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“Halo 4” Review

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I have always felt the Halo series was overhyped. The story was decent, the graphics nothing astounding, and the gameplay your standard FPS fare. To me, the hype came as a result of it being the first big online competitive multiplayer FPS for consoles, and people stuck with it. I played through the series, from the original to part 3, from ODST to Reach, and even the RTS Halo Wars. Yet, I still never bought into Halo being a top-tier FPS experience. With a new company at the helm of development, how does this most recent entry compare?

I can start by saying that the changes made to the story direction are the best thing to happen to the series under 343 Industries. This new approach builds much more characterization around Master Chief and Cortana, and delves much deeper into their relationship. This is a great step forward for the series as the player now begins to view Master Chief as more than a “machine” as Cortana mentions at one point in this game. Further, this first entry in the Reclaimer story is as epic as ever and retains the feeling of a massive space conflict while introducing more backstory on the Forerunners. The story has its ups and downs and is, by far, the best in any of the games bearing the Halo name.

The visuals in the game have also changed from recent entries. The enemies, weapons, and vehicles all bear their classic look, but the view from Master Chief’s eyes feels different. This is by no means a bad thing, as the graphics on the whole are phenomenal, with some great lighting effects, great explosion and particle effects, nice texture work, and some amazing CGI story sequences. For the praise Halo has gotten in the past for its graphics, this is the first entry that I really believe has been above the norm for the time of its release.

This wonderful presentation continues to the audio work. The soundtrack is appropriately epic and fits each section very well. Few shooters really have fitting and high quality soundtracks and this is one example of an FPS soundtrack done right. Further, the sound effects for each weapon and vehicle are top-notch. Each gun’s sound gives weight to the weapon and enhances the feel of them.

The relationship between Master Chief and Cortana is developed much depper than previous entries and becomes a focal point of "Halo 4", a nice change for the series.

The relationship between Master Chief and Cortana is explored much more deeply than previous entries and becomes a focal point of “Halo 4”, a nice change for the series.

For all of these improvements, one area where this game does feel like prior entries is the gameplay. This is not a negative as the controls feel as smooth as ever. Taking on hordes of enemy forces is still simple and satisfying. In “Halo 4”, you will meet some new enemy types as you progress in addition to the classic Covenant forces. Some of these new enemies really take a pounding before they go down, and with that, there is a good amount of new weapons to try out as well. These new weapons have your standard properties of SMG, shotgun, etc. but still enhance the gameplay nicely. One thing I will say is that “Halo 4” really keeps you on your toes, as ammo is often sparse for the many weapons, so you must constantly adapt to the situation and make use of whatever you can (sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating). To break up the constant action, there are some nice vehicle sections that actually have decent controls. On the whole, the only real downside to the gameplay is that the player has a minimal amount of interaction in the final confrontation with the villain. There is a great, epic battle right before, but once you reach the villain, it becomes cutscenes and a few button prompts.

Looking at the full package, the campaign is a great experience, and the best campaign in any Halo game. To add to the depth of this game, you also have some very competitive multiplayer that Halo has always been known for. A few new modes change up the experience, but this is more of the same multiplayer many fans have always enjoyed. There is also a nice episodic co-op campaign, called Spartan Ops, that will feature a multitude of new episodes over the coming months.

As a whole, this is easily the best Halo franchise entry. The story is one of the best I’ve played in any recent FPS, the presentation is outstanding, and the game itself plays nicely. There is also a large amount of content to keep you coming back after the campaign, as well. There are only a few negatives for this game, and any shooter fan should pick this game up. It seems that under the control of newcomer 343 Industries the Halo series has finally become a top-tier shooter experience.

Story: 9.5/10

Graphics: 9/10

Sound: 9.5/10

Gameplay: 9/10

Final Score: 9.3/10

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