GAME REVIEW: 'Halo 4'
Title: “Halo 4”
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
The Grade: A+
What is it? The beginning of a new trilogy in a franchise that single handedly put the Xbox on the map. This first-person shooter is set nearly five years after the events of “Halo 3” and follows the return of iconic gaming protagonist Master Chief and his faithful AI companion Cortana as they battle an overwhelming force that threatens to annihilate mankind.
A thrilling campaign. If you’ve seen the ads for “Halo 4,” chances are you’ve been casually introduced to a new enemy, the Prometheans. They are one of the most challenging opponent gamers have ever faced in this series, but what really makes this title shine is the story between Master Chief and Cortana. Up until now the two have had what’s more or less been a buddy-movie kind of relationship. “Halo 4” gives the pair more substance and depth. It moves the game from the lighthearted feel of “Starship Troopers” and into “Aliens” territory.
Retooled multiplayer experience. Back in its early days, the “Halo” franchise dominated online play. Then the “Call of Duty” series came along, improved on what “Halo” did and stole the multiplayer crown. With “Halo 4,” developer 343 Industries returns the favor. In the game’s competitive multiplayer "War Games," players can customize their loadouts, earning upgrades through multiplayer gameplay. “Halo 4’s” co-op offering, "Spartan Ops," is an obvious nod to “Call of Duty's" Spec Ops with a notable exception: It’s free. This series of weekly cinematic episodes (Episode 1 took about an hour) continue the story of “Halo 4.” Forge also returns and its significant upgrades are sure to please those gamers who love to create their own multiplayer maps.
Brilliant game presentation. “Halo 4” proves that developers can still squeeze some amazing visuals out of the current generation of consoles. The lighting, animation, physics and cinematics in this game are first rate. Adding to the experience is top notch music and audio. Neil Davidge steps in for longtime “Halo” composer Marty O’Donnell and provides an emotional and heroic musical score. The game also features new recordings for every weapon and sound effect in the game.
A series in great hands. When 343 Industries took over the “Halo” brand from its creator (Bungie), many people wondered if they were up to the challenge. “Halo 4” answers that question with a resounding "yes." While 343 is certainly respectful of the “Halo” legacy and even incorporates some of the non-gaming “Halo” lore, it also does an amazing job of putting its own stamp on the franchise.
Is that the end? Spartan Ops, Forge and a fantastic multiplayer suite will always give players something to do in “Halo 4” but the main campaign can be completed in 8-10 hours. I may be greedy but I loved the campaign so much I wanted more.
I was surprised by was how much more engrossing “Halo 4” is compared to its predecessors. Not just in the single-player story but in every facet. The retooled campaign, the addition of Spartan Ops and the streamlined multiplayer are all addictive. This is the “Halo” game fans of the series have always hoped for and it’s at the top of my list of Game of the Year nominees.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.