Game Review: Halo 4

In the latest futuristic FPS in the series, we see the return of the powerhouse (and slightly deranged) spartan Master Chief as he faces an all new terrifying enemy that threatens to destroy humankind. One of the most anticipated games of 2012, there has been a lot of hype surrounding this title… But what has changed since the previous installment to the Halo franchise? We’ll look into the gameplay, the story, how the game looks and all the most notable pros & cons in between.

Halo 4 was developed by 343 Industries after the original developers Bungie, handed down the baton after their final releases, Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach. Set up in 2007 by Microsoft Game Studios, 343 Industries oversaw the science fiction media of the Halo franchise, which included comics, games novels, etc. When Bungie became independent and broke away from Microsoft Game Studios, 343 took over future development of the game.

Halo 4 starts on the UNSC fleet ship “Forward Unto Dawn” where Cortana brings Master Chief from cryostasis to defend the desolate from covenant attack. Master Chief is and the remnants of the covenant are then pulled into a mysterious giant planet, where the Chief uncovers a new and all-the-more deadly enemy that has been laying dormant. The story then escalates further… But I shall leave you guys to find out for yourselves.

The interface for Halo 4 is striking and it makes you feel you’re on a hologram computer in the future: you command everything in the hub and you have the power. It’s slick, clean and visually encouraging to those with an aesthetic eye.From the get-go, you are put inside the Chief’s helmet and it feels more genuine this time, as the edges of his visor meet the corners of your screen. Everything is visually striking and does well to set the scenes for the action to take place. Guns, objects and the environments have undertaken huge overhauls and really sets you in the Halo universe. The various metallic, as well as primal textures describe the “alien” locations really well, reinforcing the sci-fi theme with glows, lasers, spaceships, new creatures, etc. What is most appealing about the aesthetic upgrades, is within the cinematic portions of the video game where the character models are stunning and in high detail, right down to every wrinkle. Faces look realistic and expression is portrayed convincingly.  Timing however with the cinematic events is just a fraction slow and so the mouth movements aren’t exactly in-time with the audio. Fortunately this is a small oversight because there are many things to look at that draw curiosity away from small hitches. truly, 343 Industries have done their best to make improvements and while the obvious improvements generally are quite interesting, some textures are repeated alot… Specifically with structures. I do not say this to insult, as I believe that 343 have made many improvements that leave players satisfied.

Halo 4 continues its medley of epic soundtracks that accompany the stunning sci-fi visuals. It’s calm in the picturesque moments of gameplay but can pick up the tempo when the action/drama escalates. The music is completely complimentary to the experience and doesn’t overload the player with annoying sounds. Each gun has been given a new sound effects to which they “feel” more powerful with each shot and every grenade, button pressed and voiceover intensifies the drama so that the player can achieve the full FPS action genre experience possible. Even a lack of sound and just the character’s footsteps can be just enough to build tension and excitement, so there has been a clever plan on the implementation of audio.

Like previous halo games, the control scheme is relatively the same and for veteran halo players, they will find everything easily accustomed to. For fresh players to the game (or beginners), controls are quite generic to most FPS games available and are quite easy to get a grip of. somewhat “samey” to the previous halo games, it becomes a series of run n’ gun moments with strings of cinematics and tension in-between. Truth be told, you can’t do much in terms of flexibility, but for a semi-hardcore shooter, it has various weapons, vehicles and moves to nullify the repetitiveness that’s generic to all FPS video games. So for various new weapons, there’s ones like the UNSC SAW, or the Covenant Carbine… even a powerful new weapon like the Incineration Cannon. Alongside that, we see a change in spartan suit abilities, with new ones like “Promethean Vision,” which lets you see through walls, “Thruster” which propels you forward and “Hardlight Shield” where your characters creates a person shield. These provide more dynamic to the FPS action, particularly in multiplayer where clever use of the suit abilities determine your skill and the result of the match results.

I’ve mentioned earlier that all the guns have been given a visual upgrade and sound different. Well, alongside overhauls to classic Halo weapons, new ones have been added to the mix, as well as a set of “Forerunner” weaponry that then culminates to 3 contrasting styles of weapons between the UNSC, Covenant and the Forerunners. Not just weapons, but the multiplayer modes have been updated: Taken aboard the UNSC Starship Infinity, you are a new recruit where you can participate in War Games (Player versus Player matches) or partake in episodic cooperative missions called Spartan Ops. The multiplayer interface is new and you’re somewhat taken aback and it’s understandable to get lost… But given the time, you get used to where everything is and find yourself whizzing around like a computer genius. Points replace experience and credits and this acts as your rank-up requirement and a new currency called Spartan Points came in favor to replace credits and are used to buy weapons and upgrades for your spartan loadouts. Keeping to original hype, multiplayer is intense and fast-paced, providing a plethora of Free-For-All and team based modes… Some of which are quite recognisable and classic to the Halo series, such as Big Team Slayer, Oddball and Capture The Flag. If you’re a veteran, or a beginner, you will find vast amounts of playing hours within the multiplayer in comparison to Spartan Ops or the traditional Campaign.

Story-wise, another threat to the human race is uncovered and our local hero, Master Chief and his increasingly psychopathic AI friend Cortana spring into action to save the day. With this part of the saga, the story goes into more depth on the character of Master Chief and what makes him tick, as well as his relations to his colleague and in particular, Cortana. truly, Halo 4 centers more around Master Chief than ever as we pay witness to the inevitable psychological trauma he suffers at the pains of his closest comrades. We cannot see how it affects the protagonist very well as he hides behind his visor, but through the dialogue we understand that things change within the Chief to the point he becomes colder in his approach. Now we add a character like Commander Lasky to the picture who immediately can be recognised as a caring person towards the Master Chief as a friend, whom also garners respect for the man and eventually vice versa as Master Chief starts to understand (through Lasky) the importance of his existence. Quite  amazingly, the script for the plotline is well-written, as expected for any Halo game and everything about it is exciting and fulfilling to the inquisitive mind.

Overall, Halo 4 is an impressive continuation to the Halo Universe in general. Easy to say when your funding a game from the pockets of Microsoft, but 343 themselves have ways to go to improve upon this fantastic universe created with such passion by developers and fans alike. Minor hitches are merely by-product from 343 being relatively new to the Halo Franchise and Halo 4 being their first official video game development. Xbox players should consider this game a must-buy for classic entertainment that has spanned a decade.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s