularly useful during heavy gunfire and a personal favourite of mine, the ‘Promethean Vision. This ability works similar to the vision of the ‘Predator’, from the movies that share the same name. Without giving too much away, it comes in handy during an Amazon like level that is plagued by mist, the ‘Promethean view’ will allow you to not only see your enemies through the mist, but also through objects, giving you a strategic advantage. There are of course plenty of other skills and abilities that you can utilise during the campaign and the multiplayer, but I’ll leave them for you to discover yourself.
‘Halo’ simply wouldn’t be ‘Halo’ without its weaponry, while all the old favourites are here such as the ‘Magnum’, ‘Shotgun’, ‘Assault Rifle’, ‘DMR’ and more. But ‘Halo 4’ now introduces a bunch of new weapons, courtesy of the ‘Prometheans’, which are might I add the new ancient and purely bad ass enemies of ‘Halo 4’, but I would rather say less about them and let you discover them yourself. Anywho, let me tell you a little about the ‘Prometheans’ awesome weapons, my personal favourite is the ‘Scattershot’, which is their version of the ‘Shotgun’ and I’m a sucker for a ‘Shotgun’. We also have their version of the ‘DMR’, known as the ‘Lightrifle’ and the ‘Suppressor’ which this ‘Prometheans’ take on the ‘Assault Rifle’.
But then what would be their weapons, without the ‘Prometheans’ that use them? (You can also use them by the way). There are several versions of each of the ‘Prometheans’, the most common that you’ll come across are the ‘Crawlers’, which are similar to K9’s and they always attack in packs and with each variety of ‘Crawler’ they come packed with their own specialised weapons, basically bad ass dogs with guns strapped to their backs! You will also come across an enemy known simply as the ‘Knight’, again there are several versions that you will come across during the campaign. ‘Knights’ are ancient warriors that will encourage more enemies to come along and kick your ass! Almost certainly all of these enemies will come accompanied by a ‘Watcher’, the ‘Watcher’ will protect then enemy with some kind of force field, and my advice would be to destroy these little annoyances as soon as you lay your eyes upon them. If you want to see and read more in details regarding the ‘Prometheans’, then you can do so by clicking here to read a previous article. On a side not, wait until you get a go on the ‘Mantis’, it literally is a blast! Halo 4’s pick up and play method is what makes it so appealing, but then you add the ‘Halo’ universe into the mix and you have one addictive, action packed, deep and immersive game (I think I just summed ‘Halo 4’ up in a sentence there).
I cannot start this section without talking about the awesome and iconic ‘Halo’ soundtrack, if you are already accustom to the franchise, you will quickly feel at home. From the offset the theme music that us ‘Halo’ fans know and love is there to greet us and welcome us with open arms. The ‘Halo’ soundtrack has always played a huge part in the franchise, it’s difficult to think of a game that inspires you to fight the good fight and kick some candy ass then the Halo 4’s soundtrack. It sets the tone for every level, every moment of suspense, horror, joy; almost every emotion is covered with Halo’s signature style. The soundtrack in ‘Halo 4’ plays a huge part in the story telling, arguably like no other game can and a big thumbs up to the composer/producer ‘Neil Davidge’ for this amazing soundtrack. In fact if you wish to purchase the ‘Halo 4’ soundtrack, you can do so by clicking here.
‘343 Industries’ have no made their make for the visuals and gameplay, but they’ve also ramped up the sound effects. I’ve always liked the job that was done previous with the sound effects of Halo’s weapons, but this time round they certainly have alot more umph! I first noticed this improvement when I started spraying bullets with the iconic ‘Assault Rifle’; it was louder, rapid and more awesome than ever before. In particular a favourite of mine has always been the trusty up close and personal ‘Shotgun’; this is a weapon of choice no matter what the game. But the ‘Shotgun’ in ‘Halo 4’ takes the throne for the most bad ass sounding shotgun ever! From the instantly recognisable glock to the raw power that blasts its way out of the barrel.
‘Steve Downes’ of course returns to his role of being the voice of the ‘Master Chief’ and ‘Mackenzie Mason’ as ‘Cortana’. Both of these lead characters are acted as good as, if not better than any previous ‘Halo’ game (I know that’s a bold statement). I know there acting has always been at a high standard, but Halo 4’s story is more personal to both these characters than ever before and their passion for the game shines through like a meteor. Every aspect of Halo 4’s audio, whether it be sound effects, soundtrack or voice acting, it really is the complete package and without all this elements being as strong as what they are, Halo 4’s story simply wouldn’t be as immersive without it. So I tip my hat off to everyone involved in the development in this area, even to the tea boy that inspired every employee of ‘343 Industries’.
Depending on the gamer or the difficulty setting you choose, you’re likely to be looking at a 6-8 hour campaign. Now in other gaming genre’s this may be deemed as a little too short, but for most FPS’s such as ‘Halo 4’, the campaign is of an ideal length. If it’s too short, then for those who are more interested in the campaign, they might feel a little short changed or so it be too lengthy, then it may be considered long winded. But in terms of talking of Halo 4’s campaign, it’s not its length that offers the true value, it’s the whole spectacle. The story is very immersive, you care about co leading characters such as ‘Cortana’ and the feel of the game is that of a Hollywood blockbuster movie (which reminds me, give us a Halo movie dam it!). Once the campaign is done, you do of course have the various difficulty settings to offer you an added challenge, of course the achievements and making a return are the hidden ‘Terminals’. ‘343 Industries’ put alot of effort with the use of the ‘Terminals’ in their ‘Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’ as they offered even more back story to the Halo universe. For ‘Halo 4’, they will also be added even more story to its universe, but instead of showing you an in-game cutscene there and then, you will actually unlock the Terminal video in ‘Halo Waypoint’, meaning you can access the footage whenever you want.
Naturally I now come onto Halo 4’s multiplayer, I know the word ‘Iconic’ gets thrown around alot, but when describing Halo and especially its multiplayer, there couldn’t really be a more fitting word. It’s always added so much more life to your Halo game once the campaign is done and of course when I mention multiplayer, I don’t just mean your typical match types, as I’m very aware that you already know about playing the Halo campaign in co-op with up to four friends. There are plenty of games that offer the option of co-op, but I think it’s fair to say that there’s not many gaming franchises that do it as good as Halo and Halo 4 is certainly not exception.
As with all ‘Halo’ games, well more so with ‘Halo 3’ as this is when they started to bring a host of awesome multiplayer functions such as ‘Forge’ (which as you may not know is named after the lead character ‘Sergeant John Forge’ from the underrated ‘Halo Wars’). Of course ‘Forge’ makes its return in ‘Halo 4’ and for those of you that don’t know, ‘Forge’ was created by fellow gamers to build their very own multiplayer maps and in essence it still is, but you clever gamers have found so many more ways to utilise the tools that are at hand with ‘Forge’. To get an idea of what I mean, head over to ‘Halo Waypoint’ now or perhaps even ‘YouTube’.
One mode that won’t be making its return to ‘Halo 4’ is the awesome ‘Firefight’, which debuted in another much underrated game ‘Halo ODST’. Now I know what you may be thinking ‘boooooooo!’ no ‘Firefight!’ and I’m with you, because as I type this, the realisation sinks in and I miss it loads already. So what has ‘343 Industries’ brought into replace the hugely popular mode I hear you ask? Well they’ve brought in an all new mode to the ‘Halo’ franchise called ‘Spartan Ops’. ‘Spartan Ops’ will be mission based campaigns that encourage you to play with friends (for the record, you can play ‘Spartan Ops on your lonesome) and give you the opportunity to build the “Ultimate Spartan” and it will be set six months after the events of ‘Halo 4’ (so I would strongly recommend to play after you’ve finished Halo 4’s campaign to avoid any spoilers). It will spread over 10 episodes (which can be watched as a cutscene to offer back story to this new mode and its characters) that will include 50 missions in total and will concentrate on two Spartan squads ‘Crimson’ and ‘Majestic’ and it will be released as DLC and best of all it will be free to everyone that purchased ‘Halo 4’. You can read a little more detail of ‘Spartan Ops’ from one of my previous articles by clicking here, in the mean time, please enjoy the ‘Spartan Ops Season One’ trailer below.
Now let’s get on to the more traditional multiplayer match types and of course with ‘Halo 4’ as with any of the ‘Halo’ games, you will have a variety of match types to pick from. You have the ye old favourites such as ‘Capture the Flag’, ‘Kind of the Hill’ and ‘Slayer’ to name a few, but one of the more notable new modes is called….wait for it….’Flood’ (I can already hear the screams agony across the globe). But it’s ok, it’s not as bad as first feared, as the ‘Flood’ will only appear in this particular mode. The ‘Flood’ was previously named as ‘Infection’, but ‘343 Industries’ decided to rename it, probably to send shivers down our spines. ‘Flood’ can be played with up to 10 players in which two players will start as the ‘Flood’ and the 8 remain players most survive and avoid being infected. The players that become infected will resemble ‘Spartan’, but of course will have a ‘Flood’ twist on their appearance and abilities. I’m sure this will be a very popular and infectious, see what I did there? Did ya?!…sorry, I apologise for that pun. It’s also worth mentioning that the theatre mode makes its ever present return, giving you the option to watch replays and take screenshots from your very own saved replays from your online games.
Before you start your very own online story, whether it is in the traditional match types or ‘Spartan Ops’, you will be prompted to customise your very own personal Spartan. There will be various customisations available to you from the offset and many more will be available as your rank up with online XP. You will be able to select your Spartan armour to your own personal choosing, create your own emblem, service tag and Spartan ID. You will also be able to choose your very own loadouts, only one loadout will be selectable from the start, but as you rank up, you will be able to select more loads outs giving you the option to specially customise unique loadouts for each match type if you choose. As you probably already know, having these customisable functions are not all that new to Halo or for online gaming altogether, but it all certainly adds your own personal touch for when your indulging in Halo 4’s many online match types.
I think it’s safe to say that long after you may have finished the Halo 4 campaign over and over again, whether it’s on your lonesome or with friends, there’s more than enough content to easily keep you occupied to the next Halo instalment, just ask those who are still playing ‘Reach’ or even ‘Halo 3’.
Pretty much all of us Halo fans knew that ‘Halo 4’ was going to be a top game, but whatever high expectations that some of us had for ‘343 Industries’. I don’t think many of us could quite be prepared to how amazing ‘Halo 4’ is. Yes I know there’s always going to be FPS haters jumping on the bandwagon and we’re all entitled to our own opinion. But if any of you non FPS fans want to break the mould, and then please as a gamer, I urge you to break your mould with ‘Halo 4’.
Before you even begin to play the game at the opening cutscene, I was blown away with the visuals of the CGI, it’s as life like as you’re ever going to find on the home console. Yes the gameplay is simple, but that’s makes it even more easy to pick up and play and the gameplay encourages you to play just a little more, before you know it, hours have passed and there’s not many games that can tell a story like the Halo universe.
But the thing that quite possibly impresses me more than anything about this game is that it’s on a current gen console, this seriously would pass as a next gen game, and it looks and feels that good. Fellow ‘Halo’ fans will already have purchased this game and they will be taking names in both its campaign and deep multiplayer, but more than anything else I want just a few of the FPS haters to give ‘Halo 4’ a chance, even if you rent it or borrow it from a friend, at least then you can say that you’ve played some gaming history.