Hail to the Chief: Halo 4 Reinvents the Venerable Franchise with a Gripping New Storyline
Bungie’s successor 343 Industries threw in a few neat flourishes in their first ever Halo release, Halo 4, the initial offering in a purported trilogy that will open a whole new gaming experience for diehard fans. Xbox players curious to what Halo is all about will be in for a pleasant surprise when they take control of Master Chief in his epic war struggles, first against the Covenant, and afterwards against a sinister new alien race called the Prometheans.
In this newest installation of the legendary game franchise, players explore the emotional side of Master Chief’s enduring relationship with Cortana, his loyal AI partner who is nearly spent at this point in the Halo timeline. The game’s storyline puts a strong emphasis on the effects of this development on both protagonists: Cortana’s feelings as she attempts to come to terms with her imminent demise, while Master Chief stands by her side helpless against the inevitable. Adding to this moving drama that unfolds as the game progresses are breath-taking graphics, impressive cut scenes, and masterful sound effects. The interaction of all these elements, in a game, is surreal: there is an uncanny cinematic feel to Halo 4 that is both unnerving and awesome.
Nostalgic players wishing for another generous helping of all the core aspects of this sci-fi first-person shooter will not be disappointed: weapon favourites from the earlier Halo games return, albeit with better sound effects to make handling them that much more exciting. New weaponry in the form of Promethean arms deepens the gameplay, with some of the best reload animations in any Halo weapon to date. The audio upgrade does not limit itself to the robust reports that emanate when you fire your favourite Halo gun, though: even the critters got huskier voices as well, making them the menacing adversaries that they ought to be.
Microsoft reportedly spared no expense in the making of Halo 4, with in-game graphics that will leave players feeling like they are immersed in a live-action film rather than a game. Everything from the details on the weapons, to the stunning backdrops, and expressive facial animation in the characters and baddies will blow you away.
The gameplay retains the familiarity of older Halo games, albeit in a much faster, more fluid way. Large, open maps provide enough tactical opportunities to turn the tide against superior numbers of enemies. It would seem that 343 Industries opted to just enhance the original gameplay, like it wants to maintain the same gaming formula that captivated Halo fans. Their handiwork is evident, though, in the quicker pacing of Halo 4’s in-game combat situations, and the more realistic movements of characters; all expected, of course, with the vastly-improved graphics.
The beautiful storyline and other elements make the game’s campaign mode an engaging solo-player experience; Halo’s selling point, however, lies in the multiplayer option. In Halo 4, the mindlessly-addictive player-versus-player mode in multiplayer is made much more enjoyable, thanks to a leveling system for characters and (of course) new weapons, upgrades, abilities, and armour to enhance both your characters aesthetics and combat power.
There is also a new addition in the form of the Ordnance Drop, giving free choice of a new weapon out of three randomly-generated ones to players who are on a killing spree. The chosen weapon will be delivered real-time to the successful player’s location, but care should be taken lest someone else grabs it first. Old game type favourites also make a return, with great, intelligently-designed maps to go with them. Logging on to a multiplayer game is a snap, a continuing tradition of the Halo franchise.
343 Industries has proven to be a worthy successor to Bungie with this impressive first outing. This game being part of a trilogy, fans are positively giddy thinking about what’s in store for them when Halo 5 becomes available …