As a huge fan and player of the shooting genre, whether it be first-person, third-person, or classic style 2D run-&-gun action, I’ve seen a nice variety of shooters over my many years of gaming. I’ve had fantastic times with the likes of Gears of War
, Call of Duty
and Tom Clancy
titles, as well as my current game of choice, Max Payne 3
. Of course, this is just naming a few and these mentioned titles have served up a wonderful dish of unique multiplayer action as well as decent campaigns for some of them too.
The world of Halo
is a world I’ve never really spent as much time in. Prior to playing Halo 4
, the only Halo
games I have played and completed have been Halo 3
and Halo 3: ODST
. They were both enjoyable titles to play but at the same time, I didn’t find either of them to be utterly amazing. Regardless of how I
felt at the time, Halo 3
was superbly received and is one of the best-selling games of all time for the 360. Halo 3: ODST
was a ton of fun to play co-op with three other people, and I found it quite interesting to play as a Shock Trooper instead of the Master Chief.
It’s been just over five whole years now since Halo 3
was released on Xbox 360 and times have certainly changed since 2007. Bungie, the game developers behind Halo 3
separated from Microsoft back in 2007 so as most of you will undoubtedly know, 343 Industries is responsible for the development of Halo 4
. Will Master Chief’s hugely-anticipated return be watered down by the new game developers? Or will 343 have gamers feeling sick to the stomach with excitement and struggling to sleep with the thought of opening up a copy of Halo 4
, enjoying the new game smell, sticking the game into the disc drive and blazing the life out of the game for a heavy amount of hours straight? Read on to find out.
Before I could even dive into the game once it had arrived at my house, I had to take a minute to explore the goodies stuffed inside the Limited Edition case whilst the game itself installed to the HD. We covered
the contents of the Limited Edition a month ago, but one little surprise inside the UNSC package was a 14 day gold trial. This provides silver members of Xbox LIVE with an excellent chance to board the UNSC Infinity, and check out the online world of Halo 4
. Game add-ons, avatar items and more were also inside the case as promised, as well as the “secret letter” which I couldn’t open as the contents aren’t technically mine.
Once I fired the game up, I had to take a minute to admire the actual starting screen and menu itself. This may be something eager gamers will skip once they pick up a copy of the game, but the music and visuals of the menu screen is pretty impressive. The music is a calm mix of violins, piano playing and female choir singing, not something I’d listen to at any other time, but it sounds so beautiful. It’s kind of hard for me to describe as obviously I don’t have the best understanding of this style of music, but you can just feel the song and feel its emotion. Maybe I’m being a bit over the top about what some would see as such a small feature, but to me, Halo 4
’s menu really has a strong presence which engrosses you into the experience from the get-go. Once I got a hold of myself and actually started up the campaign, it was time to take on the role of the man himself: Master Chief Petty Officer John-117.
"Wake up Chief. I need you
picks up four years after the events of Halo 3
. Big bad John is back, and this time players will be able to take control of the Master for the first time since Halo 3
(if we don’t include the release of http://www.trueachievements.com/Halo-CE-Anniversary/ach....htm
). Cortana, Chief’s friendly AI, awakens him from his long slumber aboard the wreckage of the ‘Forward Unto Dawn’, a UNSC frigate. Once the duo pull themselves together, they soon discover that they are a long way from home, and are near a strange Forerunner planet. Apart from being slightly lost near this mysterious planet, Cortana is experiencing ‘technical difficulties’. She is becoming ‘rampant’, and grows more and more frustrated throughout the game as the ‘rampancy’ begins to drive her to the edge and this ‘condition’ threaten the 'life' of the aging AI.
Of course, I can’t go into much more detail than this regarding the story, but playing through the campaign, there was a heavy amount of focus on the main protagonist and his AI. My previous experience with Halo 3
left me not knowing a lot about Master Chief and Cortana. Chief was pretty quiet and not very emotional, but at the same time, he was well respected, and fearless. In Halo 4
, the storyline definitely aims to look at Master Chief in a lot more depth and see sides to him we have never seen before. With his much loved AI, Cortana, severely malfunctioning, how will Master Chief approach the situation and what steps will he take to try and fix the problem?
The controls don’t take long to get used to in Halo 4
, even for a first-timer. You have your basics of walking, looking around, shooting, meleeing, throwing grenades, reloading and changing weapons. One new feature I noticed straight away was the ability to actually sprint. This served me well in tight situations where I needed to quickly escape an enemy’s line of fire or pull off a quick flank. Clicking the right analogue stick in allowed me to zoom in slightly for a better look at enemies or objects in the distance. Dependant on what weapon I was carrying, I could click the right analogue stick in to use the scope. For the Assault Rifle, which is Chief’s default weapon almost throughout the entire campaign, there is no zoom ability so the weapon needs to be used at short to medium-range for best results. This was the same case for a few other weapons such as SMG-style weapons and Shotguns.
The large variety of new and old weapons is impressive. Players will have a chance to try a lot of the weapons out for small chunks of time as most of them only come with enough ammo to take down four or five enemies, dependant on how tough the enemy is and how efficient the player is at shooting. With constant scavenging on the battlefield for more ammo or different weapons, I needed to pay close attention to how much ammo I had left in the current guns I was carrying. Master Chief can only carry two weapons at a time of any size, unless pulling a turret off of its stand to take on the go, in which the turret automatically becomes the main weapon to use until dropped. Despite only managing to squeeze in a ‘normal’ playthrough of the game, the need to stay alert and decide which enemy to shoot with which weapon kept the difficulty at a constantly challenging level. Sure, I could run out into the open and go in fist and elbow swinging in the hope of taking down two or three enemies, jacking their weapons and getting away clean, but it only took as little as two or three enemies to kill the Chief off after making silly decisions like this. Master Chief still stands tall with his well-known dark green armour that comes with its shield, in which once the shield sustains enough damage, the Chief can only take a few more shots before he dies.
The enemies of Halo 4
can be annoying in a good way. Enemies react well to the attacks you unleash upon them in many different situations. Being the flimsy shot that I am with sticky grenades, enemies quickly react to my thrown grenade and take evasive manoeuvres much quicker than I would’ve liked them too. There’s no specific cover system in Halo 4
, so actually slipping in and out of cover and behind it doesn’t require any extra button pressing. This keeps the gameplay very smooth and fluent. Despite how helpful cover can be, popping in and out of cover from behind solid cover doesn’t always guarantee safety. Fighting against a decent amount of enemies, it’s easy to lose track of the odd one here and there. If there is a flank opportunity the enemy sees, then a lot of the time, they will take it. Even with a small radar equipped which is constantly displayed at the bottom-left corner of the screen, enemies can still be really sneaky as the radar only detects enemies when they are firing or on the move. Enemies come up as red dots on the radar whilst friendlies appear as yellow.
Bad guys wielding melee weapons such as an Energy Sword will sometimes catch you off guard. In some situations, I’d assume that the area was clear, and then out of nowhere, as I was passing a wall or corner, an Energy Sword swinging, ugly creature would launch at me and send me reeling all the way back to my last checkpoint. Not always waiting patiently behind cover, some enemies don’t need it at all as they will be equipped with stealth camouflage. This doesn’t make the enemy completely invisible but they are very hard to see until close up if they are stood still. In an attempt to capitalize on potential close encounters, the enemy will aggressively try to get within close-range of the Chief for a life ending swipe. Thankfully, this is where the handy sprint comes in use for a turbo-escape from certain death. Enemies will use cover to their advantage too and won’t simply stand out in the open for you to nail them. Throughout the campaign, there’s a few situations in which chipping away at the enemy from long distance proves to be quite effective and comfy. The enemies not slow or dumb enough to stand out in the open soon keep themselves concealed behind cover until I move closer or I’m forced to move from my position due to incoming enemies at close range.
The main enemies in Halo 4
are the Prometheans, who are ancient warriors issued with the job to protect the artificial world of Requiem. These systematic nightmares add great variety and difficulty to the line-up of enemies in the game. Besides there expected barrage of offensive attacks with grenades, gun fire and melee attacks, these warriors tend to use techniques that benefit the wave of enemies as a team. The fairly large Promethean Knights can literally make more enemies spawn out of nowhere within seconds if they feel the need for backup. They can also release Watchers, flying robotic creatures, which have the ability to shield their fellow Prometheans, revive dead knights and also spawn Crawlers to aid in the battle too.
Crawlers are four-legged metal dog type enemies who attack aggressively in numbers. Even though moving and attacking quick, Crawlers can do decent damage at medium range too as they use Suppressors to fire rapid shots at the Chief. Some of these new enemies come in more powerful forms too with the Knights being a prime example. A Knight Battlewagon is similar to a Covenant Hunter. They are huge enemies who don’t make an appearance too often, but when they do, they certainly make their stay something to remember. These Knights come dripping in heavy armour and pack some serious firepower. Think you’ll be safe keeping your distance? The Knight can deploy an auto-turret to take shots at you from decent range and force you to come scarpering out of cover and into the Knight’s line of sight. All in all, the enemies of Halo 4
are really impressive. The new variety of enemies have made for a fantastic addition to the line-up and will easily keep even the most experienced Halo
players on their toes and needing to come with new tactics when it comes to squaring off against the life-threatining Prometheans.HIJACK!
The vehicles I’ve used in Halo
games have always been a lot fun to drive and pilot. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of vehicle action in Halo 4
’s campaign. Previously featured vehicles such as the Warthog, the Mongoose, Wraith Tanks and Banshees can be seen and used again in this game. The Warthog is actually one of favourite vehicles to use despite having no form of cover or armour to keep the driver and passengers safe. The Warthog is like an all-terrain jeep that can carry three people including the driver. It’s pretty nippy and controlling the vehicle takes seconds to get used too. Playing the game solo, I had to rely on friendly AI to man the turret fixed to the Warthog. You can let the AI drive the vehicle and shoot for yourself if you want to, but I prefer to let the AI slaughter the enemy with its ridiculously high accuracy. Naturally, you wouldn’t think the Light AA gun would be that powerful, but when placed in the right hands, the gun can tear through the likes of tanks, vehicles and heavily armoured enemies within seconds.
Enemy vehicles can be hijacked and used for your own pleasure. The Wraith Tank, which thanks to its heavy firepower is near-impossible to actually hijack, is a force not be messed with. The tank is a Covenant vehicle which packs a Mortar-firing style main cannon, and a rapid-fire Plasma Cannon as its secondary weapon which needs to be operated by a separate passenger. When operated by two people, the tank is effective at close and long range. Although sometimes tough to aim precisely with, the Mortar Cannon inflicts heavy damage against enemies and vehicles with a direct hit, and even the splash radius can do a decent amount of damage too.
The fun doesn’t stick to the ground for the vehicle action; UNSC and the Covenant both have their own vehicles prepared to take to the skies of Halo 4
. Some vehicles are necessary to progress through the campaign but air vehicles can also be used in battles against soldiers on foot too. The Banshee for example, is a Covenant vehicle designed for ground assault. Of course, it can handle itself in the skies against other Banshees if stolen by Master Chief, but the way it flies and manoeuvres allows for the player to pull off kind of swan-dive attacks against the enemies on the ground. The Banshee’s are very quick and agile and pack two plasma cannons for rapid firing, but they are quite weak and not very well armoured even against basic weapons. One accurate shot from a Rocket Launcher, Plasma Cannon or several good shots from an AA gun will soon see the flying fun of Banshee piloting come to an end.
A new vehicle I’d never come across before in previous Halo
games was the Mantis Mech. You may remember when we covered the Mantis taking a trip through Ragnarok a month ago
. When I first came met this machine in the late stages of the campaign, we fell in love instantly. She’s a beauty. In the situation I had to use the Mech in the campaign, it felt like the scene from The Matrix Revolutions
where Captain Mifune was relentlessly wiping out Sentinels in his APU as he tried to defend the city of Zion. The Mech comes with a machine-gun turret on its right side, and a rocket launcher on its left side. I also noticed that unlike other vehicles, the Mechs health copied that of Chiefs style of health. The shield for the Mech would gradually deplete, but if kept out of harm’s way for long enough, the shield would then regenerate the same way it would for Chief when he’s on foot. Other vehicles, such as the Warthog don’t have a separate health bar like the Mech so the player needs to keep an eye on the physical side of the vehicle itself to see how much damage it’s taken. The vehicles are great to use in Halo
and always have been. The use of vehicles in regards to the storyline itself works really well too but I won’t go into details on the ‘how’. Let’s just say newcomers and the experienced Spartans won’t be disappointed.Make life easier with Armor Abilities
Another new feature for the Chief is the ability to equip armor upgrades. These included the Thruster Pack, Promethean Vision, Hologram, Jet Pack, Hardlight Shield, Active Camo’, and an Autosentry. Some of these were good and some were pointless. These armor abilities can be found and picked up in certain locations of the campaign. Sometimes, they will be amongst weapons intentionally set up to prepare your for an incoming battle. In other cases, the stronger, elite versions of enemies will drop their ability once killed.
The first ability I got to use was the Hardlight Shield which I actually quite liked. True to its name, upon pressing and holding ‘LB’, the camera switches to a third-person view and Chief deploys a shield, taller than himself’, which deflects enemy fire and prevents Chief from coming to any harm. The shield will only last for a few seconds and a meter represents both how much time is left for using the shield, and how long it will take to recharge for use again. The only disadvantage the shield had was that Chief’s armor-shield would not regenerate its health whilst the light-shield was deployed. Trying to slowly back away from a heavy number of Crawlers with a shield out at low health ended up with a quick death for our hero.
I didn’t like the Thruster Pack at all. Once activated, the Thruster would lunge Chief in the desired direction quite quickly. The downside to this was that the thruster would activate for a second, the camera quickly switches to third-person to show off the thrust, and within this second, Chief’s moved like a foot away from where he thrusted from. Trying to be evasive with the Thruster Pack was pointless, as it honestly just seemed to make more sense to just turn, sprint, and away you go. Using the Thruster Pack in a more offensive manner was also pretty disappointing too. Thrusting forward to perhaps strike an enemy with a surprise melee would never work out the way I wanted it to. The melee lunge itself doesn’t seem as strongly assisted as it used to be. Even though it seems basic to keep the camera centered on the enemy when attempting to strike with a melee, trying to line the camera back up with the enemy after it’s finished its pointless third person transition was hard to do. It’s not a major issue that affects the gameplay, but from my use of the ability, it just seemed like a really poorly designed ability.
All in all the campaign itself offers a great experience for those not too familiar with the Halo
series. For fans of the series; you’ll love it. The story has definitely been pushed more towards the mysterious, emotional, deep side of Halo
and even though the campaign doesn’t take that long too complete, it’s still going to keep players eager for the next installment in the series.All aboard the UNSC Infinity
From the main menu of the game, ‘Infinity’ is player's access point to the multiplayer parts of Halo 4
. The UNSC Infinity is the new hub, and upon entering this hub, four options become available: War Games, Spartan Ops, Forge, and Theater. One feature related to the multiplayer but coming with its own menu available from the main menu as well, is the ‘Spartan Hub’. On this screen, players can look at their career progress, customize their Spartan soldier for online play and change settings & upload, edit, delete or share files. Under the ‘Career’ tab, your rank is showcased, with how much XP you have earned towards completing your current rank, and how much total XP is required to complete the rank.
The challenges menu opens up Campaign challenges for the week, War Games challenges which are daily, weekly and monthly, Spartan Ops challenges for the week, and Halo Waypoint challenges which are “currently unavailable”. The challenges as a whole are not too tough to complete within their allotted time slots and look like challenges gamers will be able to complete casually as they progress through whichever mode they choose to play.
Commendations are awarded for progression through kills with specific weapons in War Games, enemy kills in Spartan Ops, using and destroying vehicles in War Games and Spartan Ops, specific skill kills in Campaign and War Games, and completing and winning in the different game types available through War Games.
The Specializations menu showcases the potential paths gamers can take one they reach level 50 with their Spartan soldier. All soldiers start out with the Spartan-IV specializations which consist of “standard Mjolnir armor configurations”. Once level 50 has been achieved and conquered, players can choose the Wetwork or Operator specialization class which will allow players to unlock unique weapons and armor for their respective specialization. The Service Record is the place to look for career stats from all of the modes available with the game.
In the Customize tab, Spartans can put together their own loadouts ready to use in online battle or Spartan Ops. Five loadouts can be put together eventually with the fifth unlocking at the rank of SR-41 and loadouts two to four unlocking at earlier ranks. The primary weapon, secondary weapon, grenade, armor ability, tactical package, and support upgrade can all be customized once their respective ranks have been unlocked. Your Spartan’s armor can be changed from the helmet all the way down to the legs. Colours and style of armored parts can be changed. Some of the styles of armor pieces are unlocked by earning specific commendations. Lastly, players can edit their Service Tag, emblem & colours, their soldier's stance, and gender.
Completing challenges and earning commendations rewards the player with decent chunks of XP. Upon unlocking a new weapon or armor part, players then need to use ‘Spartan Points’ in order to actually use the equipment. Spartan Points are not awarded at each rank the player unlocks so careful decision making is needed when buying items for loadouts or the Spartan soldier.
Once you’re all equipped, decorated and ready to roll out onto the killing fields of Halo 4
’s Infinity multiplayer, it’s time to play some War Games in one of the nine available match types. Here’s a quick highlight from my first multiplayer match as I ruined an opponent’s day after he was having a great time in his second acquired Ghost:
Unfortunately, I could only manage a few games of Infinity Slayer as this was the only game mode 33 people wanted to play at the time. Looking at the War Games Lobby screen at this moment in time; 73 people are currently playing Infinity Slayer whilst one poor soul sits patiently in a King of the Hill lobby. Infinity Slayer is basically Team Deathmatch with two teams of four squaring off against each other to see who can reach a set amount of points first, or the highest amount before the clock expires. The biggest game mode on offer is Big Team Infinity Slayer which sees two teams of eight looking to melee and Battle Rifle the life out of each other.
Looking at my handy temporary history files within the Films & Clips section of the Theatre, I can tell you that my first match took place on Complex. Watching the footage back, already it’s not hard to tell that many players are taking full advantage of the loadout option and equipping the very popular Battle Rifles. The Rifle is very reliable and accurate at all ranges. Its semi-automatic style of firing allows players to keep firm control of the rifle and therefore nail some very impressive headshots, over and over again. I did pretty well for my first match on Halo 4
but tended to try and keep my 1 vs 1’s at close to medium range so then I could catch the BR-pros off guard and come out on top with the faster rate of fire of the Assault Rifle. Some players, as expected, were just too much to handle even at close range with their BR’s equipped and would pop my head off as quickly as if I was standing still!
The fourth match I played again was an Infinity Slayer match on a map called Adrift. This map was full of hallways and a couple of different floors with tight corners, exposed platforms and severe chokepoints dotted around the map. Close range encounters were inevitable in this match and I found myself performing a lot better within this setting. After managing to get on a few kill streaks, I was informed that me “ordnance was ready”. This presented me with three options to aid me on the battlefield: an LMG, two plasma grenades, or a boost to my shield regeneration. I foolishly chose the grenades and wasted them instantly with my embarrassing aiming. The next time my ordnance was ready, I used the right choice to put the icing on the cake of a little trap I had ready for the enemy following me who thought I was just going to turn around and die:
I would have loved to have been able to spend a bit more time with Halo 4
’s multiplayer and possibly of had the chance to check out some of the other game modes too. From what I did get to check out of the action, gamers are going to like what 343 have in store for them. With so many customization options, unique progressions paths to take, maps to come with DLC in the future and the choice to choose which weapons and armor abilities YOU want to take onto the battlefield with you, the life-span of the title will be a very healthy one for many gamers out there.Spartan Ops
Out with the Firefights, and in with Spartan Ops. A first for the Halo
franchise, Spartan Ops tells the story of the UNSC Infinity. Taking control of different squads in the different episodes of Spartan Ops, the story itself “intersects” with the main storyline and branches off into its own direction but still offering the impressive cut scenes, action and story-telling just like the campaign side of the game. Up to four players can team up to take on the roles of different Infinity squads on a mission to complete certain objectives within the world of Requiem. Currently, there’s only one episode available with more episodes planned for release in the future. Episode One comes with five chapters with each one presenting a different objective and sets of enemies to face and conquer. I played all five chapters but my favourite one by far was the first chapter, as there was a whole load of vehicles at my disposal! An option to view the cinematics related to the chapters is available before you start your Spartan Op. The scene is very interesting to watch and provides a bit of background and information and the situation the Infinity squads are about to get into. I can’t reveal any details about the plot behind the Spartan Ops missions but I can show you guys a small clip of the action to come from chapter one of episode one:
Besides from my terrible Warthog driving, you would’ve seen in the clip that there were many vehicles available to use right from the start and further up along the path too. Playing solo, eventually on Legendary difficulty for a quick achievement, I died many times during this mission. Thankfully, all the Ghost and Wraith Tanks I managed to keep losing were replaced every minute or so. Progress bars for challenges constantly pop up to keep you informed of how well you're doing towards a specific task, and as you would have also seen to start with, kills from friendly AI count towards challenges too.
I would have really loved to have had a go at Spartan Ops with three other players in order to give you guys a bit more of an exciting take on the mode. Regardless, it goes without saying that if you get four Spartans together, over eight vehicles ready for the taking, and even a variety of weapons to choose from near the spawn point of that chapter, you’re in for some serious Covenant-ass kicking fun!Forge
Forge mode allows players to build their own maps for some custom made multiplayer mayhem. Pretty much everything is in your hands from the game mode, time limits and rules to the spawn points, vehicles and colours. One of the main noticeable features is the new “player trait”. This allows the designer to change the physics, gravity and effects of a specific area. The colour palette and user tools have been expanded from that of the previous options players could use in Halo 3
. With options to save, share and download other player's custom maps and game types, Forge will be set to keep gamers entertained and making unique, crazy locations for hours on end again.Sssshh! They're about to start the movie
The Theater mode is a brilliant feature and makes its return yet again. The matches are automatically recorded and saved in a temporary files folder in the Theatre menu. Watching the matches back, the playback is a smooth as the gameplay is whilst battling it out at the actual time of the match. Pausing, rewinding and playing back highlights of good performances and great matches don’t get old too quick. Besides the ability to share, edit, save and even playback the videos to record onto your laptop, it’s interesting to watch matches back and see what other people were up to during the game. Theatre is not a new feature to the Halo
series but it’s a brilliant one which I wish more games would come with. What better way to help the community out with trick achievements like this one
then to find Easter Egg, run the film back through the theatre, record and upload to YouTube, and share it with fellow Spartan Soldiers!?Is Chief's visor in one piece?
Master Chief and Cortana look serious in Halo 4
. The attention to detail with Chiefs armor looks really well done. Cortana on the other hand, I know she’s a fictional character from a computer game, and within this she’s an AI, but my word has she been made to look delicious. Previously, Cortana just looked like a graphical mess I struggled to take seriously, but now, she demands the attention. Besides the two main characters themselves, the rest of the game’s visuals are highly impressive. Details on vehicles, various landscape settings, locations all look good. The most impressive sights has to be the wide open views where Chief will be flying through the air in a vehicle, with no huge buildings to block out the gorgeous view of the sky and the Prometheans structures. Some parts of the campaign made me feel the need to just stop, walk to the edge of a cliff and just stand and admire the view. Achievements
49 Achievements are up for grabs worth 1000g with a whopping 3903 TA points. Of course, we know that once the game officially releases on November 6th, the TA points will balance themselves out. I actually like the look of the achievement list for Halo 4
. It’s a good mix of straight-forward achievements like completing the campaign
, completing specific challenges in certain Spartan Ops missions
, to the more challenging ones like beating the story solo on Legendary
, and beating certain levels of Spartan Ops on Legendary
. Overall the full list of achievements contains a bit of all the available game modes and will hopefully sway people into trying a few game modes they might not normally.Summary
The only bad thing I can really say about Halo 4
is that the campaign was a bit shorter than expected. At the same time, with the storyline being as heavy, serious and personal as it is, I think even the best of fans will probably not be too fussed by this. Overall, the game’s set to take the world by storm come November 6th. With 343 Industries doing the Halo
name proud and building on what was already a very well built on title, there’s going to be hordes of fans itching to see what 343 has in store for their newly claimed saga. Fans of the series will already be unquestionably buying this anyway, but if you’re not currently a Halo
fan, I’d definitely be thinking about picking this title up.The reviewer spent around 12-14 hours with the game, in which he completed the campaign on Normal and played a few matches of Infinity Slayer. The reviewer also completed 3/5 Spartan Ops missions, watched some movies in the Theatre, and made a mess of a map in Forge Mode.