Review: Halo 4

Halo 4 is the new instalment from Microsoft and 343 Industries which for those who don’t know means Halo is no longer in the hands of its creator, Bungie. So there is a lot of pressure for 343 Industries to get this game right, and they have definitely done the franchise justice with the release of Halo 4.  I have been a massive Halo fan since the first title, and it was one of the main reasons why I got myself my very first Xbox way back when, and such began my love affair with Halo. I think what keeps this franchise going is the way it keeps on re-inventing itself every time., from the game titles, to the books that expand the universe in which we play, to releasing mini webisodes to bring even more life to such an already vibrant place to play.

The storyline in Halo 4 is one of ups and downs but it kicks off where Halo 3 left you, all tucked up in a cryo-tube, while your faithful friend Cortana has been keeping watch over the Chief and trying to find help, when something suddenly happens and the Chief finds himself being woke up once again to fight for Earth. As story-lines go, this is a great opening. It really sets the scene for what will take place in the game and my God does the storyline twist and turn. One of the biggest things for me is we find out some more back history on the Chief and Cortana, and we also get to see the relationship grow even more between those two as well. While all this is all happening, you have the other huge story-lines playing themselves out which make for one hell of a game. I’m obviously trying not to say too much as I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not yet played it, but the pace of the story is very well put together; you don’t feel rushed and the information passed over to you as a player is pretty much spot on.

Gameplay is what you would expect from Halo, they have not really messed much in that department and everything is where it should be.  I think keeping it simple from a game play point of view really helps you focus on what is important in this Halo game: the story. Don’t get me wrong, the game play is still there you just don’t have to think about it. One of the biggest things in Halo however is the multiplayer and they have not let you down. If you’re like me you will want to install your games onto your Xbox 360 to make it faster, so after I’d installed Halo 4 and finished the main campaign I moved onto the multiplayer which is on the second disk. This will install 8Gb of multiplayer game onto your console. It seems a lot, but you get the works, you are basically getting another game: Spartan Ops: Halo 4’s Cooperative Mode.  This is where you get a lot of time with the game and the universe.  You will be playing as part of Crimson Squad, and this mode replaces firefight which, for me anyway, is not a bad idea. It means when you buy Halo 4, you get this second game which fills in even more history for you.  You also have your standard game types as well that you get with Halo, so from the multiplayer side of it you get a huge amount of game for your cash.

Graphically Halo 4 is a behemoth of a game, it is by far the best looking Halo game to date, maybe even the best looking game for the Xbox at the minute. So much has been done to this already great looking engine.  The Chief is better than ever, and for an ageing console like the 360 to keep on kicking out games and graphics of this calibre is just simply amazing. The weapons really look like they fit now – previously some of the Halo weapons looked and felt plastic, but not any more.  The new textures work to really nail them in the game. The environment is hugely improved, with the mountain vistas that you will see looking truly epic, it’s the only word to use. The use of light is also used very well to give you maximum effect in corridors and other small spaces to give you that enclosed feeling. The cinematics are amazing too, and that’s just the in-game engine ones!  The fully 3D rendered ones are totally breath-taking and it makes you want them to produce a film, as it would look outstanding.  On a side note Cortana in Halo 4 is the best looking version to date; she really is brought to life in this game.

Music For Halo 4 is another thing 343 Industries had to get right and they did.  The music used all the way through the game is outstanding and really lives up to the well known tracks from Halo. A lot of other nice things have been added as well with the sound effects – weapons sound real, and there is a nice metallic ring to them when fired.  The voice acting is also outstanding and easily of Hollywood standard.  The voice actor for the Master Chief, Steve Downes, does another fantastic performance as does Jen Taylor who voices Cortana, giving an outstanding performance in the game.

I know I have gone on and on about how good this game is, but there are a few downsides.  One of my biggest problems is the length of the main campaign: I did it in under 5 hours which is far quicker than I wanted to do it, especially after waiting so long for the game. Yes I know there is another disk with what is essentially another game, but I just felt a little cheated that it was not longer. The last little rough edge I have is the alien race you meet in the game.  They basically have the same weapons we have, such as their shotgun.  It looks and behaves like a shotgun, the assault rifle looks and behaves like an assault rifle and so on.  I know these are only small picky things, but it would have been nice to have a completely different style of weapon for an alien race, just so that when you are holding an alien shot gun it doesn’t resemble the human race’s equivalent.

Overall though Halo 4 is outstanding. 343 Industries have really done an excellent job in rebooting the Halo franchise with Halo 4.  It really captures all the things that makes Halo what it is; a fun to play game with a deep and rich storyline and universe.  This is an absolute must buy for any Halo fan, and even if you are not, it could be a good time to get into the Halo series –  this is definitely not a bad game to start you off.

Reviewed on Xbox 360

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