I haven’t had faith in the Halo franchise for a while. The first three in the series may have changed the face of first-person shooters and online multiplayer forever, but with the release of ODST and Reach afterwards, I began to lose interest at the new, darker look the series was taking on. I had even less hope when I discovered that Halo 4 (a sequel to a concluded trilogy) was being developed by a different studio altogether. How could they bring the franchise back to its glory days? How could they capture the old magic? Well, it seems a miracle has occurred – my faith is restored.
After lying unconscious in a stasis tank on-board the UNSC frigate Master Chief was left in at the end of Halo 3, the armour-clad hero is given a sudden and rather rude awakening. Crash landing on another Forerunner deep-space artefact, Chief discovers a whole new enemy in the Prometheans, along with a ragtag colony of Covenant warriors looking for the secrets that the ancient structure holds.
It’s a fascinating adventure, and one that’s filled with huge, set-pieced battles in colourful exotic locations – a far cry from the drab aesthetic and morbid tone the series had been taking recently. A subplot regarding Cortana, Chief’s AI companion, has been thrown in, giving some much-needed humanity to the hulking supersoldier.
Predictably, the campaign proved to be short but sweet; quality often seems to be mutually exclusive from longevity in Halo’s single player mode. However, I found it hard to be too disappointed by the brevity of the 6-hour story when Halo 4 offers the same amount of extra features as its predecessors. The map-maker Foundry and the Theatre mode allowing you to rewatch and record your best plays are usual fare for Halo games, but somewhat exceptional in the field of other FPS games.
Online multiplayer is endlessly rewarding as always, with a varied host of match types, new and old weaponry, and a regularly updated (some of them daily) list of challenges to complete in battle.
Spartan Ops is an interesting addition; the new gametype which replaces the wave mode Firefight from previous titles. Here, a bunch of players co-operatively battle through areas absolutely filled with enemy players and compete to get the most kills and fewest deaths. Released in episodic format, the game begins with just one ‘mission’ (made of five mini-missions), with another released for download every week or so. It’s not as intense or as difficult as Firefight – in fact, die as many times as you like and you can’t fail – but it’s well suited as a casual, co-operative gametype.
Halo 4’s one of the earlier titles in the mad rush for the Christmas period of games, but it’s a hell of a start. Great for both casuals and die-hard Halo fans, 343 Industries have created something that offers both the series staple of value for money, and a polished, exciting shooter that’s bundled full of fan service.
Platform: Xbox 36-
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios Pegi Rating: 16+