Wake up Chief!

It’s been 5 years since we’ve seen the starring character of the Halo franchise. He’s been in cryosleep through the “Firefight” survival gamemode, a foray into health-packs, a multiplayer unlock system based on credits, and a studio change. The original Halo developer, Bungie, left the Halo franchise and Microsoft behind after the development of Halo: Reach, and now the buck has been passed to 343 Industries, a subsidiary of Microsoft created solely to manage the Halo franchise. So what does this studio have to offer us in their first game?

The first thing that should be said about Halo 4 is that it looks amazing. The graphic style has been completely redone, making it one of the best looking games on the Xbox 360 today. 343 has also redone every sound effect in the game. Nearly everything sounds better than before, from the beefier chug of the assault rifle to the roaring engine of the Warthog.

The Halo franchise has always had a rich storyline in comparison to other modern shooters. Halo 4 picks up 4 years after the events of Halo 3, where the “Master Chief” has been left in cryosleep, stranded in unknown space. In the meantime, his AI companion, Cortana, has been slowly degrading, reaching a point on the verge of insanity. The Chief is woken up after his ship is scanned by a mysterious alien presence, and he comes under attack by the Covenant, a league of alien species that all serve the same religion. He is drawn into and trapped inside a hollow planet, built by the Forerunner, an extinct race of hyper intelligent beings. With Cortana on the brink of destruction, the Chief must figure out how to escape the planet, and return to Earth. Unfortunately, the storyline in this campaign falls a little flat in the storytelling department, and there are some liberties taken with the ending, because Microsoft fully intends to create a new trilogy. That being said, there is an extra layer of depth added to both the Chief and Cortana as characters, which helps to add richer dialogue in the cutscenes than in previous installments.

The Halo franchise carries a strong multiplayer presence, and Halo 4 has done some things to change up the formula this time around. Halo 4 features a new loadout system, where players get to pick what basic weapons they get to start each life with, along with an armor ability, and two secondary abilities. There are still weapon pickups on the map, but the new loadout system allows you a greater number of combat options off the bat.

The firefight mode, introduced in Halo 3: ODST, and carried over into Halo: Reach has been removed, and replaced with the brand new Spartan Ops gamemode. This mode acts like a separate co-op campaign, with its own story and cutscenes. Every week, a new episode with five chapters is released, using modified areas from campaign and multiplayer maps as levels. This, along with daily, weekly, and monthly challenges for all gamemodes, does well to create replayability.

With a few notable exclusions, primarily the Firefight gamemode, Halo 4 carries the mantle of its predecessors quite well. It’s commendable that 343 Industries can produce such a high caliber game on their first run, and it’s definitely worth a purchase. Halo 4 is available exclusively on the Xbox 360 for $59.99

– By Sam