halo4 Xbox 360 Reviews

Halo 4 review

“Wake up, sleepyhead. It’s time to go kill a bunch of Covenant.”

John’s fine with this. He might have been in cryostasis for four years but a ruck with a bunch of short things with silly voices and tall things with weird sideways mouths is always worth getting out of bed for. The setup is classic Halo – wake up the big guy, run him through a brief refresher course of what his buttons do and send him off to fight loads of naughty aliens – and that’s fine with us. Because in the Halo universe, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So while all the new features, environments and weapons make this the most radical departure from the usual template since Halo Wars, 343 has nailed the format so well that it feels like classic Halo through and through. The weight and feel perfectly reflect the fact that you’re behind the visor of a ton of green metal, relatively sluggish movement a breath of fresh air in a genre so often about sprinting around maps with the trigger held down. It’s a far more considered shooter than its peers, precision and planning rewarded far more than in other shooters – the closest real comparison (when playing on Heroic or higher, at least) is probably Battlefield, though it’d be slightly off to describe something so steeped in sci-fi nonsense as ‘realistic’. Still, there are parallels there and that it manages to make the unbelievable believable is easily one of Halo’s greatest strengths.

Rather than increasingly large enemies with arbitrarily rising HP counts, Halo’s firefights escalate incredibly organically. Each enemy has a weakness to exploit if you’ve got the right gear and a role to play in their opposition of the Not-So-Jolly Green Giant – taking them out in the right way and in the right order is absolutely crucial if you even want to put a dent in Legendary mode. This isn’t exactly new in the world of Halo, though the paradigm shift when the Covenant are joined by the new Promethean adversaries certainly is.

You might have mastered the various bullet-based methods of dealing with shielded Jackals and legions of Grunts but none of that will prepare you for the Promethean forces. Swarms of Crawlers rush you in a way that only the Flood have come close to in Halos of old; Knights are super-tough digital insect warrior things that have an annoying habit of teleporting to safety to recover; Watchers are frustrating sky bastards that demand your attention, their ability to shield and revive allies giving them priority target status. As with the Covenant, Halo’s new enemies impress not in their variety so much as their interaction with one another, these three main unit types operating as one terrifying combat unit in every encounter. Crawler rushes cause panic while Watchers flit about doing their nuisance bit and Knights sit back with their devastating arsenals, attempting to pick you off while you deal with the sheer numbers of lesser foes. It’s both amazing and terrifying, and dealing with several Knights on Legendary may well be the toughest challenge Master Chief has ever faced.

That arsenal we just mentioned deserves closer inspection, actually. Just as the new enemies demand new approaches, their all-new bullet-flinging toys also change the way you play. The Suppressor is a close-range SMG that seems useless at first but proves useful on tougher enemies purely for its large clip and insane rate of fire. The Lightrifle, meanwhile, is the Promethean equivalent of the UNSC’s Battle Rifle, only the three-shot bursts become powerful single sniper shots when scoped. Then there’s the Boltshot, an odd chargeable pistol that doesn’t seem nearly as effective in Spartan hands as Promethean, where its fully-charged beam is a one-shot kill on Legendary. The high-end gear is equally impressive, the Binary Rifle an alternative to the regular Sniper or Beam rifles and the rocket launcher equivalent is way better than the regular missile-tosser and the Fuel Rod Cannon – its projectiles are slower but secondary explosions give it a huge area of effect, making it feel like something that has fallen straight out of Borderlands’ end-game.

The need to introduce these new friends and toys properly, though, means that Halo 4 runs at a slightly slower pace to previous games in the series. That’s no bad thing, each of the eight chapters offering a totally different kind of playground to the last – it’s dense jungles one moment and classic Halo neon corridors the next, though it’s worth noting that the open expanses of earlier games have largely been swapped out for more structured battlegrounds where verticality and dense floor plans dictate the terms of battle. The campaign seems to be dividing opinion somewhat and while the self-contained set-up for a new trilogy does just about stand on its own, it’s undeniably a more involving tale if you’ve explored Halo’s expanded universe. Cortana’s decent into rampancy is far more affecting than it has any right to be as well, the emotional angle offered by the torment of the workaholic Spartan’s only real friend something never before seen in the series and an unexpected delight.

343 does seem to have a different idea to Bungie on what difficulty should mean and while the four classic skill settings are present and correct, the bar feels like it has been raised somewhat. Normal, while still not overly challenging, feels closer to old-school Heroic, while nu-Heroic presents firefights that rival Legendary encounters of old. The top-end difficulty actually isn’t that much tougher than Heroic now, although the insane damage you take from even the weakest of weapons will see even the slightest lapse in concentration boomerang you back to the last checkpoint.

Which, actually, is probably the biggest problem with Halo 4 – the checkpointing is borderline broken. Sometimes these life-saving auto-saves happen in the eye of the storm while other times, you can be fighting for ages without that relieving message popping up on the left-hand side of the screen. Even multiple runs of the same area can trigger checkpoints differently, almost at random. And while you’ll curse and lob controllers when a stray grenade sends you back to the beginning of an epic firefight, you’ll properly Hulk out when the Checkpoint Fairy sees fit to save your game when you’re out of ammo and several Knights are knocking on the door.

Flaky checkpointing aside, the campaign – which runs about eight to ten hours, depending on how much you take in the sights – is packed with standout moments and typically brilliant Halo warzones. Stomping around in the hideously overpowered Mantis mech, laying waste to a Covenant strike team in zero gravity, careering towards the gripping finale in 343’s take on the classic Star Wars Death Star trench run… each chapter has at least a couple of moments that will make you want to go back and play them again (probably with friends – co-op does away with some of the checkpoint stress and is obviously the best way to fully enjoy the game).

But the brevity of the campaign is borderline irrelevant when Halo 4’s pair of discs contain so much additional content. Spartan Ops offers bite-sized Halo thrills, Forge lets you get more creative than ever with map editing and competitive multiplayer is as brilliant and addictive as it has always been – simply put, the Infinity menu couldn’t be more accurately named. It’s a frankly obscene amount of content for one game to offer, ongoing free Spartan Ops episodes in particular spitting in the face of the cash-hungry DLC dripfeeds that stink up so many modern releases.

We’d even go as far as to suggest that the iconic green power suit fits 343 even better than it fitted Bungie. This is a team that clearly understands the strengths, merits and potential of the franchise, delivering a product that wears the Halo name proudly and breathes new life into a series that was just one or two by-numbers sequels away from losing us entirely. Easily one of the 360’s finest shooters, then, and we genuinely can’t wait to see what 343 does next.

Score: 9/10

5 comments on “Halo 4 review

  1. Concerned

    This is preposterous, this torment of a game should not be called halo in any way, during the last 12 years I was made to believe by every piece if information I got in hand that spartans were soldiers, made and trained to think and behave like machines, that’s what made them so effective in combat, made them survive the constant onslaught of the covenant for years and made them better fighting machines… And now, out of the blue, this bunch of people are trying to tell us that Bungie and every other author involved in the whole Halo canon were doing it wrong, spartans do have mushy feelings they sometimes have somewhat of a fetish for virtual naked ladies and become a little irrational about them at key points during times of world crisis… go figure. They also appear to had everything wrong when it comes down to MP’s alley, apparently douche-kill-cam is the way to go, after all CoD has it and god forbid halo doesn’t because that is the right way to die, I’m not going to even talk about perks or however their called in this version of space CoD, killstreaks bonuses, and the most important thing that every halo game before this one had, knowing that you could be up against a lvl 100 guy being your firsst game ever, and still have the same chances of beating his sorry ass to the ground if you got a bit lucky, this is the sole reason why I bought CoD games and never played them online and still regularly play every other halo game available, you must be some sort of slow glue eating kid to have missed that kind of thing, I can only imagine the brain dead idiot that finally saw the light and said “Hey guys, let’s continue a franchise people love and care about… but look, Bungie had this all wrong for the past 10 years!, don’t worry I’l fix it”.

    If they would have themed the game anything else other than HALO, it could probably be a 9/10 for me too, cinematics are awesome, gameplay is great, and overall it’s a nice game, it’s just not the halo I wanted. Well the harm is done and halo 4 is part of the halo canon now, although I’ll probably buy halo 5 & 6 when they come out to finish the story, I won’t be playing MP on this game ever again. Love cha 343.

  2. Sindri

    I agree with the review of the campain however the multiplayer side of things while addictive and very well balanced feel’s… unfinished.
    There’s a lack of gametypes in multiplayer, one of which seems only playable in a coustom game lobby.
    Forge was a masive dissapointment; I was expecting an enjoyable and emersive level designer on a par to the changed forge of Halo Reach however I was presented with a slightly tweaked and shinier ‘Reach forge’ system with no real new additions to it (including a lack of new structures ect) and no map of a reasonable size to make maps on.
    Hopefully these problems will be fixed with new DLC and updates because they sour an otherwise excilent game :)

    (Wow I sound like Im up my own a**e haha)

  3. Garet

    BULLSHIT Halo 4 is fucking amazing you can’t give it a 9 give it a fucking 10 you nob head machinma gave it 10 you know how fucking fussy they are so fucking change your rating you twat

  4. Clayton Heatley

    would like to know why you dont report all the problems that big new games have. All i see is how good it is, what about how games like MW3’s elite didnt work fully for 8 months. people paid alot of money for a feature that bearly worked. then halo 4 the game is a beta an can hardly be played by most of the community but i hear nothing of this. if you only reported this maybe it would make the game makers take notice an start making games that work when you buy them an not six months later

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