At long last, the much-anticipated release of Halo 4 is upon us, and gamers are understandably amped, though some remain cautiously optimistic, about the prospect of Master Chief’s return. Anyone who has been concerned by 343 Industries‘ handling of the next Halo title did so in vain, however, because the developer has managed to deliver one of the biggest, action-packed offerings ever created on a console. That’s not to say the fourth numeric installment is flawless, but the sheer amount of content will keep gamers entertained for countless months to come.
One of the biggest selling points of Halo 4, aside from the game’s multiplayer offerings, is the return of Master Chief. The legendary Spartan soldier was left floating through space the last time fans saw him in 2007’s Halo 3, and this game picks up after Cortana awakens Chief from his cryo-nap. As the campaign progresses, gamers will have to battle familiar enemies such as the Covenant, as well as brand new foes in the form of Prometheans, but it’s the story itself that many are eager to watch unfold.
The main campaign is without a doubt one of the most engaging in a Halo title to-date, and fans will instantly become attached to new characters that are introduced throughout the story. While that’s all fine and dandy, what will really draw in gamers are the performances given by Jen Taylor and Steve Downes (the voice actors for Cortana and Master Chief, respectively). The raw emotion and authentic interaction that occurs between the two throughout the whole story will keep players captivated until Halo 4 reaches its climactic end.
Master Chief’s latest adventure wouldn’t be satisfying without some solid gameplay to back it up though, and Halo 4 delivers just that to gamers. For the most part, the gameplay and combat stays true to its roots; providing long-time fans with an authentic, yet fresh, iteration of one of their favorite series. The only downside is that some of the chapters can become monotonous over time. Certain objectives will force players to run back and forth (usually to destroy generators) in order to advance forward in a level, and these moments have a tendency of popping up far too often than is necessary.
While a few of the missions can grow old pretty fast, there are still plenty of new gameplay additions that mix up the formula without upsetting the balance of the critically acclaimed series. Some portions of the campaign will require timed button presses in order to help Master Chief avoid certain death, and this helps players feel like they’re intimately entwined with the character’s struggle.
As with any new Halo game, there are also new weapons to choose from, and a new list of armor abilities just waiting to be discovered for the first time by the Chief. The option to sprint by clicking down left joystick is another new feature that anyone familiar with other FPS titles will enjoy, but aficionados needn’t worry because Halo 4 still maintains the arcade-esque approach that longtime fans of the franchise have come to love.
Overall, Master Chief’s return has been incredibly well executed by 343 Industries, and thanks to hidden terminals that have been scattered about the campaign, various difficulty levels, co-op, and achievements, there’s no question that fans will be replaying the main story. Anyone offended by the ending of Halo 2 doesn’t have anything to worry about either, because Halo 4 wraps up the story being told — while still leaving room for fans to contemplate the possibilities for Halo 5.
Once the thrill of the main story mode wears off, the next destination that players will visit is a category on the menu called ‘Infinity’. Within this option are three different modes that gamers will become well acquainted with pretty quickly. ‘War Games’, ‘Spartan Ops’, and ‘Forge’ offer a variety of different gameplay options, and the familiar modes are packed with new content that enhances the overall gameplay significantly when compared to its predecessors.
The new and improved multiplayer mode features a few noteworthy upgrades, and the most prominent is the ability to completely customize Spartans for online combat. Players aren’t stuck with the ability to just select their character’s armor anymore, and can now create entirely different load outs that are completely customized by the individual. Want to start a match with an assault rifle instead of a battle rifle? Do it. Would you prefer that your character have the Jetpack armor ability over a cloaking option? Done. Classes are created and based around the needs and desires of the player, and it’s up to them to decide how best to build their load outs.
As a player climbs in rank, they’ll be rewarded points that they can then spend on new weapons, armor types, armor abilities, and more. Some gear can only be purchased after players have reached a certain level too, so gamers have plenty of incentive to keep playing in order to make the perfect class for their play style. There’s almost no limit to which soldier types can be created, and Halo fans will immediately fall in love with the previously unfathomable amount of customization options.
Ordnance drops also make their triumphant debut in Halo 4, but series purists don’t need to worry about the potential upset these care packages bring with them. Anyone who racks up enough kills will be able to call in support in the form of three random pieces of gear. These drops can’t be stacked either, so opponents won’t be able to save up four or five ordnance drops to call in at their leisure. The application of this killstreak reward has been expertly executed by 343, and longtime followers of the franchise will quickly find that the addition doesn’t upset the balance of the game whatsoever.
‘War Games’ revolutionizes multiplayer in a way that many fans have never seen before; Spartan Ops, on the other hand, is an entirely new beast, and one that should not be overlooked by veterans or newcomers. Essentially acting as a second campaign, Spartan Ops throws players into the role of a generic Spartan soldier that has been tasked with completing a number of different missions. The entirety of the additional story mode contains plenty of content and cinematic cut-scenes, and it supports four-player co-op over Xbox Live.
What’s probably the most interesting aspect about Spartan Ops is that 343 plans on offering it episodically over the course of the next few months, and the best part is that the first season, consisting of 10 episodes featuring 50 missions, will be available completely free of charge for Xbox Live Gold members. This mode also provides some additional details to the ongoing story in the main campaign, so it’s beneficial to both those who play by themselves or with friends.
The third and final mode in Halo 4 is Forge, and many gamers should be familiar with its features by now. Gamers can build their very own levels within Forge, and once completed they can be uploaded and shared with millions of other level editing connoisseurs. While players will find a lot a familiarity to the level editor, there’s also a ton of new content that makes it easier than ever before to create exceptional multiplayer levels. The ability to duplicate items, enhanced object positioning, and upgraded visuals are but a few of the mode’s latest inclusions.
Overall, Halo 4 is the game that fans were hoping it would be. It’s the best looking installment in the illustrious franchise yet, but the thing that makes this title so appealing is the seemingly endless amount of content that it comes packed with. There’s no denying the immense replay value that Master Chief’s latest outing has, and as a result many 360 owners will be playing it well into 2013. 343 Industries has done incredibly well with their take on the beloved Halo series, and, aside from a few issues, it’s unquestionably one of the best games on the Xbox 360. The Master Chief is back, and his latest adventure is more fleshed out and thoroughly enjoyable than ever before.
Halo 4 will launch on November 6th, exclusively for the Xbox 360.
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