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Beta’d: The Halo 4 Review

If Halo is Combat Evolved, then Halo 4 truly is Halo Evolved. From the opening cinematic of the single player campaign to the completely fresh feeling multiplayer, everything about Halo 4 feels like a classic Halo experience, but also feels like something completely new. A lot of this growth is due to an updated look for the series and a much more cinematic and personal story for Master Chief.

When last we saw Master Chief, he had ended a galactic war, been presumed dead, and locked away in cryo-stasis with his AI life-mate Cortana on the damaged Forward Unto Dawn. Cut to 4 years later, and Master Chief is brought out of stasis when arriving into the orbit of a forerunner planet. Oh, and a covenant fleet is hanging out for shiggles as well, and apparently this is a fanatical religious sect of the covenant, because up until now we’ve only dealt with the well-meaning wanting to destroy the galaxy covenant. After that, you rather quickly get sucked into the Forerunner planet via a gravity well, meet a race of creatures called Prometheans that really don’t want you there, and then meet a big bad that upon first meeting you aren’t even sure Master Chief can take down, all while Cortana hangs in the balance as an AI’s life cycle isn’t meant to last 7 years. And this is all within the first few hours of gameplay.

I’m focusing a bit on the story because I feel like this is the first Halo game that really had a fully developed arc instead of a string of battle scenarios held together by a loose plot. There is even a certain amount of comparing that one could do with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, as the game actually manages to deal with some of the same themes of where we come from and where we’re going, not the kind of thing Halo ever went for in the past. In Halo 1 & 2, Master Chief is saving the world because he’s a soldier and it’s his job. In Halo 4, Master Chief is fighting to save Cortana and, through plot points I won’t spoil, he has to go against orders to save humanity once again. The storytelling component of the series is so improved that it is the highlight of the game for me. I care about what happens to Master Chief. That’s not what I expected from a Halo game. I go to Mass Effect for my feels, not Halo. But I’ll be damned if Halo 4 doesn’t draw an emotional response from me. I don’t want to just beat the game for once, I want to see how the story ends.

Visually, this Halo is far superior, as it feels more theatrical than previous iterations of the franchise. The game does rely on cinematics a lot more than in the past, but they’re well-timed breathers from the action for the most part, and, as I said previously, the story is enthralling enough that you want to see them. Cortana and Master Chief both have updated looks for the first Halo from 343 and Master Chief definitely got the better redesign. Just when you think he can’t look more bad-ass, they go and do it. The game is stunning to play. It’s a more vivid and colorful gameplay experience than in the past, and if you don’t understand my meaning, play ODST again. Dark Grey, Dark Grey Everywhere.

It’s impossible to write a review of Halo and not mention the multiplayer. For once, the single player campaign is strong enough that I could avoid it, but the truth is that Halo 4‘s multiplayer is good again, and I didn’t realize Halo multiplayer had gone bad. The variety of games and the point-based scoring instead of straight kill count in infinity slayer make multiplayer a worth while experience, even if you’re not the best player around. Adding in the ability to unlock loadouts and armor, a multiplayer mechanic in other shooters that are almost solely multiplayer in design, gives players an investment in continuing to play, and even gives a slight advantage to people who vary their play styles.

Halo 4 is the best Halo game so far, and if this is the direction they’re going with the next few games, then I’m all for it. A cohesive and engaging storyline, compelling characters and incredible visuals make Halo 4 one of the best games of the year. It’s a return to form for an amazing franchise that didn’t feel dull until it reinvented itself and made you realize how much more it could have been.

For more details on Spartan Ops, check out Dan Casey’s demo from Comic-Con. You can also enter to win a sold out Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Master Chief vs. Hunter Statue now based on scenes from Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn on Machinima Prime (highly recommended viewing on the YouTube app on your Xbox instead of on a cramped computer monitor).

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  1. Manny says:

    Look, for all you people who didn’t like halo 4, don’t worry. 343 is a very small company, just starting out with games. It didn’t have much money, experience with Halo. Now that its got millions more dollars due to so many people buying halo 4, everything will be much better. And theyve got a chance to see how people react to there ideas, and they have feedback. The reason halo 4 was short, was because the graphics budget was expanded so much, they had to cut some corners. Plus they aren’t a multi million dollar company. It was also rushed and left so many cliff hangers because its more of a gateway game. It’s supposed to allow the next halo games to have purpose, amd story. If all was explained in halo 4, halo 5 and 6 wouldn’t even have a purpose. Trust me, the next games will be much better.

  2. Ruben says:

    halo 4 wont save!!!!!! please help

  3. scott says:

    yepp disagree with Ryan as well. I like a game that intrigues me, i pushed through some areas a lil quicker purely because i wanted to know more of the story. If anything was ruined, it was being given two discs…..cause uhmm i prefer one disc….soooo…
    Its unfortunate for Ryan to miss where most well done games are going. If you like something, its because you connect with that something. Ryan perhaps realizing that human beings have emotions, and as stated Master Chief is HUMAN would help you better understand the franchise that you Oh so enjoy with such proof as HALO WARS being your favourite Halo game…………SERIOUSLEY??? the one halo game that you are not master chief….im flabbergasted here and hoping that others will find the other words i cant comprehend to write right now because im soo blown away by a lack of Grounds Ryan has. but all in all its just opinion right? and this was mine

  4. Joshua says:

    I can wholeheartedly disagree with Ryan in every respect, and counter his points.

    1. Master Chief’s features have never been a mystery. For someone who seems as though they care about Halo’s story, they sure haven’t delved very far into the full universe. John is described in some detail on a regular basis in the books. As for giving the Chief a personality, that’s more of a personal issue. True, it does sever the whole, “this is you,” idea, but for others it actually makes him feel like a person, rather than a prop with a gun.

    2. Already covered in 1. Also I would argue that he’s not in control at any point in this game, even to the point of being overwhelmed.

    3. Again, don’t seem to be paying much attention to the story. We see a couple Forerunners, yes. However, it flat out says that the Prometheans are not Forerunners, and without spoiling some revelations, they are constructs, so of course they are all going to look alike. Why would you manufacture an army of unique robots? Furthermore, it heavily implies that the Didact is a black sheep among the Forerunner higher-ups, and is the only one who uses Prometheans. Who knows what else a millenia old civilzation has up their sleeves?

    4. There has always been a hint of romance between them, ever since Cortana’s introduction scene in The Fall of Reach.

    Additional: They do tell why the Covenant are there and attacking. These are Covenant that still believe in the Great Journey. And it seems pretty obvious that they’re holding back the full ramifications of the librarians actions for later in the trilogy.

  5. Taylor M. says:

    I respectfully disagree with Ryan’s opinion on this one. 343 is changing this franchise so that it focuses more on the man inside the armor, which I find to be much more compelling than the stories of the previous iterations.

    If a franchise doesn’t evolve and bring in new elements it feels stale, see COD on this one, which is why I believe making John the character that is portrayed in the novels is an excellent idea. The silent protagonist is fast becoming an old mechanic, I for one can’t attach myself to an emotionless hand holding a gun. I need a fleshed out character to interest me, which is not the same with everyone, i realize. But after 11 years of this franchise, I think it’s time we got to know the man who’s body we’ve inhabited for so long, which includes seeing his face. Oh, and you want repetitive gameplay? Play CE again.

    Solid review Brian. Great read.

  6. Ryan says:

    Actually, Halo 4 is the worst Halo game thus far, aside from Halo Wars.

    The game-play in the singe player campaign is repetitive and the enemies are similar: plug Cortana in here; destroy these four pillars; acticate these three key codes; fight off the same enemies in similar environments. They also force the player to use Promethean weapons throughout 3/4 of the game, which aren’t good adaptations of the marine weapons and usually lack ammo.

    The story in the campaign is also quite bad, and felt rushed. Honestly, that moment with The Librarian where she explains 2/4 of the story took about one minute. I felt as if I had missed something, which is probably because most things weren’t explained – such as why the Covenant are fighting the Master Chief after their pact four years earlier, and what the Librarian even DID to him. On top of that the whole Diaduct story was just awful and blatantly rushed.

    343i has probably ruined the entire Halo Universe for me in one swoop, for the following reasons:

    NUMBER F*CKING ONE) You do not simply show off the Master Chief’s face at the end of the game, after Bungie has provided mystery over his features for a full decade. There’s probably a reason for this mystery, something along the lines of ONCE YOU BEGIN TO GIVE THE CHIEF A PERSONALITY OTHER THAN STERN AND QUIET, THE PLAYER LOSES A CERTAIN CONNECTION WITH HIM. He is no longer Gordan Freeman-esk, where the player can insert themselves within that character’s shoes. Which leads me into

    2) The Chief was a loudmouth in this game, both verbally and emotionally. That is not him. He is stern and in control. He doesn’t need to speak because he is always in control in every situation. Why is him showing character negative? See #1.

    3) The mystery of the forerunner is gone. It’s over. All mystery was taken away – we see the forerunners and have armies of their soldiers (which all look the same) thrown at us. I much preferred seeing their creations (like the sentinels or their vast structures) while reading/hearing about them from the terminals/guilty spark. This vagueness led to a sense of mystery towards the forerunners, which was cool, especially considering their power.

    4) The Master Chief / Cortana relationship a bit more romantic. That is not their relationship.

    On top of that, it was short. Like, 4-6 hours short. I felt like more effort was put into the multi-player than the campaign, which is not like a Halo game.