Well after taking far too long to finish the HALO 4 campaign, I finally sat down and finished it. This was one of the most epic games I’ve ever played, and comes close to rivaling HALO: Combat Evolved for the best HALO game.
SPOILERS in the Campaign section. Don’t read it if you haven’t finished the campaign yet.
Graphics: 10/10 – the in-game graphics were a huge step up from HALO: Reach. The detailing everywhere was greatly improved, and this rivals almost any console game out there right now. All you have to do is look at the detailing on weapons to see how much more work went into this iteration. The cutscene graphics were fantastic – the people look close to lifelike, and the scenery is beautiful.
Soundtrack & Effects: 10/10 – Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori provided some assistance to this iteration of HALO, but most of the composing was done by newcomer Neil Davidge. As a result, the soundtrack had a much different feel, and at times was more reminiscent of Star Wars than HALO. That’s okay, because the music was still epic, but what really made this game shine in the audio department was the sound effects. When I was playing for the first time, I was loving it, but there was one major change I couldn’t figure out until I finally realized it was the sound! The effects cause you to become immersed in the game, and in my opinion are the best sounds I’ve ever heard in a video game. If you are playing with surround sound, you will likely be blown away.
Storyline: 10/10 – The team at 343 Industries really did a great job putting together a cohesive storyline that did indeed feel like a continuation of the HALO saga we’ve all loved for over 11 years. There were plenty of plot twists, from Forerunners, to fighting Covenant again (don’t worry, the Flood do not make an appearance), to betrayals. We even get a level that feels straight out of Star Wars, especially with the music – I felt like Luke Skywalker in the trench run on the first Death Star. But the real core of this storyline is the exploration of the relationship between John and Cortana. This element makes it into an emotional journey, right up until its gut-wrenching conclusion.
Execution: 9/10 – Rarely did the story feel repetitive. There were a couple instances where I was bored by having to repeat an action two or three times, but those sections were fortunately short. There were no levels reminiscent of HALO CE’s Library or HALO 3′s Cortana, but each level added nicely to the storyline and had rewarding parts.
Gameplay: 9/10 – Nearly flawless. I beat the campaign on Normal, and have only played a few levels on Hardened, but there are no real spots that seem impossible at times. The addition of new Forerunner weapons, and a few new Covenant and Human weapons keep me exploring, and the controls’ minor changes were mostly for the good. The one bad thing I noticed was in the “Trench Run” level, the flying controls did not seem intuitive and even when I inverted the axis, they stayed confusing.
Overall campaign: 48/50. Easily the best campaign since HALO: CE. The length was of course shorter than Combat Evolved, but noticeably longer than HALO 3, which was welcome. I loved every minute of it, and was on the edge of my seat at times. With the ending, I am very curious to see what is in store for HALO 5. For even the casual fan of the series, this is absolutely a must-play.
Gameplay: 9/10 – Probably the best multiplayer in a HALO game to date. The graphics are again impressive, but the maps are great. As with any HALO, there are maps that are vastly more popular, but there are no ‘broken’ maps. With the new vehicle in the Mantis and plenty of new weapons, multiplayer whether on-line or in split screen play can entertain for hours. One downside is the SAW, a really cool weapon, is unfortunately vastly overpowered at short and medium ranges. Other than that, the weapons are mostly balanced.
Game Modes & Progression: 10/10 – The game modes bring back all of your old favorites – CTF, SWAT, Slayer, Oddball, and Grifball, along with adding some small newer modes. Infection has changed slightly, where all infected players now visually appear to be Flood. Overall, an excellent job. In a change from previous installments, the rank and unlock system is clear and very different. Rather than weapons appearing in set locations on the map, players now have access to loadouts, which allow various unlocks at different ranks. The implementation of this tried-and-true model is nearly flawless. Access to higher-powered weapons are granted as scorechain weapon drops; that is, achieve a certain score without dying and you can call in an ordnance drop.
Team Play: 8/10 – No real new innovations in team play have been made, but the classic team games are still excellent. There is a rather small amount of players with mics online, however, making play with randoms difficult.
Menus: 8/10 – The menus are easy to navigate and are pleasant to use, with two exceptions: 1) repeating the pattern from previous installments, “ads” appear upon startup, asking you to purchase DLC or play a specific mode, and 2) there is an in-game way of changing the lobby type that can be very confusing until you figure it out.
Overall multiplayer: 35/40. The best multiplayer HALO to date, new weapons, features, and tweaks make this a game that can draw in gamers from many different backgrounds.
It wouldn’t be HALO without Forge mode, which has been vastly tweaked to be a much more enjoyable building experience. And with the campaign now comes “Spartan Ops”, stand-alone missions that tie into the campaign at various points to give extra details and even more play time. 9/10