Halo 4 is a great addition to the franchise and a terrific first-person shooter that stands well on its own.
After the end of Halo 3, developer Bungie was done with the series, but Microsoft was left with one pressing question: where do we go from here? After all, Bungie had crafted a well-rounded trilogy of games that felt complete, so in a way, making a direct sequel felt somewhat unnecessary. But we live in a world where another developer picked up the franchise and went on to make Halo 4 and interestingly enough, this fourth entry is a great addition to the franchise and a terrific first-person shooter that stands well on its own.
Halo 3 was all about tying the loose ends of Halo 2’s unsatisfying campaign. Halo 4, on the other hand, explores the relationship between super-soldier Master Chief and his artificial intelligence companion, Cortana, making this an incredibly touching and humane story. Without revealing too much about the single-player campaign, it seems like Cortana’s mental state is declining and the only way to save her is going back to Earth and locating her creator so that she can be repaired. But while Master Chief tries to achieve this, he finds himself in the middle of a war against a new race of intergalactic enemies known as the Promethean, who also happen to have technologically advanced weapons.
Something that caught my eye about the campaign is how varied it is. Even if you spend most of your time shooting, I seldom found myself doing the same things over and over. Of course, it helps that there are so many new inventive weapons to use, the new enemies are tough as nails, there’s a variety of new environments (including lush forests, cavernous caves, rocky deserts and sterile ships.) On top of that, you get to use a variety of vehicles which include everything from the traditional Warthog to a mech suit. Something that adds variety to the campaign is the fact that it can be played on your own, with a friend locally via split screen or via Xbox Live with up to three more friends.
The game also features reusable armor abilities that were first introduced in Halo Reach. The new ones include autosentry that automatically attacks nearby enemies, hardlight shield that activates a protective barrier, Promethean vision that highlights hidden enemies in the form of silhouettes, regeneration shield that regenerates the health of all players and the thruster pack that launches you into the air in a horizontal line. There are some returning abilities, including active camouflage, a jetpack and the hologram, as well. Another feature that returns to Halo 4 is sprinting and for the first time, this is independent to armor abilities.
But for everything new that this campaign brings to the table, there are some issues. New story elements are introduced as you progress through the game and while I do enjoy space operas like Halo, it’s hard to keep track of all the aliens, crazy AIs and technological advancements. Also, while I really enjoyed the fact that the campaign focuses on the relationship between Cortana and Master Chief, there are some aspects to the conflict that are never resolved and therefore, the conclusion feels unsatisfying.
So Halo 4 delivers a strong single-player campaign that feels true to the series and luckily, the same thing can be said about the multiplayer. In the multiplayer mode, which is called Infinity, you assume the role of a customizable soldier Spartan-IV and as you progress and complete challenges, you unlock ranks. Most modes are pretty standard, such as deathmatch, capture the flag, competitive multiplayer (called War Games) and so on. In other words, if you’ve played Halo before or any other multiplayer focused first-person shooter, you already know if this is for you or not. Note that there’s a healthy number of modes and the community is still playing multiplayer, so there’s always somebody to team up with or compete against.
Then there’s the other half of the multiplayer titled Spartan Ops. This is an episodic multiplayer adventure with bite-sized missions where you and a couple of online friends team up. Missions usually involve clearing a map of enemies, destroying a series of generators and so on. Apart from being able to play online with other people, you can play solo, but you still require Xbox Live Gold to do so which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sadly, some of these missions you’ll have to play on your own because not all of them are as populated as you’d hope and it also doesn’t help that they are brief and lack replay value, making this mode disappointing.
Finally, there’s Forge a tool where you can create new Halo levels or edit existing ones. Although this mode was first introduced in Halo 3, there are some new features in the form of magnet that connects Forge pieces together and theater mode where you can watch, create video clips, take screenshots of matches and upload them for the community to see.
Despite being developed by a new studio, Halo 4 is a worthy addition to the series. There are some changes to the formula that veterans might not like at first, but Halo 4 is a technical achievement, the emotional connection between the two protagonists is touching and releatable, the competitive multiplayer is strong and Forge is an accessible mode that a lot of people will enjoy playing. Regardless of which Halo is your favorite one in the series, this fourth entry is worth playing nonetheless.