The fifth of November was a big day for a lot of people, America was busy voting for a donkey and an elephant while Britain was celebrating a failed terrorist attack in the 1600′s. However for a large group of gamers there was something else taking the headlines.Halo 4 had finally reached its release date and millions upon millions of gamers around the globe were finally able to see if 343 Industries could live up to their expectations, no matter how high or low they might’ve been. Fortunately as a long time Halo fan I was one of those millions of people to purchase the game on its release. This of course enables me to help those more concerned about this latest release to the series with what I hope shall be a helpful general review. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Starting off with a relatively spoiler free examination of the Chief’s return. My initial approach to the campaign, as was no doubt with plenty of others, was one of a casual curiosity and caution, to put it simply I was wary. However this behaviour was misplaced and I soon found that 343 had done their utmost to stay true to the series and keep a compelling and interesting plot line going, even though they had roughly said this on many occasions beforehand. Those who have been with the series since the start will be drawn to finishing what they started whether they like it or not. However the Chief’s persona does seem to have of changed to a degree. From a man of very little words the Chief become rather conversational and often engages with other characters, where in the past Cortana seemed to do this on his behalf. However this could be seen as an attempt to add more emotion and humanity to the two main characters, who are in themselves and by nature, not very human. Besides this the campaign is relatively short and I myself was able to finish it within two/three days, with restraint, however that is Halo tradition. Besides this I have no stream of complaints regarding the Campaign, bravissimo 343.
Moving onto the highly anticipated Halo multiplayer, or more specifically Infinity, War Games. The series has taken a radical turn since Halo: Reach, however the multiplayer remains familiar in many aspects, yet with enough changes to keep even veteran players interested. Gone is the era of Spartan Credits, now replaced with XP and Spartan Points, earned respectively by ranking up, most gamers know the drill. Spartan Points are then spent on weapons and armour abilities in individual load out options, one can almost see the resemblance to the Call of Duty series here, yet as with the rest of it, it’s different enough to be interesting. Game play has a new sense of balance with weapon spawn points being at random, oh how the Campers will cry, as well as several more powerful upgrades and weapons needing to be earned by a method similar to kill streaks, don’t worry, there aren’t any attack helicopters involved, yet. Overall, fans of the previous multiplayer experience should not fear the new changes as the base game play is practically unchanged, and anyone to have of played the previous titles will find a relatively low learning curve being involved, if at all.
Last but not least the game mode which promised the most to players, Spartans Ops. An episodic adventure running somewhat adjacent to the Chiefs, with a new installation being available each coming week. It is a common opinion that this won’t last for long and players will soon find payment is necessary to press on. Regardless of that it works very similarly to Halo: Reach’s campaign mode and Firefight spliced together, or at least that is what I see. Players can take their simulation trained Spartan IV’s to the fight on Requiem in a four player co-op chapter based mission romp, which without close friends just becomes tedious and irritating as everyone suddenly reverts to the lone wolf tactics of a mad man, in short, there isn’t any co-operation involved. Yet from what I have seen so far there is definite promise for this game mode, it is almost a shame to have to wait each week to see the next film quality cut-scene which adds a little more story as well as a better idea as to what you will be doing in the next five chapters.
Generally I think I owe 343 an apology, as they did no where as badly as I said they would, on many occasions. Sure this game has a few minor flaws and problems, but it certainly has left me wanting more, and I eagerly await the next inevitable installments.
Version reviewed: Xbox 360