After five long years, Master Chief is back to take the war to the alien invaders! Elysium Magazine found some time to boot up the xbox and see whether it was worth the wait.
Halo 4 is one of the biggest titles released just before Christmas and with games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, as well as other keenly expected games such as Dishonored and Assassin’s Creed 3. Master Chief definitely has his work cut out!
Step forward 343 Industries – a new studio set up by Microsoft to exclusively handle the Halo franchise, after Bungie’s exit after Halo: Reach. 343 now have the unenviable task of delivering a new, better than ever before Halo, in a climate where decent first person shooters difficult to find.
The story starts where it left off in Halo 3, and you clamber out of your pod to have a little chat with Cortana, your AI companion. It turns out that the UNSC are actually at a truce with the Covenant, and you guessed it, that doesn’t last long!
The plot revolves around two central lines. The first is Cortana’s descent into ‘craziness’ – essentially AI death, where her processes and subroutines begin to run out of control. The race to get Cortana back to Earth is on, but it isn’t long before you find a new enemy blocking your way. The new foes are a Forerunner military caste of sorts, and as you would expect, there is not much love for the Chief. Probably because he has a habit of murdering everything. Enough said we think.
Different Forerunner units work with great synergy, the crawlers will keep you pinned down, whilst Knights will pick you off from a distance before teleporting in for the kill. If you don’t pick your targets wisely, it’s very easy to waste ammo and find yourself no closer to victory. As such, walking into the midst of a raging battle between Covenant and Forerunner lads – a Halo favourite since Combat Evolved – forces you to choose your targets carefully, as indeed does a battle with Forerunner forces alone. If anything, it’s a little disappointing that you still spend much of the game fighting the Covenant, and the experience only feels different when there are Forerunner units involved.
There’s no great change in visuals from Halo: Reach. That is probably not such a bad thing, and It’s become fairly common knowledge that developers have stretched both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 to their maximum capabilities now. If anything, Halo 4 feels a little more vibrant, without being over-saturated.
Campaign levels are very well designed, no more linear maps and blocked out pixels – it is a beautiful world you are immersed into straight away, and there are some really beautiful vistas on show. You won’t be disappointed.
The presence of three factions in Halo 4 means this games has more weapons than any of its predecessors. On the UNSC side, both the DMR and the Battle Rifle are included, along with heavy weapon favourites such as the Rocket Launcher, Spartan Laser and Sniper Rifle (love the good old Sniper!).
Halo 4 also introduces the ‘Railgun’, which is charged like the Spartan Laser but fires a mini explosive on release. Impressive when dealing with multiple enemies, which is common.
The same is true on the Covenant side, with the exception of the Plasma Rifle, which has been replaced by the ‘Storm Rifle’ which is pretty much the same thing. The Needler has also been upped in terms of damage, with needle super-combines now capable of taking out multiple targets. More gore – nice.
The real news here is the addition of a whole arsenal of Forerunner weaponry. Many of these weapons mirror some of their UNSC or Covenant counterparts – the ‘Suppressor’ is essentially a UNSC Assault Rifle, while the longer range Forerunner ‘Lightrifle’ is a direct replica of a Covenant Carbine. Lazy? No. Rather than lazy design, this is more a recognition that certain weapon styles are core to Halo’s combat dynamic. Fear not though, there are other weapons that are really changing the game.
The Scattershot? A mere shotgun – Kind of but it pack a little more than rounds. The bullets bounce, making it prime for killing people round corners… the possibilities are nearly endless – this brings a new dynamic to the game.
Every vehicle from the Halo series makes a return on both the UNSC and Covenant sides so get ready for more running Warthog battles, Scorpion Tank wars and Banshee air battles.
New to the series is the ‘Mantis’ – a single pilot bot-walker that packs rockets, a machine-gun with limitless ammo, and a powerful pneumatic stomp for taking down closer enemies. The Mantis also has a shield, but no jump or sprint abilities so you are a bit vulnerable if you get swarmed, and particularly vulnerable when jumping in and out of the back. Just take our route….run!
Halo 4 packs a punch but does feel like a simple update to the previous Halo. 343 could be accused of a lack of vision but why fix something that isn’t broken? The single player is exactly the right mix of classic Halo point-to-point gameplay, with a battlefield dynamic that feels new and instantly more challenging. The multiplayer has plenty in there to attract new fans, and is an absolute joy to play, as it always has been. Also, the soundtrack is perfect when battling it up with the aliens!
We believe Halo 4 is another classic. It goes back to what made Halo so fantastic in the first place, but bigger and bolder along with a few tugs at the heart-strings (you will need to play to find out why). Fans of the series will not be disappointed and anyone new to the series which have to say goodbye to their social lives – just for a few months anyway.
Halo 4 is out now.