The Average Gamer

Halo 4 Review (360)

The time has come, my friends. After all the hype, all the controversy, and all the anticipation – Halo 4 is going to be hitting store shelves worldwide in less than a week. I have had the honour, nay – the privilege, of playing and completing it and I have to say… It’s pretty darn great.

The biggest fear of Halo fans, at least according to the Internet hivemind, revolves around 343 Industries taking over where Bungie had left off. Let’s start things off right and put those qualms to rest, because Halo 4 is a brilliant piece of work and 343 did a fantastic job with the franchise. The multiplayer especially being the section I feel they really nailed. I have already discussed my feelings, in greater detail than I could fit in this review, of multiplayer here, and the full release is everything promised there and more. Spartan Ops especially. This new ‘episodic’ style of content is one of the best new additions to the multiplayer portion.

Strict restrictions ban me from divulging any key details to do with the story, accompanying videos, or specifics of the Spartan Ops missions.

What I can say, however, is that each episode of Spartan Ops will contain 5 chapters and there looks to be at least 5 full episodes planned for release over Halo 4’s lifespan, possibly more to follow. It is a self-contained mode, with up to 4 player co-op, which adds sidelines to the campaign’s plot. It, to me, feels like a mode that will keep non-War Game players hooked on the Halo Universe.

To the best of my knowledge there will be no added fees for each episode either, which means there’s more stuff coming, which is fresh and well written, at no extra cost. They’re not ridiculously substantial or anything, but they’re enjoyable, fun, challenging side quests to give even more story well after the campaign has been completed. 343 are doing a bang up job so far.

How about the rest of the multiplayer? Well, I’m afraid to say, it’s bloody excellent. Really is no other way of putting it. I have been hooked on War Games since I first booted it up because the multiplayer in Halo 4 is so addictive. No other game had a hope of pulling me away. The levelling XP system, which unlocks armour options and Spartan ID elements, is one thing but placed on top of that you also have Spartan Points, which you use to unlock weapons and extras for your loadouts, and suddenly you have a recipe for addiction. I want a badass green and white Spartan armed with an assault rifle and a hologram module and I am prepared to fight for them!

You earn XP across the board of multiplayer options (Spartan Ops, Custom Games, creating Maps in Forge, and all the competitive playlists contained in War Games) but in War Games you really do have the best opportunity to gain XP and Spartan Points. This is where Slayer, Capture the Flag, Flood, Domination, and Free for All modes live so whatever taste in game mode you have you’re bound to find the playlist which is best for you and bumps your XP up how you desire. As if that weren’t enough, killing has become more satisfying than ever with the aid of weapon drops, that you get after earning a certain number of points through kills/assists/captures, meaning you can call down a shotgun, or a sniper rifle, or whatever option you favour in the heat of the battle right in front of you.

Therefore you have fully customised loadouts with Spartan Points, XP incentives to unlock more awesome things to level your custom Spartan up in whatever way you desire, weapon drops mid-game for when you’re in a tight spot or kicking so much ass you want to kick some more, and all that alongside that great Halo multiplayer feel. Damn, 343, I tip my helmet to you thus far.

Inevitably, we have to talk about Halo 4’s campaign. I take little pleasure in fully admitting that this is the weakest part of Halo 4, in my eyes. Again, I have been given a list of things I’m not allowed to mention specifics of (which for the sake of clarity we’ll call: EVERYTHING) so as not to spoil the plot of experience – I however found the campaign to be a little bit… flat.

All previous Halo games have those key moments; those epic, unforgettable moments that made them great. Halo 4 didn’t really have any of those for me though, outside of the opening mission and the finale. Everything in between felt a tad too safe. Almost as if 343 were, understandably, nervous about pushing the bar too far given they were the new folks giving Halo a rebirthing. The soundtrack was nothing short of immense though, and what moments I do remember being surprised at were great. They just weren’t fantastic.

It’s still a really enjoyable 7 or so hours (on Heroic difficulty) but there were some glaring issues and plot-holes (which again, I’m not allowed to mention) that I did feel dragged it down somewhat. After nearly two complete playthroughs and back tracking I can still not figure out why the Covenant are in this game. Cannot find a single reason for their existence or motivation. I want to stress that the campaign being the weakest element doesn’t make it weak in itself. The Mammoth (massive yellow bastard pictured above) was a big hit for me, to give but one example, however the campaign felt more like 343 building up their confidence for a possible future iteration and not to make a standalone experience.

Perhaps that feeling is unique to me, but I can recall all the great and shocking moments in Halo 1, 2 and 3… 4 not so much, and I only played it this week. It complements the multiplayer nicely, and many fans will definitely love it and probably berate me for saying I found it rather lacklustre, but I just wouldn’t consider it a deal breaker for anybody who is only in Halo 4 for the story and not for killing their fellow Spartans.

I stand by Halo 4 with a smile on my face though, as a fan of the series and as a gamer. The multiplayer, both co-op and competitive, is as addictive, if not more so, as Halo has always delivered. The campaign, which while lacking is elements and having a few irritating issues, still expands on the Halo universe and gives fans more insight and experience to indulge in.

Plus, all the bonus Waypoint and episodic content available means that you’re definitely getting your money’s worth when this hits store shelves. 343 Industries deserve credit for doing such a great job with a tremendous amount of fan pressure built up. Rest easy tonight, 343. Halo 4 is getting a thumbs up and a “Great” from me.

It’s a pleasure to have you back in our lives, Chief.

Halo 4 is out on the 6th November, and is available only on Xbox 360.

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