The famous Halo series takes a new development team but do they have it takes to keep the legacy on the highest of notches? (Spoiler free review)Prologue:
Halo 4 is not only a sequel but a ground-breaking debut game in what is known as the "Reclaimer Trilogy". The newest release in the Microsoft backed series desperately hangs on to the Halo name while expanding into a new universe of enemies, weapons, and even an entirely new level of awesomeness.
It's been 2 years since Bungie's final installment* of their baby which was known for changing the game to such an extent it offended critics and die-hard Spartans such as myself. Adding sprinting, jet-packs, match-making commendations, a ranking system, the Battle Rifle's disowned cousin, un-nerfing the Pistol; it's no surprise how such a dramatic leap in innovation was regretfully received by the majority. Some people did love the jump in the series, but many compared it to the Call Of Duty series saying "This isn't Halo".
343 Industries is made up a team of Bungie employees who devoted their lives to creating the Halo universe, as well as a few newbies Microsoft hired which felt the need to prove their self with such a respected title. What did this mean for our beloved Spartan, 117? It meant that Halo was getting back on track, including everything we loved, fixing everything we hated about Reach, and introducing a whole new world that would keep us on our toes as to not make us think we were continuing the same ol' fight.The Campaign (No worries, no spoilers):
The campaign is in one word; epic. There's more then a dozen parts where you're dragged back into Master Chief's current tragedy much like you were at the beginning of the series. 343i managed to keep everything fresh throughout the entire story; all 8.5 missions each as great as it's predecessor. The prologue featured some quick-time events although they greatly ignore until the very last moment of the game. This through me for a loop, but don't worry it's nothing that will keep you reloading checkpoints instead of enjoying the game.
While playing through the storyline I felt a few levels were mimicked from Halo 2, only etched over with Forerunner features; not that this was a bad thing. There were a lot of highlights where the new developer's itch to stay true for the returning fans were obvious. I enjoyed every minute of it though thinking "this is new, oh crap! I remember this!" which kept me on my feet looking for Easter eggs and sucking up everything I could. Like all Halo games the tiny little Easter eggs are so hidden that you probably won't see them without a walk-through online to find them. Don't worry, you don't need them.
Oh, and the ending will make you mad, but I can't go into details.Spartan-Ops:
As only the 2nd chapter is available right now, I honestly think there's nothing special about this mode. The story line is acceptable at best, and the playing itself feels like a twist of the forgotten about Firefight with infinity respawns and an ending (which is my favorite part). It's great that it gives us something to do after running through the campaign, but I could of done without it since the storyline was long enough and the matchmaking is top notch. It fills the void if you're bored with the other two modes, but I haven't got there yet.War Games:
Ah, Halo's famous Match Making has finally been re-named, re-worked, and re-imagined. For the first time there's a reason War Games exist; you're fighting in a training module on the UNSC ship Infinity.
While re-introducing the commendations and ranking system, 343i has also introduced an equipment unlock system to go with it. For awhile I was worried that I would never obtain a BR and everyone else would be wielding Rocket Launchers or Sniper Riffles. Luckily, this is not the case and it's far from broken. Your starting weapons are the Assault Rifles, and Precision Rifles, and their Covenant / Forerunner equivalents. This keeps the games fair, but original at the same time.
On top of the new load-out system, they've also introduced Ordinance drops which is much like Call Of Duty's Kill Streak bonuses. Thankfully, it's still not as broken since the worst you can get is a Rocket Launcher (level depending), and you don't need
a killing spree to get them. The counter to the next drop does not reset upon your death, which keeps it even fairer.The Forerunners:
Although the Forerunners looks like a whole new series of creatures that will require a whole new rhythm, they're actually extremely close to the Covenant that we've grown used too. The Crawlers are much like Grunts, but quicker and slightly more devastating yet one head shot still takes them out. The Promethean Knights can be a pain in the ass at several points in the game, but that's mostly due to a lack of ammo on Legendary. They play much like the Elites where bad aim can waste your bullets and make them feel invincible. This time we're brought Watchers which can regenerate any of the Forerunners and keep them shielded much like the Halo 3: ODST exclusive enemy, the Engineer. The new weapons:
The Forerunners come packed with an entire new arsenal, if you want to call it that. The weapons are very similar to their UNSC / Covenant counter-part, which you'll spend most of the campaign playing around with (ammo is replenishable, unlike the energy weapons). Thankfully 343 listened to their fans and brought back all of our favorites, including the BR, the over-powered Pistol, the noob-favorite DMR, and all of the notorious power weapons. There's also some new ones that you'll find in the ordinance drops, but if I went on to review every weapon in the game we would be here for quite awhile. Vehicles:
A lot of people were worried that the new Mantis would be game-breaking but it really isn't. Only found in Big Team, it replaces the tank as being slow and easily hi-jackable. I don't want to spoil the story for you, but you do get to drive something you've always wanted to drive (only in the campaign).The graphics:
Oh, the graphics. Obviously being the newest game in the series, the graphics are going to be top of the line and they prove it every minute. The cut-scenes will actually leave you scratching your head if they're CGI or live-action. Hint: They're CGI. All of it.
In game the graphics aren't as noticeable since every Halo game has been mind-blowing graphically and it's something we've all gotten used to. If you decide to pick up the game, I dare you to just look up in the sky on any level and tell me it isn't mind-boggling-realistic. Mechanics:
The greatest part about this game is that with every change they've made over the years, and since the original Combat Evolved released over a decade ago; it still feels like a Halo game. There's no health (like there wasn't in 1 & 3), and the shields feel a little weaker then usual but only on the Legendary mode. All of the fan-favorite classic enemies act the same, and even though sprint is now a permanent feature it feels like it has always been there.Achievements:
Last but not least we'll cover the achievements since I know so many of you are dying to know how hard it is to 100%. Like all Halo games it isn't impossible to reach 1,000 GS (at lease once the Spartan Ops episodes are released). You will have to solo Legendary run the campaign by yourself, and with a buddy but why wouldn't you do that anyways? Sure it's difficult, but it's not impossible; even for someone like me.
The rest of the achievements are mostly trivial things, require you to play a few games of War Games (even if you suck, you can get these cheeves), but there are a handful (4 or 5) that may require you to set up a boosting session just to make them a little easier (or if you have friends, send them a message). In short;
Being an intense Halo fan since the beginning I can honestly say that 4 is in the running for my favorite of the series. For a long time I stood strong by saying 2 was but the Forerunner's freshness was hard to deny it some awesome points. I'm extremely glad with what 343i has done, and even happier that they were able to redeem whatever Reach was.