343 were given the Mantle of carrying on the legacy of Halo. Has the Great Journey begun or will their heresy stay their feet?
This is a spoiler free review so no story spoilers AT ALL!
Being a massive Halo fan I had a good idea of what the campaign would be about. This is because I have read all of the books giving me a sense of what characters would be mentioned and where the universe currently stands before the start of the game. In the end of Halo 3 the covenant disbanded, the San ‘Shyuum (Prophets) fled, and the flood outbreak was halted. So to answer the question so many people have been asking ‘why are we fighting the Covenant again?’ Well some of the Covenant are still true believers of the Great Journey (Jul ‘Mdama and Avu Med ‘Telcam, Servent of The Abiding Truth) who oppose the Arbiter and his cease fire with UNSC. They believe ascendancy is still possible and that some of their gods still remain.
The campaign starts 4 Years after Halo 3 and see’s you take control of Master Chief and pit you against the Covenant and the new Prometheans. The campaign consists of 8 levels with a good mixture of vehicle and combat sections, the levels stick to the usual Halo sandbox design and ‘feel’. My first play through of the game was on normal difficulty and according to my in game stats it said it only took 3 hours and 34 minutes or around that. Now take into account that I have played a lot of Halo in my short time on this planet and have played the game before hand at a couple of events. Legendary on the other hand did take me around 10 hours in total. Legendary plays really well if you are an experienced Halo player but I wouldn’t play on your first play through, you would miss out on some amazing visuals and character interaction as you are concentrating too much on not dying and trying to find ammo.
So I just mentioned visuals, how 343 have managed to produce such astounding graphics must be some sort of Forerunner technology. The CGI cut scenes are so crisp and clear sometimes I thought it was live action. The pre rendered cut scenes also look very nice but I could detect some delay in the lip sync, I’m sure it is something 343 could fix in the future and if you put it to the back of your mind you don’t really notice it.
There are terminals to find but they cannot be viewed in game, when you find a terminal and download it you must view it on Waypoint. But alas Waypoint hasn’t been updated so we can’t actually watch the terminals yet and tell you what they are like. Sorry.
I was worried about the campaign as I felt that 343 might be alienating gamers who haven’t played the previous games or especially not read the books but they introduce characters and concepts very well. There are pivotal moments in the game that fans will talk about for years to come. As I play through the game I get a sense of playing Halo CE 11 years ago exploring this whole new world all over again. I am in awe of this games beauty. The story, the atmosphere, the visuals and the music.
A big part of Halo for me is the music. A game with no music doesn’t have the same emotional context than a game that does. Neil Davidge is the composer this time round and he has given the game power and even more emotion than any other Halo game. He has really created music that gives you the sense that you are listening to an evolved version of Halo. Playing though I found that I kept turning up the volume to hear parts of the music that I didn’t hear before. Neil has taken the legacy of the Halo sound in his stride and we should be grateful, for Halo 4 would not be the same without it.
And yes there is a legendary ending, it is subtle but fans will love it.
[DATA LOST. RECOVERING]
[DATA RECOVERED. CONTINUE TRANSMISSION]
The UNSC Infinity is humanities biggest ever ship powered by Forerunner technology gathered throughout the Human – Covenant War and the planet known as Onyx. It is the setting for multiplayer and 343 have fictionalised it, giving a reason why these Spartans are fighting and tea bagging each other. You are a Spartan IV and you train on the simulation deck aboard the Infinity preparing for whatever threat comes next. Your story then continues in Spartan Ops where you put that training to the test.
Spartan Ops is an episodic weekly drop of new content to play through set 6 months after the events of The campaign. Each episode features a CGI video and 5 chapters. As you are using your Spartan from War Games you use the loadouts from Multiplayer that you created. It is a good mixture between campaign and multiplayer gameplay. If you die the level doesn’t restart you just wait to respawn and keep going at it until you complete the mission. 343 have evolved Firefight, they have given it purpose rather than just surviving wave upon wave of enemies. You have objectives to secure Requiem and to stop the Covenant from unlocking more secrets the planet may hold.
I am quite impressed with Spartan Ops. It feels that it hasn’t been second to the campaign and I am excited that there will be new content to play every week. Encouraging players to keep coming back and invest in their Spartan career.
War Games is Halo 4’s multiplayer environment, it is your normal team based or FFA game types. But Halo has evolved from its last incarnation. This time round we have custom loadouts, ordnance drop system, new weapons, vehicles and game types.
The custom loadout system starts of very basic, no armour abilities and no tactical or support upgrades. You are given an assault rifle, pistol and frag grenade to begin with but within one game I managed to rank up significantly enough to unlock some of the precision weapons and armour abilities.
The ordnance drop system is Halo 4’s way of rewarding player’s in-game. Instead of using kills as points it uses medals that you obtain. These range from working as a team to killing someone with the Railgun. When you fill up your meter it then gives you a selection of three items; power ups, weapons or grenades. I actually really like this system it encourages team work and gets you to think do I want a power weapon and do some damage to the heretics on the other team? Or do I want to survive that little longer and help out my team?
The maps vary from small/medium to large, in Infinity Slayer there are 4 maps in rotation and one of the maps I absolutely despise already, I won’t name and shame as people obviously love it as it always get voted. But I can’t complain about the rest of the selection of the maps, they all flow really well and the spawn system is one of the best in any game.
The balance between the five main rifles (Assault, DMR, BR, Carbine and Lightrifle) has been managed really well. New players who want to use something a little more forgiving on accuracy can use the Assault Rifle and still have a fighting chance against someone with a DMR. As I am mentioning balance I thought I should mention the Mantis, one of the new UNSC vehicles fans have been worried about. Is it overpowered? No just like every other vehicle in the game is has its advantages and its disadvantages. It may be powerful but the reload times are slow and the turning speed is slow, nothing to worry about unless it is about to crush you, painfully.
So how does Mantis Grifball sound?
Mantis Grifball is one of my crazy ideas that I can create in Forge, Halo 4’s map editor co-created by Certain Affinity. It is pretty much an incarnation of Reach’s Forge with the exception that Certain Affinity has added new features like advanced lighting systems, dynamic lighting systems, locking, duplicating, object highlighting and magnets. So nothing like Reach’s forge. There are three dedicated Forge environments for you to play with; Impact, Erosion and Ravine along with the other existing and future maps. At first Forge seems a little bit intimidating with so many tiny adjustments you can make but I believe it is for the better as I am sure we will see some amazing feats of engineering. But I can’t shake the feeling that there is something missing from this mode.
I have a few complaints about the Theatre mode. I feel that maybe it was at the bottom of 343’s to-do list.
Firstly the hiccup that is annoying me is that campaign theatre has been completely removed. No sign of it anywhere which is disappointing. Surely with a game that looks this good you would want images being captured? Theatre only works with War Games, Custom games and Forge. There are no advancements in features like an upload to YouTube section but you can still take a pretty picture. I for one will miss campaign theatre but I can understand 343 wanting to put more resources into other parts of the game.
[NEARING INVALID MEMORY STATE…]
So does it feel like Halo? At its core it is Halo but to really appreciate it you need to clear mind that it is 343 not Bungie now and things are going to change. Have they changed for the better? Yes I believe they have, 343 have taken the time to listen to the fans feedback and incorporate it. They have expanded the Halo universe to even bigger proportions and we the Reclaimers should be very excited to see where this great journey will take us.
Halo 4 releases 6th November 2012. Beli343.