Halo 4 Review: Master Chief’s New Legacy
Halo 4 is a reminder of how Master Chief changed gaming forever.
There was a time when Halo was the king of gaming. When it came to online multiplayer, that is what console gamers played. Halo started a revolution among console gamers, and without Master Chief who knows where Xbox Live and console online gaming would be. Halo 4 is indeed a Halo title, but there is something about it that makes it feel like something special. Maybe it’s the fact we haven’t seen Master Chief since 2007, or it could be that the new ideas from 343 make Halo 4 feel fresh, but I would bet that it’s the simple fact that Halo isn’t complete without its main character and the simplicity of it’s multiplayer.
A lot has changed since Halo’s inception, and the basic story of stopping the world from being destroyed with the help of a blue female AI named Cortana isn’t sufficient. Halo 4 needed to breathe new life into the series, and 343 managed to do just that. Halo 4 feels like a new beginning for not only the franchise, but for Master Chief as well.
Halo 4 has one major focus, and it’s Master Chief. Finally, after so many titles of a main character taking a back seat, he finally gets his chance to become the main focus. There is so much that players will learn about Master Chief in Halo 4, and yes there is a world to be saved at the same time, but this time it feels drastically different. There is a main focus on a single villain, and at the same time Cortana is having her own problems that must be dealt with.
It amazing to think that so little is actually known about Master Chief and Cortana. After 3 titles with the duo, the only thing we truly know is that they are inseparable. There is a relationship between those two that just clicks, but at the same time is awfully confusing. It’s not a love story, even though at some points it feels like a weird love connection between AI and Man. Their relationship is tested in Halo 4, but again the focus is on Chief. 343 has somehow managed to get inside the head of Chief, and even though we only start to learn what his past and future hold, it’s enough to make players have genuine interest in the character once again.
The Didact is an amazing villain in Halo 4
Something else that 343 has introduced that makes a huge difference in how Halo 4 is told, is the introduction of a central villain known as The Didact. Again, in previous titles this was something that never quite felt right. Sure you had the various Covenant and Flood mixed with Gravemind and Truth, but those characters never felt important. Sure they wanted world dominance, but who doesn’t these days? The Didact is much different. He is a character that does indeed want his own way, but his personality and the his lust for power is terrifying. Maybe it’s due to the fact that we have heard a lot about him in the Halo universe, and now we finally have an idea of what he is capable of. Whatever the reason is, The Didact is a villain that is mysterious and is full of surprises.
Halo 4 is a wild ride. From the first mission to the last a lot happens. Players will be introduced to new elements that change everything we knew about Master Chief, and players will witness events that were thought never possible. Some details are missing, such as why The Covenant are fighting Chief once again, but I am sure all of the details will be told in later games. The good news is, once the credits roll players will want more instantly. 343 has truly started a new chapter for the Halo universe, and I personally haven’t been so excited to see where a story goes in a long time.
Obviously, just having a good story with great characters isn’t enough. Halo 4 also plays like a dream, and even though it doesn’t do anything particularly new, it manages to feel different than previous titles. There is the usual series of events that include shooting Covenant, hopping in a Warthog to drive across large terrains, and a mix of the two combined. There is a new race of enemies known as The Prometheans that keep the action exciting and offer Halo veterans a new enemy to shoot. The Prometheans are not just another enemy type, though, and will keep players at the edge of their seat. It is a fact that Halo 4 doesn’t do too much new for the series in terms of game play, but the polished experience mixed with the new enemies and weapons from the Promethean race keep it interesting.
The presentation of Halo 4 also helps the title quite a bit. Halo 4’s visuals were something that surprised me the moment the game started. The cut scenes are rendered to a point where for a few minutes I literally thought the opening of the game was live action. It was only when the camera moved to some different locations I realized it was pre rendered. The in game graphics are stunning as well. Amazingly, the insane blur fest known as the Halo Reach engine has been used for Halo 4, but it looks nothing like the previous Halo title. Texture quality is absolutely fantastic, and the frame rate very rarely dips.
There is one place where Halo 4′s presentation lacks quite a bit. The soundtrack in Halo 4 is missing its biggest factor, Martin Donnell. The music has been composed by Donnell since its inception, and the music in Halo franchise has become almost as iconic as the games themselves. This time around Neil Davidge takes the reins, and while the music of Halo 4 isn’t bad, it’s just missing its flare. Throughout the game there are areas where players expect the music to take center stage. Pivotal moments in Halo have always been accompanied by an amazing music set piece, in Halo 4 those iconic moments seem less iconic simply due to music. It’s weird to think that music has such a big role in Halo, but there were many times while playing I expected to hear the Halo theme rocking out, and the absence of it made moments feel less important. There are some really nice new pieces of music, and a few classics like Never Forget make their return, but if there is one place where Halo 4 falls short is its composer.
Multiplayer is obviously where most players will spend a majority of their time. I was one of the many who felt like Halo Reach went too far astray from the Halo formula. The introduction of loadouts created a lot of frustration, and made the game feel like a broken attempt to bring Halo into the current genre of shooters. Others felt like Halo Reach was the perfect blend of new and old, and became their favorite Halo game to play online.
Halo 4 is easily the best multiplayer experience in the Halo franchise.
Halo 4 seems to be a hybrid of Halo Reach and previous Halo titles like Halo 3. Loadouts make their return, but now have some customization instead of just having to use what is given to you. There are some new armor abilities like thruster pack which allows a quick burst of speed to evade quickly, and Promethean Vision which gives players the ability to see enemies through walls for a short period of time. On top of the armor abilities there also are tactical packages like Resupply which lets players pick up grenades from fall foes, and the support upgrades like Dexterity which lets players reload and swap weapons faster.
The main difference between Halo Reach’s loadouts and Halo 4′s is that the loadouts in Halo 4 feel much less intrusive as before. Even though there are many more ways to manipulate your characters abilities in Halo 4, there are not any abilities that feel over powerful or that can be spammed, such as armor lock in Halo Reach. Unlike many other games that offer different types of perks, Halo 4 doesn’t suffer from players having better perks due to being a higher level. I never felt like somebody had an ability that changed the game tremendously.
Simplicity was the one thing that Halo always did right for me, but gaming has changed tremendously even from when Halo 3 was released this generation. I never have to depend on my perks to win, and there are honestly times where I am just so into the action that I forget I even have an armor ability at my disposal, Halo 4 feels like the most simplistic version of modern online shooters. Yes, there are a ton of perks and ways to customize your loadouts, but again, Halo 4 never feels unfair.
If you have played previous Halo titles, then you should feel mostly at home with Halo 4. While a lot of the overall game hasn’t changed, obviously besides the loadouts, it’s the little things that seems to be changed in Halo 4. Grenades are the biggest area where I see a difference. Plasma grenades seems to be less sticky, and it seems much more difficult to stick somebody than in previous titles. Their blast radius seems much smaller than before as well. The regular frag grenades seems to be stronger, but their radius has been shrunken just like the plasma grenades. Weapons making their return like the DMR and Battle Rifle seem too similar in power, and like previous titles seem to be the go to weapons.
A few new things that have changed are the notifications of power weapons on the map. Each map has a set of weapons on rotation, and will blast in at certain times during a match. These are how weapons like the Plasma Sword and the new Scattershot are picked up in multiplier. What is a welcomed new addition is the notifications that show everybody on the map where the power weapons are. Gone are the days of people camping power weapons, and now everybody playing a game have an equal chance of getting the most powerful weapons in the game.
These simple changes make the overall multiplayer experience much better than any previous Halo title. After spending quite a bit of time with the different game types and mechanics of Halo 4′s multiplayer, I can easily say it is the best Halo title I have played. Sure, the annoying things are still here. Getting into a fire fight with somebody and having your shield lowered still results in being killed by somebody quickly with virtually no chance of survival, but there is nothing you can do about it. It is just part of the Halo experience, and it may be off-putting at first since every other First Person Shooter on the planet plays is similar to Call of Duty. The difference in Halo 4 from other shooters is I feel like I am in control.
Halo 4 has such a robust package it’s hard to all fit in one review. I haven’t even gone into a few other features like Spartan Ops and Forge which both add some cool things to the Halo 4 experience. Forge makes its return, but this time instead of having a central Forge map, players can tackle each of the maps included with Halo 4. Spartan Ops offers bite sized mission for up to four players, and provides some extra things to do with locations from the campaign. The trick with Spartan Ops is that 343 looks to extended the mode with new missions every week.
Halo 4 is quite an amazing package. The campaign is fantastic, and is just the start to what will hopefully be a great set of games in the Halo universe. Multiplayer has never felt better, and even though it plays it safe and takes a lot of aspects from modern shooters, it still manages to feel unique. I really am not sure where 343 will take Master Chief, but I can certainly say they have proved themselves worthy, and demonstrated they have what it takes to take the Halo franchise to places it has never been before. The future of Halo will most definitely be during the next gen. I can say with certainty that Master Chief is here to stay, and that’s they way it should be.