Gaming, Technology, Uncategorized, Video Games

Review of Halo 4 (360): Score of 9

I could just write a couple of sentences in a feeble attempt to explain my awe concerning Halo 4, but as appropriate as it may be, I feel as though I wouldn’t truly be doing the game justice. With that said, I don’t think I can accurately put into words just how amazing I found this experience. Halo 4 is probably one of the best games I’ve ever played, and it is definitely the best Halo game I have ever played. Everything about Halo 4 is a step up from other titles in the series, with only a couple minor exceptions. With that being said, Halo 4 is a game I could play for dozens or even hundreds of hours, and if I could only pick a handful of games to take to the end of the world with me, this would be in my doomsday collection.

Honestly, there’s so much to talk about and so much to enjoy, I’m having a really tough time deciding where to start as I write this.

Let’s start simple: graphics. The graphics in Halo 4 are the best graphics I’ve ever seen. This applies to all media from movies to television to video games. The environments are gorgeous, it’s all detailed, and the lighting is spot-on. The colors are robust when needed, muted when necessary, and dark when required. The facial expressions are more realistic than in any other game I’ve played, and the characters come to life with realism. Movements are smooth and are hardly ever choppy. The cutscenes are so drop-dead gorgeous that during the epilogue and prologue, I couldn’t tell whether I was looking at CG or live-action. I can’t stress enough just how detailed everything is; it’s absolutely exquisite, and I wish I could take artistic screenshots of the game for myself in a little art collection.

Moving on a little bit, I must comment on the sound quality. The weapons sound beefier than in other titles, and popping off rounds never sounded more satisfying. On the downside, I didn’t notice the music as much as in other Halo titles, which is a shame because I always look forward to a great soundtrack. I didn’t get that this time around, but the music did peak at the right times (read: emotional times).

Gunplay is as perfect as ever. I always feel more confident and beast-like when playing Halo games because the controls feel tighter than in other games. I don’t know if others can do it to, but I have an uncanny ability that allows me to score headshots from grunts and Crawlers (new Prometheans; more on them later) extremely easily and often, both scoped and unscoped. Aiming is swift, sensitivity is quickly mastered, and it all feels tight as ever, which is extremely important in a shooter.

Now to move into the more complicated and heavy stuff. Let’s start with the new additions: Prometheans. Prometheans, without giving spoilers away, are the Didact’s guardians. I’ll explain more about him later, but there are three types of Prometheans: Knights, Crawlers, and Watchers. Knights are tough; very tough. They can wield the strongest weapons and take a large chunk of ammo to kill. Crawlers remind me of dogs; I refer to them as such. their mouths open to reveal pistols and machine guns, and their heads are vulnerable to one-shot kills. Watchers are spawned by Knights and they are annoying as crap; they can deploy shields for their allies, they can resurrect Knights from the dead, (which is annoying given their health levels) they can attack occasionally, and they fly!

Prometheans add a lot to combat because their tactics differ from the Covenant, which are still found in this game as well. for example, it can be tough to hide from watchers because they have an aerial view of the battlefield, plus you have to kill them first, lest they resurrect their friends. Crawlers are quick, so they can be on you in a flash and they sometimes infiltrate your cover. Knights can teleport on occasion, so you always have to watch your back. Speaking of which, if one of them punches you in the back (or front, for that matter) you’re dead, so melee is rough. This variety spices up combat, and it gave me a new challenge!

The Prometheans bring new weapons as well. All their weapons shoot beams of hard light, and they come in different forms. Their incarnations of snipers, machine guns, pistols, and more can all be found in Halo 4, and some have unique features. The Boltshot is equivalent to a pistol, but if you hold the trigger, it’ll fire a handful of bullets in a shotgun-like formation. The Lightrifle is similar to a DMR or Battle Rifle, but it shoots a three round burst when unscoped, and the three rounds merge into one bullet when scoped. These are just a few of the weapons’ quirks, and they add an interesting layer to battle, on occasion.

The storyline in Halo 4 is by far the most compelling in the series. The voice acting is much more impactful and emotional, even though the voices of Master Chief and Cortana are the same two who have been there since the series began. The script is so well written; this tale is the most emotional and ends up somewhat gut-wrenching for me, being a big Halo fan. For those who haven’t played it yet, I won’t spoil much, but the ending broke my heart a bit.

Basically, Halo 3 ends with Master Chief drifting off in space while frozen in cyro sleep. After a couple years of floating around, Cortana wakes him up and tells him there are Covenant outside. They end up finding out that the Covenant intercepted his floating ship fragment as it neared a Forerunner Shield World which they had been on their way to investigate. They land, and Master Chief finds out Cortana is going rampant, which is the AI form of insanity. She will basically think herself to death if she doesn’t get help since her lifespan is almost up (AIs live about 7 years, and she’s been in commission longer than that). Eventually, Master Chief stumbles upon an ancient Forerunner known as the Didact as he attempts to get Cortana back to Earth for help. The Didact wants to kill all the humans, and he’s wanted to for a hundred thousand years (long story; I can explain it if you want). Using his super weapon, the Composer, he plans to accomplish his task, and Master Chief must stop him.

Master Chief, while still rock hard and tough as nails, shows his first ounce of emotion in the series. After everything he and Cortana have been through, learning about her rampancy hurts him. She’s been the only constant in his life since they were paired together, and the bond between them is probably stronger than between any husband and wife. Despite the fact that he’s super human and she’s just a data chip, they’ve saved each others lives dozens of times, and they understand each other better than any two beings imaginable. This is the source of the emotional tension in Halo 4, and it gets the job done. I honestly felt terrible for both of them as I played through this game, and I’ve not experienced such empathy for characters in a game before.

Canonically speaking, Halo 4 fits seamlessly into the collection with other games in the series, despite the differences. Everything lines up, and I wasn’t searching for facts and clues that weren’t there. From a “how does it feel” standpoint, Halo 4 fits in as well. It feels like a Halo game, despite the dark emotion found in this entry. Let it be known that this is not comical; there aren’t cheesy jokes or funny lines to be found. Halo 4 is serious the whole way through, and even the Grunts don’t talk anymore.

My only complaints with this game are as follows: the campaign occasionally suffers from infrequent checkpoints. I beat the game on Heroic and on Legendary, and both times I found myself wondering how I was supposed to make it from point A to point B without dying. With a handful of these missing checkpoints scattered throughout the levels, it was usually not a major issue, but it was definitely an annoyance. I also didn’t like the fact that some weapons were just missing; they did not exist in the game. The SMG, which had been featured in previous titles, was nowhere to be found in Halo 4. There is no Plasma Rifle or Needle Rifle either, and although it was because the Plasma Rifle had been phased out of commission, there was no canonical reason as to why the SMG and Needle Rifle were MIA in this adventure.

My other complaint is that on Legendary, cheap kills occasionally occurred. The Knights have uncanny aim on Legendary, so I would sometimes walk around a corner in instantly be killed by a sniper round from an unseen enemy. This didn’t happen often, and it was only frequent enough to be annoying on Legendary, but it still happened. I understand dying when it’s my fault, but there’s no way they should instantly be able to eliminate me like that.

Aside from these minor complaints, I found Halo 4 to be an amazing experience. I would recommend this to FPS players since Halo 4 is an easy one to jump into, as the Covenant saga seems to be drawing to a close while the Forerunner one opens. Halo 4 is beautiful, fun to play, and pulls at the heartstrings. I’m proud of 343 Industries for taking my beloved franchise and creating a masterpiece with it; I truly love Halo 4.

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Until Next Time
Matt

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