Excellent, exquisite, enjoyable, outstanding, majestic, amazing and exemplary are all words which describe Halo 4. It’s been a long time coming since we found out Halo 3 was not the end, and to contain the excitement of the fans we’ve had Halo: Reach and ODST to keep us tiding over. But that’s all it ever was, a stop gap to keep us from going insane waiting for Halo 4. Well that wait is well and truly over, and it’s time an ancient evil awakens.
Set four years after the events in Halo 3, the Master Chief returns alongside Cortana, who is ageing fast. As with previous Halo games, it’s up to you, as the Chief, to save the day against all odds using whatever resources are available, which usually consists of ideas created by Cortana. It’s never that simple though as it’s not just the covenant the Chief needs to worry about. There’s a new breed of enemies known as the Prometheans, who are alien like in style and come in all shapes and sizes. This adds another element to the single player, so much so that at some points throughout the game it feels like you’re playing a brand new IP; however there is always a steady stream of covenant enemies to remind you that it is Halo after all.
The campaign is short, although what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in enjoyment. There’s a healthy involvement of tanks, wraths, banshees, warthogs, pelicans and more which is a great deal of fun. That mixed in with plenty of open fighting between the Prometheans and the Covenant, sometimes both at the same time, keeps you gripped to the single player. It can feel like you’re a lone ranger at times, which I suppose is always the case with the Chief, as even though you are regularly in contact with the UNSC Infinity (the human ship) throughout the game, when fighting alongside the UNSC soldiers they die too easily and often just become human bullet sponges. As a result there’s not much point wasting precious ammo for comrades who are likely to die around the corner.
Ammo is a massive thing especially when playing on the beefed up Heroic difficulty settings, never mind Legendary. You’ll regularly be scouring the area for weapons, of which there is plenty to choose from. The Prometheans have their own set of weapons which is extremely futuristic, but basically just different versions of the guns already available e.g. the Chief’s pistol. The Covenant rock the plasma pistol whereas the Prometheans equivalent is the boltshot.
Once you’ve completed the campaign on Legendary (everyone attempts legendary first don’t they?), there’s more, a new mode called Spartan Ops which provides gamers with story driven content on a weekly basis. Spread over ten weeks, five missions each week will be released further prolonging the life of the game. These are great fun and as long as you have an Xbox LIVE connection to receive the content, you can play them at any time. This can be played with friends however, and that’s one of Halo’s strong points.
Halo 2. THE best multiplayer first person shooter of all time some would say. For me it was where my love for Xbox LIVE started and from there where I have made many online friends, some of which I’m still in contact with to this very day. Halo 4 reminds me of those good times. It’s brilliant online. The usual game modes apply like slayer, capture the flag and oddball, with new modes such as regicide, where you have to kill the king for extra points, thrown in. These are great and with behind the scene matchmaking, the system does try to pair you up with gamers of a similar standard. It must be said though, I personally feel it takes a little more skill to be a great Halo player, than it does of that of a Call of Duty player.
Speaking about Call of Duty, it’s to no surprise that a few elements of the successful franchise have swindled there way over to the Chief, and this is a good thing. Running is now no longer a gift, it just comes as standard. There is a perk-like points system where after you reach a certain point’s threshold and custom classes known as ‘loadouts’.
While there may well be signs of Call of Duty, the gameplay is definitely all Halo, something many feared given Bungie no longer have any direct involvement with the game. Bouncing around outside in space or retreating for cover while you’re health bar regenerates, it plays great and any fan of the series will appreciate just what 343 Industries have done.
What’s maybe more impressive is the presentation. It looks superb on a HDTV with colours oozing from the screen due to the pesky Covenant. Explosions of plasma grenades mixed in with the Tron-like Prometheans, it just simply looks stunning. I think I even said ‘wow’ when I first walked onto Requiem, the hollow planet where you spend a lot of your time.
This is THE best Halo game yet, and although the campaign in short, there’s an abundance of content to keep Halo 4 in your disc tray. Spartan Ops is a great unique new way to deliver free content and multiplayer is just sheer class. Since the end of Halo 3 I really have been relying upon Call of Duty to get my FPS fix, however that is no more as 343 Industries have delivered. It plays great, it looks great. It is great!