When 343 Industries was announced as the developer of the power-house franchise Halo, taking the reins from creator Bungie, many fans were either enraged or excited.
The average consensous behind changes in development on a big name game series is fear. This idea of fear is not entirely unfounded. Take for example the great series Spyro the Dragon, developed by acclaimed company Insomniac. After the initial three games were released by them, the developer Universal Interactive took control, releasing the game Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly. Within the first five minutes you can instantly see the changes made in the opposite side of improvement. Changing voices, turning down the original mechanics, it just turned into something many people shut off instantly.
Gamers generally do not like changing developers, so it’s safe to say the changing of the mantle of Halo was one that had people worrying quite a lot.
343 turned those fears around and showed us a brilliant, story drive masterpiece that holds enough firepower to destroy 7 Forerunner planets. With the game in hand, I headed home and began to dive deep into the universe I once thought I knew. 4 years after the Master Chief had narrowly escaped death (once again), placing himself in cryo sleep in while his faithful AI, Cortana, watched over him.
As the game picks up 4 years later, the world had moved forward, as did the deralect ship he had found himself on. Halo 4 calls to mind many moments of nostalgia from previous entires in the series, especially the opening of the first level, as he pulls himself out of the cryo pod, calling to mind the first game when introducing the Master Chief himself.
A four year nap didn’t dilute the Chief’s skills, (it sure did change his armor somehow), he pushes forward in an attempt to qwell the Coveneant force boarding/attacking the ship he’s been sleeping on.
Now while running through the ship, there were very different aspects of Halo 4 that the previous installments never refined, which just happened to be the biggest thing on my list of improvements, and you ask “what might that be J?”
There was a Story! The element was always truly missing from the series all along, at least in my opinion. Of course Halo had a story to its core, like an endless loop of Covenant threat, protect Earth/Humanity, fight Flood. Rinse, Repeat. With this instalment, Halo 4 seems to be constantly pulling focus to it’s very rich and interesting story.
One of the key components focused on is the relationship of Cortana and the Chief, how their dynamic grows and how they cope with changes that could quite possibly pull the very fabric of their worlds apart. Another focus is the mysterious metal planet you have been floating above, discovering what may lie inside. The story is engaging and ever evolving as it plucks your heart strings until the very last minutes of the game.
With a new story comes new enemies and weapons, and this is where the Prometheans come into play. The Prometheans come across a primarily synthetic race with a whole new set of devastating weapons. This race is faster, smarter, and even deadlier than anything the Spartans have ever faced before, dabbling in teleportation, energy weapons, and powerful team attacks. The amazing thing about the Prometheans weapons is that they react to when the Spartan picks up one, pieces coming together to form the powerful weapon. They also have the natural ability to disintegrate your opponents. Who doesn’t love disintegrating their enemies?
The level design is just amazing, though at times it feels as if they were some repeat levels of previous Halo levels. Though it still keeps them exciting, and full of surprises and challenge, as the developers allowed for multiple ways to deal with the situations at hand. Choices are great, allows for adaptability during each mission, as I learned so well during my hour post playing through a Legendary encounter while trapped between snipers, a Wraith tank, Ghosts, and ground troops. I enjoyed the freedom to choose my own path, the game was still linear in its progression but the ability to choose how to complete the mission is all the better.
While the campaign draws us in and compels us forward, there is a bit of down side. The end game moment before the final scenes of the game were just a bit of a letdown, where we face the final boss, and it, well to go on without spoilers, it makes it end just way too easy to ‘finish the fight’ so to say. There was also draw backs of the checkpoint selections, being one of those who plays Legendary first, the checkpoints came few and far between sometimes, even more so sometimes they hit one right after another. This made for a lot of bad times when having to enter the fray once again, watching myself relive the same scene as before.
Now with a campaign always comes multiplayer, and Halo 4 is no exception. Getting to spend a multitude of matches online, I held a pretty decent amount of time in the Infinity Servers. With the previous installment of Reach, the multiplayer had changed from the original format, this time around the guys at 343 found a way to merge both experiences into one.
The original skills (Camo, Jetpack, etc.) which were a center point in Reach, are now only a sub-focus, while adding new skills (Hard shield, regeneration field), the focus jumps back into the action, as it was always intended. This time around with new weapons, the kills are rated by points, as are daily challenges, once the points add up, you fill your ordinance meter. This meter, once full, allows a choice of three selections, including new weapons not founded on the map or power ups. The best way to describe it would be like the nuke drop, or UAV killstreaks, but allowing us a choice of weapons or powers. You can also dive into special story based missions call Spec Ops, which have a somewhat weekly or predetermined dates.
When it comes down to it, the game had a tremendous push forward since day one, and yet the end result is something spectacular. Of course, just like most things, there are flaws, which revolve around the end of a boss and the power of checkpoints, though the folks at 343 compensate for that with a rich and spectacular game packed full of surprises. I hated to feel the game come to an end but with Spec Ops and multiplayer still in play, I have many hours of play left ahead of me.
Kudos 343, Kudos
- New and Developing story
- Original Voice Actors
- New enemies and familiar foes
- Refined Multiplayer/ Interesting Spec Ops releases
- Brilliant Graphics/Sound
- End Boss Finish
- Checkpoint ‘Malfunction’