REVIEW: Halo 4

Developer:  343 Industries
Publisher:  Microsoft
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Platforms: X360
Genre: FPS, Action

Five long years since we last saw Master Chief. Climbing into the cyrotube to take his much needed sleep, “Wake me when you need me,” was the last thing Chief told Cortana as they were marooned in deep space aboard a damaged UNSC frigate. November 6, 2012, Cortana wakes the Spartan, “Wake up, Chief. I NEED YOU!” A new fight begins, a new enemy, a new story and one freaking amazing journey.

After Bungie made Halo REACH, the developer handed off their beloved Halo franchise to 343 Industries. Many fans, myself included, had very low expectations as to how the franchise will be handled. As a die-hard Halo fan, I can breathe easy and reassure everyone that 343 Industries has done something that Bungie couldn’t do. Made Master Chief more human than ever.

The opening cinematic was literally breathtaking as we watch the creator of the SPARTAN program, Dr. Halsey being interrogated by an unknown figure about the program success and failures but the figure was more interested in John, the Master Chief, himself. The voice acting and the motion capturing throughout this game is literally breathtaking and it feels like I’m watching an epic movie rather than a game. The facial expressions are done so well that it could make Team Bondi, the makers of LA Noire, blush and fill with envy. They really sell the story so well and it’s a rare feat that only so few in the gaming industry have ever done.

Graphic wise, it blows past Halo REACH with such ease with the dynamic lighting and soft shadows that do not feel out of place. The contrast brings out the details on the character models so well it feels part of the world. The new promethean weapons intrinsically done that the curves and bevels pop with the orange eerie glow that emits. They actually assemble together as you pick them up off the floor and it’s a blast to watch it every time. Covenant weapons look so much better and cauterizes flesh that leaves a faint glow complete with smoke and sparks. Maps are gorgeous to look at, simply put, I’m in awe of the graphics. Kudos to Kenneth Scott (former id art director of Doom 3) to creating a believable world in a fictitious universe.

The graphics come complete with the sounds that adds a whole new level to Halo 4 and you must have a sound system to go with it. The guns pack more punch, the explosions pack more oomph, the elites’ death rattles are shocking and Chief’s movements are improved. The soundtrack, by Massive Attack’s Neil Davidge is a big change from Martin O’Donnell’s previous work for the Halo franchise but… Davidge does a marvelous job with the music. The score goes so well with the action of the game it feels organic and smooth.

As for the story, we finally begin to see Cortana come to the end of her lifeline as an AI. All UNSC AI have a seven year lifespan and in the final year, they become rampant and they literally think themselves to death, Cortana has been alive for eight. The duo is met by a rogue covenant and a mysterious planet where a powerful enemy lives. The new enemies, the Prometheans, are no pushovers and are a more powerful enemy than the covenant and floods ever cold be. But the story explores deeper into Chief’s and Cortana’s relationship so well, it humanized Master Chief in a whole new way.

Multiplayer has changed a lot from the previous entries to challenge that other game juggernaut for the throne and it is improved so well, you’ll forget Bungie’s previous foray into multiplayer. Loadouts are introduced in which you can change weapon sets that will accommodate either to your play style or to the map type. Gone are the fixed spawn times of weapons that are scattered throughout the maps and brought in are random ordnance drops. My favorite mode, juggernaut (now renamed regicide) gets a makeover as the more the king gets kill, the more points you get for killing the king. You’ll notice that firefight mode is missing but it’s replaced by Flood mode. A team of two starts the game; eight players begins as Spartans and the two starts as the flood. When a flood kills a Spartan, the dying player is respawned as a flood. A simple premise but a disappointing replacement.

With all this glowing review I’ve been giving Halo 4, it doesn’t come without it’s own problems. Namely Spartan Ops introduces nothing new as it’s just mission based slayer modes with cinematic opening each missions. Frankly, I don’t know what’s the story is in Spartan Ops because sadly it’s not subtitled and I’m deaf. Another problem is the option to remove Firefight for Flood mode. It’s a questionable move but it is a worthy replacement just not on the same level. Some questions in the story were left unanswered unless you followed the Halo lore that took place in the books.

Halo 4 is a must play, it simply is. Bungie made fantastic Halo games but 343 actually improved on the franchise so much more. The story is grandiose and well weaved that I can personally vouch that it can set the standard among the gaming industry. 343 Industries had big shoes to fill but it turns out that they needed a bigger size. We asked 343 Industries what if they miss? Their response? “We won’t.”