There were mixed feelings when Bungie sold the Halo franchise to Microsoft’s 343 Studio. Master Chief and the Halo series have been staples of the Xbox system since the beginning. Imagine Nintendo selling off Mario and Luigi and you can see why so many gamers were surprised with this sale. Of course there is a lot of logic to Microsoft’s purchase. The Halo series helps sell consoles and keeps players paying for their Xbox Live memberships. Microsoft needed a strong finish to the series and saw an opportunity to keep the game going long after its initial release (more on that later).
The game starts with a cut scene showing the origins of Master Chief and the Spartans. Originally designed for human warfare it was opportune timing that the Covenant attacked. The campaign begins where you left off in Halo 3 on the ship that you just escaped from the halo ring after its explosion. The story begins 4 years later (funny Halo 3 came out in 2008) and we find Cortana in a sense of fear and awakens Master Chief from his slumber.
Important cut scenes are portrayed in Higher Definition like the Final Fantasy series. Pay attention to these cut scenes and the dialogue in the story. Cortana, Master Chief’s AI is slowly starting to deteriorate after being programmed for an 8 year service life. Master Chief makes it his mission to take her back and fix her, but at the same time stop the Promethean leader "Didact” from destroying the human race.
Interactive cut scenes that require quick reflexes are new to the game along with a new kind of enemy known as the "Prometheans”; their robotic designs and weapons make the Covenant army look like puppies. The Prometheans come with a whole new arsenal of weapons as well.
Multiplayer includes the same ranking system as Halo: Reach along with the ability to customize your character and even load outs. For certain abilities or weapons you must spend Spartan Points (SP) which are earned through leveling up. New weapons design, HUD design and vehicle design are new as well. Updated sounds for the weapons make the previous games sound like you were shooting peas out of a straw. The Warthog’s engine really roars and revs and you can here the definite gear changes. Graphics and lighting have improved significantly as well! With a new Xbox months away this reminds me of Gran Turismo 3 for the Playstation 2. That game added motion blur and HD graphics – both firsts for games of the time. 343 is showing all the capabilities of the current Xbox while hinting at future graphics in the upcoming system.
The new weapons in the game along with previous weapons from Halo: Reach and Halo 3 make multiplayer quite interesting. Spartan Ops is a new addition to the game allowing players to work cooperatively with friends or fly solo to complete certain tasks. This is not to be confused with Call of Duty’s Special Ops. Spartan Ops is more like an add-on story line as the story continues while you progress. New episodes are added weekly and if you fall behind you can always go back and then catch up.
Halo 4 marks the final chapter of the Master Chief series and leaves you with a sense of peace and mind, but still wanting more. Master Chief’s story arc is now complete and with the holes filled in the back-story we now understand why he was never able to relate to normal humans. This is the first of three new games Microsoft will release in the Halo franchise. Lets hope the next two keep improving the story. The new Xbox console rumored in the near future should give ample opportunities to the programmers at 343 to keep improving this franchise.
The campaign is bit short for my taste, but you are thrown into the action right away. Doing coop play on the campaign I was half way through the story in about 4 hours. Usually campaigns take a couple of days to complete. Now being familiar with the story line I think I could finish the whole campaign in about 4 hours. Perhaps 343 thought the campaign was not as important as online play but with characters like this gamers hunger for story line. This is the best looking game on the Xbox platform thus far. The bar is now set very high for other franchises.
Spartan play promises to keep new missions coming for the immediate future keeping players coming back. Players have always been able to build maps so perhaps players maps will be included in future Spartan play missions? You have to give it to Microsoft, they know how to keep gamers paying for their Xbox Live memberships.
343 Industries took everything Bungie did and improved it. Halo 4 really delivers in all aspects and deserves a 4.5.