Halo 4 Review: Why it's One of the Best Games in the Franchise Yet.
I was worried whenever Halo 4 was announced
by 343 Industries. Not because I wasn't excited to see another Halo game in the making, but because it wasn't being produced by its original parent company, Bungie Studios, who made Halo 1-3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo Reach, all phenomenal games. However, after Halo Reach had been released, Microsoft and Bungie went their separate ways, but Microsoft wasn't done with the Halo franchise, which economically makes sense; it makes them a whole lot of money. So Microsoft started 343 Industries to continue the work that Bungie had started, and announced a new trilogy, dubbed the "Reclaimer Trilogy," that was in the making, starting with Halo 4.
I was afraid that they were going to mess with the formula that made all of the previous Halo games fantastic. Which they did, to some extent. However, after having played Halo 4 in its entirety, I can say that what they did change, they changed for the better.
My eyes will never be the same.
First, I would like to talk about the graphics. Halo 3 was the first in the franchise to actually have full HD capability, but if you go back and play it now, you can pick out a few things, especially during the cinematic sequences, that would absolutely point to the fact that the game was completely animated. Halo Reach offered a small improvement in graphics as well, but as soon as I began the campaign in Halo 4, I was stunned by the cinematic taking place before me. It was so well done, that I actually believed I was watching actors perform a small sequence that took place during the game, until one of the characters on screen lifted her head, and I noticed a very small oddity with her hair. Then it dawned on me, it was completely animated. And it wasn't just the cinematic either, as soon as I actually began gameplay, I realized that the entire game was given nearly just as much attention. It's beautiful, and easily one of the most well-animated games I have ever seen.
Watch this in HD or it just isn't the same!
But enough about the graphics.
I knew they would at least be as good as before, so this wasn't something I was worried about. I was worried that the franchise could take a turn for the worse, and I'm glad I was wrong. Halo 4 feels as much like Halo as every single one of the games before did (except Halo Wars, but I like to pretend that never happened). But not only did 343 Industries get Halo 4 right, they also made improvements beyond my expectations.
Say what you will about Halo 1-3, Master Chief doesn't have much personality beyond crazy-unstoppable-killing-machine. His robot AI, Cortana, has much more personality and acts more human than he does. Halo 4 really begins to explore this conundrum. Throughout the game you find that Cortana is going through AI death, dubbed rampancy, which is where they "think themselves to death." This causes her to lose control of herself often, and makes her basically lose her mind. At one point she is contemplating her death and how she'll never be able to truly feel as a person does, and asks the Chief if, by the end of it all, he would help her figure out who the machine is and who the person is. The fact that 343 Industries is showing a more emotional approach to this game is fantastic. It allows gamers to begin to connect much more with the characters that are portrayed, and makes the games more playable. Along these lines, whenever Cortana dies at the end of the game, Chief is visibly affected by his loss. They worked the emotions of the game so well that they made a man who never showed any emotion before seem real and alive, with human emotions and all.
Beyond the story.
Halo 4 is much better beyond the campaign, however. It's online features have seen a general improvement as well. Most of the popular online game types have made a comeback in game, but the leveling system has seen a large overhaul. You still gain experience the same way as with Halo Reach, through challenges, commendations, and general gameplay. However, once you level up, you begin to unlock new weapons, new armor abilities, and new pieces of armor for your online Spartan-IV. Personally, this new leveling system feels good for me, because it gives me goals to strive for, aside from just gaining experience, which can sometimes become a tedious and repetitive process, causing me to go back to games like Skyrim or Minecraft.
Also, 343 Industries took the liberty of creating an all-new online game type dubbed "Spartan Ops." This game type allows you to take on objective-based missions released in weekly episodes, and follow a general story line that takes place 6 months after the events of Halo 4. Each episode contains 5 missions, and also has its own set of challenges to complete, allowing for massive amounts of experience to be generated through play. The reason this is worth mention, however, is because it isn't necessary to play with others online. You can play through each of the missions on your own, and it gives it a Halo Reach feel, and makes the game seem like there are two separate story lines; the original, following the activity of Master Chief, and Spartan Ops.
Halo 4 is definitely worth buying and playing.
It has definitely fulfilled its role as a Halo game, and 343 Industries is to be congratulated. It is such a phenomenal game that I find myself wondering whenever the next bit will be released, whether it be Spartan Ops or new DLC, or even Halo 5. If you're a fan of the franchise, but have been holding out because you're just not sure if it's worth it, go and buy it as soon as you can, for you will be pleasantly surprised. The campaign offers new insight into the Master Chief and Cortana, and begins what promises to be a spectacular new trilogy, and the online multiplayer will keep you occupied for a very long time, as well.