Master Chief returned to stores on November 6th, 2012, this time courtesy of newcomer 343 Industries. 343 Industries brings Halo 4 to the Xbox 360 for the first installment of The Reclaimer Trilogy. So, does 343 Industries let their inexperience show or will the company prove that they are the new force to be reckoned with?
The game takes place in the year 2557. Cortana wakes Master Chief after a mysterious disturbance. MC gets shipwrecked on a mysterious world known as Requiem, and fights off an ancient evil unlike anything he’s ever seen before. The new world brings new enemies to the game, called the Prometheans, as well as new alien weaponry. Upon waking Master Chief, Cortana tells him that she is becoming “rampant.” In the series, this happens after AIs reach seven years of age and is the equivalent of death to humans.
For starters, and most significantly, Halo 4 brings a breadth of incredible artwork and visuals. Most notable is the detailed and unique environments that bring the Requiem planet to life. Art designers created a great mixture between neon lighting, futuristic displays such as holograms, and organic life. The fusion of these elements create a genuinely unique gaming environment. Also, the futuristic alien guns look awesome. When you pick up the alien weapons, they assemble in mid-air; it is a creative minor aspect in the game.
While in-game cut scenes continue to struggle with character expressions, as the majority of video games do, the CG sequences throughout the game are beautifully crafted and are marvelously realistic.
The soundtrack for the video game is phenomenal. Neil Davidge (also responsible for soundtracks for Blade II, Moulin Rouge, and Push) creates his own compositions for the Halo universe. The soundtrack feels cosmic and airy, and really help bring Halo to a new thematic level. Voice acting is the best that I’ve ever heard in a video game. Steve Downes returns to voice Master Chief, while Jen Taylor returns to voice the lovely Cortana. Both Downes and Taylor shine with their vocal performances.
The campaign is everything a solo campaign adventure should be. There is a heavy emphasis on exploration of a new planet and new environments. The unraveling of the unknown and true feel that you are on an alien planet makes it hard to put the controller down during this campaign. While this ten or ten and a half hour campaign is not the main attraction for players, 343 still put their time in and created a Halo experience worthy of playing.
I am usually the first one to recommend playing games cooperatively as much as possible, but I suggest you take on the campaign on your own. One of my only gripes with the Halo series is that the co-op campaign just doesn’t feel right. Clearly, Master Chief is not meant to be aided in this campaign either. This is a little disappointing; it is about time that Master Chief gained a sidekick, isn’t it? With that being said, the campaign is a decent challenge, even on normal difficulty. 343 gave the game a great balance between making the game enough of a challenge without making it too difficult to progress through the story. No new tricks here, however; the game takes the same pace as past Halo games.
Multiplayer continues to be the series’ must-have experience. Xbox gamers have been addicted to the Halo multiplayer gameplay since the release of the very first Halo on the Xbox. 343 continues with the multiplayer experience that gamers come to expect. The classic Halo favorites team gameplay is fast paced and exciting. 343 has also improved upon the leveling system by giving users more of an incentive to level up. Taking notes from their main competition, the Call Of Duty franchise, players get new unlocks as they level, including gun types, load-outs and armor types.
There are also a plethora of customization options, including creating your own load-outs, armor colors and type of armor. However, during team slayer, players play as the blue team or red team and, therefore, your color customization does not matter (oh c’mon, man…I wanted to show my Miami Dolphins colored spartan!!) There is nothing quite as satisfying as getting a “Hail Mary” grenade kill in a team slayer multiplayer match.
While the game is completely well deserving of your hard earned cash, there are a few minor annoyances and glitches in the game. The first glitch that I came across was upon loading a checkpoint in the cooperative campaign. After loading the saved game, I was left with no sound, forcing me to restart the game. One of the biggest hiccups/flaws in the game, in my opinion, was also while playing a co-op campaign. At one point in the story, Master Chief has to get into a large mech-warrior type suit and destroy a door and then continues to use the suit throughout the level–sounds great, right? Well, it would be, if the second player were able to also don the suit. How was this overlooked? Lastly, the amount of ammo available for decent or better guns in the campaign is very low. Once you pick up that Promethean light rifle or incineration cannon that you want to use, you have a very minimal amount of shots before you have to trade the gun in for a covenant plasma pistol.
After playing through Halo 4, it is very clear that 343 Industries is no pushover and proves themselves worthy of taking-over Bungie’s creation. The studio takes all of the good things from the series, and adds their own style to it, creating a truly re-invigorating Halo game. The game is very well polished and has a soundtrack that could compete with any blockbuster film. While the game does have its minor flaws, it is an overall excellent first attempt by 343 Industries. The company takes the exciting gameplay from the Halo series, updates the visuals and this gives players the feeling that they’re dating a now-sexier ex-girlfriend. Sure, she does the same great things that she used to, but man–does she look better now than she did back then.