Halo is a special series for me. In my formative youth, I found myself completely obsessed with the series. I remember preordering my Xbox (with EB Games’ significantly expensive $500 bundle deal) just to play that game. The original didn’t fail to disappoint me either. It became a must own and must play game among my close circle of gamer friends, and quickly generated a ton of great ‘war’ stories from our various LAN parties.
That same love and admiration has never left me either. Halo was by no means my first FPS, but it was the first FPS that had such an amazing all-around package. From the classic multiplayer to the AI-driven, sandbox-esque single-player and cooperative modes, Halo had (and still continues to have) it all.
So, I come from the standpoint of having played and owned every Halo game to completion, having read several of the earlier novels by Eric Nylund, and being an all-around fanboy. I always aim to be objective, but I am biased and freely admit it. And Halo 4 won’t be changing that bias anytime soon either.
I recently bought a second Xbox 360 (after having sold off my first one) just to play Halo 4. Overall, I think this is one of the most solid entries in the series yet, and definitely worthy of the same veneration as Reach and the original Halo. As with the rest of the series, the game gives you more bang for your buck than any other FPS. The Campaign is just as replayable alone or with friends. There are new Spartan Ops missions to provide episodic co-op content. And the multiplayer is the best the series has seen since Halo 2. That’s before getting to the outstanding support that Bungie and now 343 Studios provide post-release with patches or playlist updates, and really before the Halo community has had a chance to really dig into the latest iteration of Forge.
For the full price, Halo 4 is worth owning for any Halo fan or fan of shooters. Halo 4 doesn’t change that at all. However, there are a few things I haven’t been completely pleased with.
First of all, while the Campaign is a lot of fun and the story is interesting, I felt like the narrative of the game wasn’t focused enough. We get this weird mix of a typical (and rather boring) FPS story line about ‘ancient evils awakening’, which is probably one of the oldest cliches put to gaming, and the endearing story of Cortana’s impending demise. I really liked the philosophical core of the game’s plot being based around whether or not Master Chief is man or machine and defining his relationship with the artificial intelligence of Cortana throughout the entire series, but I felt it was pushed aside far too often for cheesy dialogue and plotting from the game’s main villain.
Second, while I can only praise the direction they’ve taken with multiplayer as a whole, I really miss having power weapons on the map. In the Team Infinite Slayer playlist, they do spawn at the beginning of the game, but after the rush to get them, it seems like forever before they come back. I love the evolution of Reach’s loadouts and the addition of Ordinances, but without weapons on the map, most levels feel empty.
I have other nitpicks, like no Theater for Campaign and no decent blank slate Forge maps, but Halo 4 is too good to ignore. I won’t tell you that every score the game has gotten is completely deserved or that the story should really be praised as anything more than average to above average sci-fi slop. I will tell you though that I love Halo 4 and that I still love the series. This game is fun and that’s what it always should come down to.