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Halo 4343
Halo 4

 

Halo 4

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
 
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INTRO

There are few first-person shooters that aren’t influenced in some manner by the Halo series. The original Halo introduced gamers to an expansive sci-fi world and launched a standard by which future games would be held accountable. The birthmother of the Halo series, Bungie, saw gamers through six impressive titles before handing over the rights to 343 Studios. The changing of hands regarding a popular title often spells doom for the creativity and allure that first attracted gamers. I am happy to say, at least in the case of Halo 4, this is not an issue. I daresay Halo 4 may even be the best the series has to offer.

GAMEPLAY

It is nearly impossible to compare the campaign within Halo 4 to its multiplayer aspects. As such, I will attempt to speak to the many pros and few cons that both offer.

The campaign picks up exactly where Halo 3 left off, with the stalwart Master Chief in a state of hibernation aboard a floating space vessel. After he is abruptly awakened by his faithful AI, Cortana, he is immediately thrust into a three-way battle involving the Covenant, a new species known as the Prometheans, and humanity. The battle quickly funnels Master Chief onto a dormant Forerunner planet, where he discovers an immense power long since buried and forgotten. Without spoiling too much of the plot, I will say that this power once again threatens the fragile ties that keep life in the universe in balance.

If this plot sounds at all familiar, you’ve likely played one of the three prior Halo games. It’s nothing groundbreaking or spectacular, but it’s everything gamers will remember (and hopefully love) about the Halo series.

If the plot doesn’t impress you, the gameplay undoubtedly will. Combat feels smooth and streamlined, consisting primarily of pointing your cursor at enemies and pulling the trigger. This may sound somewhat cut and dry, but it never quite gets old. The plethora of guns and explosives at Master Chief’s disposal keeps gameplay interesting enough from level to level. There are well above a dozen guns Master Chief can use, most of which are essentially a permutation of the assault rifle, pistol, shotgun, or automatic rifle. I would have liked to see a little more variety, but there’s just enough to keep gamers engaged.

343 Studios gave Master Chief a great deal more mobility and power this time around. Master Chief can sprint whenever he wishes and has access to armor abilities, both old and new, including a rocket pack, a mobile shield, an auto-turret, active camouflage, and x-ray vision. These additions help give gamers the sense that they are, to all extents and purposes, the single most powerful force in the galaxy. Sniping an enemy in the head from 100 meters away before activating camouflage and sneaking up on another unsuspecting enemy feels utterly natural. This doesn’t mean that the campaign is easy by any means. There were moments even on the normal difficulty setting when I felt overwhelmed and completely vulnerable. I didn’t mind, however, seeing that what makes Halo 4 fun is its fine balance of ebb and flow.

In terms of multiplayer components, this is undeniably Halo’s best. All the old favorites are back, including slayer, capture the flag, and Griffball. The new maps and weapons slide neatly into the Halo lore, and gamers will find themselves enjoying every minute they can shoot their friends amidst hovering spacecraft and rolling hills. The matchmaking interface is also much improved, giving gamers the option to upgrade and customize their Spartan between matches. The time between matches still feels a tad slow compared to most other multiplayer games I’ve played, most notably Gears of War and Call of Duty. However, it was never long enough to convince me to stop playing.

Probably the most intriguing aspect of multiplayer is the new currency element. A good performance in a match will reap your Spartan points which he (or she) can use to purchase new guns, grenades, armor abilities, perks, and customization options. No longer will the experience you earn buy you another useless level. Gamers are now rewarded appropriately based on their performance, which can often give them the edge they need from game to game.

VIDEO

Halo 4 pushes the boundaries of what we deem possible given the constraints of modern-day game systems and hardware. Everything in Halo 4 from the sprawling landscapes to the fast-pace battles is stunningly beautiful. I often caught myself marveling at the sheer amount of detail that went into making the game aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Much of the background and landscapes are impossible to reach and thus only function as artwork. In this way, Halo 4 plays second fiddle to games like Skyrim. However, it would have been easy for the developers of Halo 4 to disregard detail, given that it doesn’t ostensibly add to gameplay, and they didn’t. For this reason, I applaud them.

I also found it remarkable given the great detail contained within Halo 4 that graphics never appear to fade, tear, or jump. Everything looks smooth and realistic. This alone is nearly reason for me to award Halo 4 a perfect 10 out of 10 for graphics. However, it is this reason combined with the aforementioned attention to detail that convinced me that Halo 4 more than deserves this prize.

SOUND

I have always been a fan of the Halo soundtrack. So when I booted up Halo 4 and was met with a different main theme, I became immediately wary. However, after I took some time and really listened to the quality of music contained within Halo 4, I was astounded. Every track and symphonic composition Halo 4 musters is incredibly beautiful. They add an element of awe and wonder to a game that is already spectacular without music.

In regards to sound effects, I was equally as impressed. 343 Studios took the time to revamp much of the prior sounds of Halo to make them more believable and impactful. Guns fire and pop with clarity. Characters are voiced appropriately and emotionally. Grenades and missiles explode, rocking your sound system with deep impact. Combined, all these elements create an in-battle experience rivaled by very few modern games (or past games, for that matter).


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