From a young and tender age I have had an ongoing and lustful affair with the Halo series. At first I was naive to the mysterious ways of the galaxy I had found myself in, but over time I found friends off and online to share my experiences with. As love’s young vision faded I still found myself staying up to unreasonable times with The Chief and those who he attracted, hiding under my covers late at night and playing online with Halo 2 on one of the smallest screens imaginable.
As I progressed into my in my late teens so did Halo 3. It was no longer the modest hit but Microsofts biggest blockbuster and poster boy. One of the coolest and most badass poster boys to date too. Our hero was still mildly underspoken and conveyed his feelings and emotions not through the occasional quip but more in his actions and heroism. Much like the series, my TV had gotten bigger and so did my lust for the competitive side of the online multiplayer. I was hooked.
Now fast forward a few years and we have seen the universe explode. Spartan fever had struck and we had seen the series expand. There were now RTS games, animes and a whole host of new Spartans to look up to. But even the games themselves noted they weren’t Master Chief. Reach was great but it was always lacking something, a certain seven foot warrior that goes by the name of John.
So five years and two months passed and he was back with a bang. Taking the best of both worlds, Halo 4 grabbed everything that was worthwhile from Halo: Reach and Halo 3 and chucked it in a blender to provide a delicious and nutritious smoothie of awesomeness. That’s not to say the game is infallible though.
Master Chief is awoken from his slumber and reminded of just how long it has been since he was a present figure in the world by a very needy Cortana. The first missions throws you straight back into action and some familiar faces make a welcome appearance, but then it all slowly starts to go down hill. When pushed for answers Cortana screams “it has been 4 years” like it is some form of excuse to toss aside a lot of cannon. And what of the Brutes? They have almost been wiped from existence aside from the odd gravity hammer tossed around the map. It would’ve been nice to see them, everyone loves catching up with an old friend even if only for a minute.
The new characters are a spectacle to behold. They are almost perfect in every single way. They come across as an eerily interesting bunch and they are more than just another section of the covenant. They have a very interesting backstory and a clear figurehead. The backstory does leave a lot of room for expansion on these enemies.
But the new characters aren’t without their downfalls. You never quite get to face off against the new “leader” in the way you would expect, instead you are confronted by some quite horrible QTEs that leave you wanting. There is also the issue that all the new characters just lack variety and charisma. No matter how good they looked they seemed flat after a few short missions. Overall you can clearly identify the three new enemies and there are no deviations at all in their structure or even colour. Contrast that with the ever changing colours of elites and their armour and you can’t help but feel a little let down.
Halo 4 is accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack. It feels far more orchestral than the other instalments and can complement some truly spectacular scenes. Yet there is a drastic downfall in the soundtrack. No matter how good it was it just felt slightly off. There weren’t any harmonic vocals and there and even more disappointingly there was no Mjolnir remix. There was no point where I wanted to hum along; no point to feel my spirit life up in anticipation as I fought my way through hordes of enemies to searing guitar riffs. There was a sense of dismay when I reached the end and I still hadn’t heard the iconic “dun dun dun dun dun” of every Halo game. I was in disbelief when the credits rolled and I still hadn’t heard it at all, and for me it was most certainly the biggest let down of the game.
But what the game lacks in the campaign is far outweighed by the majestic multiplayer. This is the true online Halo experience for this generation. With tweaks in all the right places, there is a sense of nostalgia that grabs and reels you in just from your first sight of the battle rifle. At one point it was the iconic gun of the series and if you didn’t know how to four-shot you weren’t considered a “true player”. There are new classes and Halo has adopted a toned-down approach to the class system of Call of Duty. There isn’t a great deal of unlocking to do but it can consume some time and be frustrating at first when you you lack the needed weapons to stand a chance, but once you find your footing it’s back to the good old days.
All the new maps and game modes are different and are added to some old favours to create an exhaustive number of online playlists that are supported and swapped out almost weekly. There is a great variety of objective based, competitive and fun game modes. Older game modes have been revamped and the new type of game modes like Regicide and Dominion seamlessly blend in with the Halo play style. With so much support behind it you will see old favourites like SWAT and Team Snipers come and go but they will be back in no time if you missed them. 343 have a great understanding of what it means to be a Halo player and have capitalised on it with a passion that will go unrivalled for many years.
A completely new game mode to the Halo franchise in Halo 4 is the Spartan Ops series. Spartan Ops was set to replace the game mode Firefight. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of Firefight, but instead takes it in a completely different direction. Instead of being confronted with countless waves of enemies, you are brought weekly instalments to a different story following the Spartan IVs and their fight against the Covenant and the Prometheans. No matter how much I miss Firefight, Spartan Ops is on a completely different level. It shows further commitment from 343. Halo is going nowhere. The series has recently taken a short break for the Christmas and New Years period, but a 6th instalment is promised in the new year.
But Halo 4 isn’t just about the support that the developers are providing, but also about the community that contributes regularly. Forge mode and custom game modes are still prevalent on the Halo servers and there is a great amount of custom maps that are fantastic. Remakes of old classics and truly inspired creations can both be found side by side online.
Halo 4 is the start of a whole new wave of Halo games. It might not be the strongest in the series, but it is most certainly not the worst. It’s perfect in a unique way and has merged the old and new without becoming stale. There is a lot left to explore and the story is most certainly not finished. So don’t give it a miss, because it’s going to be one hell of a ride and I’m strapped in for the whole journey. Let’s just hope Disney don’t buy the rights to Halo after it is finished.