By Larry Ragland
Halo fans freaked out like grunts without a leader when they found out that Bungie was handing over the Halo franchise to another developer. Many thought that justice could not be done. I wasn’t one of those people. Those people were wrong.
I won’t bother listing all the names of all the talented people and all the places from which they came to create this game. That road is far too long to go down and it’s been pointed out ad nauseam elsewhere. Besides the proof is always in the pudding, and this pudding is so good that armed with a needler and a spoon, Bill Cosby tried to jack some from an ODST in the mess hall.
I won’t be giving out any story spoilers so you can relax if you’re worrying about it. The only thing you need to know is that the story picks up four years after the end of Halo 3. When the Master chief says “wake me when you need me,” he means it and he comes out of a good nights sleep ready to snap some Sangheili mandibles. If you haven’t played the other games don’t worry, the story is self encapsulated. Some things they make reference to do require an insider knowledge that has only been told in the books thus far. Halo 4 changes that and going forward I know we’ll see more. In the meantime there are hidden terminals that unlock more of the back story. However, they can only be viewed from Waypoint which doesn’t work from the disc so watch it on the Waypoint site or you tube. Story wise, there is plenty of stuff to keep you more than satisfied. It does have the Prometheus movie affect however; it answers a lot of questions but ends up asking more.
Good thing this is the start of a trilogy.
Visually speaking this is the best looking console game on the market, regardless of platform. That isn’t to denigrate other games or platforms but rather it is a testament to the art and technical team working together to get the most out of the 360 this late in the consoles life cycle and putting doubting Thomas’s to rest. Everything is gorgeous. The lighting, armor detail, particle affects, animations--dear God the animations!--they really went all out. When you see Captain Del Rio lose it, you’ll know what I mean. There really isn’t anything else I can say about it. Plug that puppy up HDMI style and get to work because this is a beautiful, beautiful game. And I hope you have a good home audio setup.
Perhaps even more impressive than the graphics is the sound design. Everything sounds fantastic. The new soundtrack gives the game that big time Hollywood feel with it not straying too far from acceptable Halo music. All of the weapons and effects sound amazing. To compliment the sense of scale between the MC and the various foes he will face such as Promethean Knights and Elites, the characters are built to size. Elites are much taller as are Hunters and the aforementioned Knights. You can really see it compared to regular humans. The sound balances this out however because instead of feeling overwhelmed by these menacing alien foes, you know you have a fighter yet from the freaking future strapped to your chest and you’re not afraid to show it. The chief’s heavy foot falls and motor actuators move with a muffled mechanical sound that promotes feelings of mass and weight while being a stealthy military killing machine. In laments terms you feel like the baddest man on the planet and you sound like it too. No matter how big they are. There are many little things like this that add up to show you just what the MC is and capable of.
The weapons also received careful attention to sound. All three weapon types, UNSC, Covenant and Promethean sound and feel different and appropriately at that. Forerunner weapons use hard light so they don’t have the kick or weight that a UNSC assault rifle has. The feel of the weapons is sublime. Tagging somebody in the visor with a DMR has the sound of smashing cans of lead into the side of a tank: heavy and painful. When you drop a shied regenerator it makes the most awesome sound while your under it’s restoring goodness, it’s incredible. Like echoes inside a bath bubble. They thought of everything. Even the plasma pistol has a menacing charging sound to it. It reminds me a lot of Mass Effect 3 and the Star Trek film by J.J. Abrams, Halo 4 has that feel of epic sci fi and MS knows it.
Gameplay wise it still has that core Halo feel but it’s tweaked in enough ways to make it completely different yet familiar. For starters everyone can sprint now but your overall movement seems faster. You have Call of Duty like perks but the object isn’t to stack them and over power your enemies it’s to help you best adapt to the situation and help your team win. Your perks as they were, won’t let you call in air support and the like but it will give you what you need when you need it. This helps maintain the balance in Halo. It isn’t a game about being the most powerful, it’s about balance. Balance between maps, players, weapons and the like. Figure out the balance and you greatly increase your odds of winning. If you don’t then, well, there’s always…never mind, I won’t say it.
The single player will take you about seven or eight hours on normal to finish. The difficulty ramps ups significantly for Heroic and Legendary. There are a bunch of new multiplayer editions and the really cool Spartan Ops mode that replaces Firefight. The format is the same but it‘s story driven. Each week a ultra high quality CGI cut scene continues the story of H4 6 months after the ending of the game. Check out our daily joystick pod cast special for more in depth analysis of the multitude of game modes.
I could literally sit here and type page after page of why I think H4 is an amazing game. I would love to talk about the Librarian the Didact, or discuss what Halsey is going to say when she finally sees the MC again but you’re probably bored of reading already so I will close with this.
Watch Forward Unto Dawn. Then go get Halo 4. It’s more than worth the money. Go buy it. The end.