Stewart: Does 343 Industries fulfill Bungie's shoes with Halo 4?
When Bungie announced it would leave Microsoft to pursue other projects, the question on everyone’s mind was, “What will happen to Halo?” — the franchise that saved Xbox when it débuted in 2001. Bungie was leaving behind some pretty big shoes. Who could fill them? When the torch was passed to 343 Industries, many were unsure if these Halo newcomers could continue Bungie’s nearly 10-year Halo hot streak. Whatever they did, it was enough to persuade me to take a look, and now I can confirm that Master Chief is in good hands. Halo 4 is a strong start for 343i’s Halo trilogy, and my favorite entry in the series.
In a possible call back to Halo: Combat Evolved, the story begins with protagonist Master Chief waking up from deep sleep and being rushed into action to defend the ship he was occupying from the attacking Covenant forces. After landing on a foreign planet, Chief quickly stumbles upon an alien who is bent on wiping out the human race, and it becomes his responsibility to prevent that from happening. Making matters worse, his artificial intelligence partner’s age is causing her to deteriorate, putting her in a maddened state called rampancy that will eventually end in her death.
As someone who isn’t well-versed in the Halo lore, I found the overall story to be a little confusing, and I couldn’t buy into the idea of rampancy, especially given how advanced the rest of the world’s technology is. Still, this was the first Halo game in which Master Chief felt like a character with presence — thanks to strong voice acting from both him and his partner. You feel like Master Chief is a hero and is integral to the story.
This feeling pairs excellently with the play, which will help you fully realize your fantasy of being Chief. Master Chief feels much faster and floatier than any other first-person shooter protagonist, but once you get a handle on him, you will put Covenant in its place left and right. There are a wide variety of weapons to use, as well as numerous armor abilities to choose from, such as invisibility or a jetpack. The game lasts only around eight hours, but that is just long enough for it to exhaust all of its mission ideas, which are varied and never feel repetitive.
The game hits its stride when the new enemy race, the Prometheans, show up. I enjoyed using their all-new arsenal, and it was nice to get away from the Covenant and human weapons for a while.
The only problem I ran into was the constant lack of ammo. The game does this to force you to use all the different weapons, but at times, I had to scour the battlefield just to get a few more shots, leading to some unnecessarily long firefights. When things go just right, you will use the game’s full range of guns, grenades, and vehicles to tear through enemy forces, and that is when the game shines.
“But how is the multiplayer?” asks the impatient reader. Well, you really should play the campaign, but the multiplayer is possibly the best in the series. Halo 4 falls in line with other modern shooters, integrating load outs, weapon unlocks, and kill streaks (kind of), but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These new systems are easy to understand and allow you to customize your Spartan better than in any other Halo game. Most players will stick to Slayer, but the game has a ton of game types, including fan favorite mods Zombies (now called Flood) and Grifball. You can still play split screen with up to four players on one Gamertag, which makes it easy to kill a few hours with friends. As for how it plays? Feels like the same old Halo you have put hundreds of hours into, and that feels good.
The other multiplayer offering is the new Spartan Ops, a series of mini-story missions that will be released gradually. These are fun, and I like the continued story, but I would have liked to see Firefight return as well.
For a long time, I thought no Halo game would ever hook me in the same way the original did. Reach came close, but it wasn’t until I played Halo 4 that I felt that same Halo magic I remember getting with Combat Evolved. Halo 4 is like no other first-person shooter that will release this year, and you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Developed by 343 Industries
Released: Nov. 6
Platform: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
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