Since its debut in 2001, the Halo series has risen from its humble beginnings to the top of the video game industry. Previous developer Bungie created the Halo universe, and made it an immersive experience for gamers. The newest installment, Halo 4, is the first game by new developer 343 Industries, and their first release raised both doubts and expectations to new levels. Don’t worry though, Halo fans: Halo 4 is here, and it’s incredible.
Halo 4 expands on the story of Master Chief and Cortana, but the characters are not the same as gamers last saw them at the end of Halo 3. For those not familiar with the series: Master Chief is a super soldier, known as a Spartan II, and he traverses the galaxy taking out aliens with the help of a brilliant AI, Cortana. The UNSC ship Forward Unto Dawn has drifted for four silent years, with only one survivor: the Chief himself. When Master Chief finally wakes, he discovers a stunning change: Cortana has become unstable and irrational. The premise is bold but ultimately tells an engaging and unique story. Without spoiling it, prepare yourself for new enemies and a story that will please veterans and first-timers alike.
At first glance, Halo 4 is a technical masterpiece. The game looks absolutely stunning, hands down. It impresses with grand set pieces and detailed new enemies in every level. The attention to detail is evident in every part of the game, from the multiplayer to the campaign to the minor changes in the interface. Every part of the game is true to Halo origins. Even Master Chief himself wears torn, battle-worn armor that makes him look more impressive than ever. The sound is equally impressive, due in large part to the completely reworked weapon noises. Every shot feels powerful and the weapons each have a very distinct sound. This is a game to be played with the volume on very loud. But forget sights and sounds — what Halo fans really look for is great combat.
As fantastic as the story of Master Chief and Cortana is, the combat is the star of the show. 343 has stayed true to the series’ roots, but they adjusted the formula and added fantastic new weapons to make the Halo shooting experience the best yet. The campaign features new weapons and enemies at every turn, making the eight hour campaign seem fresh all the way through. The multiplayer did take a few liberties, with the addition of loadouts and weapon drops, but the changes do not feel like concessions to mainstream players. Instead, they feel like an integral part of the experience and a perfect piece to complete the Halo multiplayer world. The big new additions are the human weapon improvements and Spartan Ops. The SAW and sticky launcher add an entirely new aspect to combat and expand the firefights from standard shootouts to more tactical battles. Spartan Ops is another part to the package. The Ops are a set of five downloadable missions available every week, and while they don’t have the same replayability as firefights from Halo Reach, they are an excellent source of co-op fun.
Bottom line: Not only did Halo 4 meet the spectacular expectations set by its devoted fans, it exceeded them. This is a fantastic package and a game more than worthy of the Halo title. From the campaign to the multiplayer, Halo 4 is exciting, engaging and most of all, fun. It could well be the best game of 2012, so do yourself a favor and play it. It is an experience that you will not forget.