Halo 4


By: Alan Bell    On: Xbox 360
Published: Thursday 1 Nov 2012 8:01 PM
 
 
 
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Halo's a series with a pedigree. Created by the fine folks at Bungie way back in 1999, the first game marked a watershed moment in first-person shooter gaming for many, proving once and for all that the genre - once heralded as only possible on computers - worked just fine on console controllers too, thank you very much.

The franchise has gone on to foster one of the most richly detailed game universes of all time, with a deep back story and multimedia narrative that spans books, comics, TV, and - of course - games. The care and attention paid wasn't restricted to just the narrative, either; Bungie are well known for the amount of care and attention that went into gameplay design and balancing too, and each of the games has been feature - and content - rich.

So it should come as no surprise that the switch in developer to 343 Studios is something that many - myself included - viewed with some considerable apprehension. Could this new team live up to the Bungie legacy? Would this new Halo, the first new game to come from this new team, possibly reach the lofty heights of the previous entries in the series?

Any and all doubt was soon quashed, as you can probably tell if you've already spotted the score component of this review. Halo 4 is, quite simply, stunning. Every aspect of the title, from the beginning to the end, is an absolute delight. It looks, sounds, and plays superbly, and 343 have applied their skills with a sure hand.

The story, for example, is no quick cash-in, nor is it carefully penned so as not to step outside of what Bungie laid down. Fear not, as I won't ruin it in anyway or spoil its revelations; just know that it is grand in scope and shakes things up in a big way. It deals with powerful, emotive themes, too, and players who have been with Master Chief from the beginning will enjoy the nuances and character exposé it contains. The link with the initially absurd but ultimately excellent Forward Unto Dawn live-action series, too, is extremely well done and should be considered a high watermark for future trans-media campaigns.

Gameplay, naturally, is the most important consideration when assessing a title for review. Halo 4 was up against it here, facing off not only against a hotly contested first-person shooter genre, but also the excellent games in its own franchise that preceded it. Here, too, it championed all who dared stand before it. Not only is it true to the excellent, large-scale combat action of its forebears, but it also adds plenty of invention and improvement too.

Of particular note is the array of new weapons and enemies 343 have introduced to Halo canon, most of which are based on Forerunner technology - a theme carried throughout the game. The new guns, while similar in function to many you've seen before (sniper type, shotgun type, etc), feel and sound great, and you'll soon have new favorites to add to the already excellent arsenal of the series.

The enemies, however, are the standout new feature, with the Promethean Knights (a devastating foe) and their companion Watchers making a particularly powerful debut. The Knights, you see, in addition to serious firepower, also have the ability to portal away from danger, and the utterly terrifying propensity to rush towards you like no enemy you've ever faced on any battlefield before. When paired with their fragile - but annoyingly hard to hit - Watcher pals, who can shield them or even bring them back from the dead, you've got a formidable match-up that requires a unique set of strategies to take down.

Multiplayer is once again rich and rewarding, with a vast array of options, maps, modes, and much more to explore. Every possible feature you could ask for is here, including the return of the Forge - an in-game system that lets you build and customize your own maps. The depth of the offering is immense, and just getting your head around it (let alone deciding what to do first) is an endeavour all its own.

Visually, the game is a feast for the eyes. It looks, quite simply, like a next-generation game, leaps and bounds better than anything else on consoles today. If you've been gradually moving away from consoles, in favour of a high-specced PC, you absolutely must take a look at Halo 4 in motion. The technical boffins at 343 are geniuses, quite simply, and Halo 4 stands as the Xbox 360's crowning visual achievement.

Sound, too, is just way better than anything else in any game you've ever played before. The guns are meatier than ever, enemies distinct and terrifying. Everything has taken a slightly darker tone since 343 took the helm, and nowhere is this made more clear than in the soundscape of the title. The threat posed to humanity by the situation that unfolds in the game is hammered home by the distinctly sinister sounds that enemies make as they attempt to wrest your soul from your body. The thump of their guns or the guttural roar from their throats will ensure you round that next corner respectfully, mindful of the danger they represent. It is, quite simply. awe-inspiring to experience.

No Halo 4 review would be complete without mentioning the soundtrack; composed and produced by Neil Davidge (of Massive Attack fame), it is, again, extraordinary. It - like many other game soundtracks these days - is available to purchase separately; unlike many other game soundtracks, however, doing so wouldn't be a mistake. It's spectacular, driving, varied, and grand in scope. Alternately intensely personal and epicly grandiose, it matches the action and verve of the game itself with a level of expertise that's seldom seen in this facet of game development.

No game is perfect, and a few little niggles do still manage to sneak their way onto the disk. The human AI, for example, is still as daft as ever when attempting to navigate a level in charge of a warthog. The campaign isn't overly long, either, weighing in at five to six hours tops. The story contains elements that are almost too revolutionary, and will likely irk some ardent fans of the existing lore, and they're not all wrapped up, with many questions left unanswered when the action concludes.

None of these things, however, impact the experience in any significant way; none of them take the gloss off what is a truly spectacular game. Of all of the possible results that may have sprung from the circumstances that now surround the development of the Halo franchise, Halo 4 is the most welcome (and surprising) imaginable.


The Score

Halo 4
"A masterpiece."
10
Excellent
Rating: R13   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 15 Min

 

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Comments (25)

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Jake NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 1 Nov 2012 8:20 PM Posted by Jake
Excellently written review! I really can't wait to get this game, everything just seems so fresh and new!
 
 
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Ron NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Thursday 1 Nov 2012 8:30 PM Posted by Ron
Looking forward to it launching and getting back into the MP after a few years dedicating my MP time to CoD and Battlefield.
 
 
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Ubercuber NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 1 Nov 2012 9:27 PM Posted by Ubercuber
Sounds good, but thats a total hit-whoring score.
 
 
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Ubercuber NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 1 Nov 2012 9:32 PM Posted by Ubercuber
BTW - Im pretty stoked its so good. A shame my Xbox died a while ago. Halo was always fun for co-op and offline multiplayer.
 
 
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BlakeyNZ NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 1 Nov 2012 9:49 PM Posted by BlakeyNZ
Will you by any chance be doing a comp to win a copy? Id love to buy it but gotta get Xmas prezzies for my lil girl.
And my Xbox in repairs too. Woe is me lol
 
 
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Palmn8or
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 12:45 AM Posted by Palmn8or
this just sounds like a Halo fan got to write a review of the game he wants to be that good, when it probably isnt... your just not looking at it from the point of view of someone who hasnt played much of this series
 
 
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This comment has been down-voted by the community.  
Jake NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 7:12 AM Posted by Jake
2 November 2012, 12:45 AM Reply to Palmn8or
this just sounds like a Halo fan got to write a review of the game he wants to be that good, when it probably isnt... your just not looking at it from the point of view of someone who hasnt played much of this series
Isn't the idea of a review that the author gets across His opinion, not a generalised one?
 
 
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Leachy1983
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 7:41 AM Posted by Leachy1983
2 November 2012, 12:45 AM Reply to Palmn8or
this just sounds like a Halo fan got to write a review of the game he wants to be that good, when it probably isnt... your just not looking at it from the point of view of someone who hasnt played much of this series
I direct you to take a look at Metacritic, out of 47 reviews so far Halo 4 has scored a perfect score on all but a few. So saying this was written by a Halo fan just to justify themselves wanting it to be good when it isn't is ridiculous. This is obviously an excellent very well made game and worthy of the praise its recieving. And just so you know, I am a PS3 gamer, i do not own an xbox, and have never been a huge fan of Halo. I can however appreciate an excellent game, no matter what system it's on
 
 
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TheClairoyant
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 7:49 AM Posted by TheClairoyant
Campaign only 5-6 hours? That's very short. Should of made it as long as Halo 2's campaign, Which has always been my favourite. Hope the spartan ops makes up for it.
 
 
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rocketman12 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 8:14 AM Posted by rocketman12
This will be my birthday present I think.
 
 
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Phoenix NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 9:01 AM Posted by Phoenix
2 November 2012, 07:49 AM Reply to TheClairoyant
Campaign only 5-6 hours? That's very short. Should of made it as long as Halo 2's campaign, Which has always been my favourite. Hope the spartan ops makes up for it.
Halo 3 campaign was quite short as well right? That must have been in the 6-8 hour mark?
 
 
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Waltman NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 11:03 AM Posted by Waltman
What difficulty was the 5-6 hour campaign done on? I've heard that it's quite a bit harder than previous halos.
 
 
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Waltman NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 11:40 AM Posted by Waltman
Also any comments on the theatre mode?

soexcitedicantevenhandleit
 
 
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D4nzy NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 1:13 PM Posted by D4nzy
2 November 2012, 11:03 AM Reply to Waltman
What difficulty was the 5-6 hour campaign done on? I've heard that it's quite a bit harder than previous halos.
He did it on normal I am pretty sure (looked at his chevos). It will probs double in length on legendary, I also heard its the hardest yet.
 
 
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Mealworm
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 4:46 PM Posted by Mealworm
"looks leaps and bounds better than anything on consoles today", yea right, Uncharted 3, BF3 nuff said
 
 
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Mealworm
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 4:49 PM Posted by Mealworm
2 November 2012, 07:41 AM Reply to Leachy1983
I direct you to take a look at Metacritic, out of 47 reviews so far Halo 4 has scored a perfect score on all but a few. So saying this was written by a Halo fan just to justify themselves wanting it to be good when it isn't is ridiculous. This is obviously an excellent very well made game and worthy of the praise its recieving. And just so you know, I am a PS3 gamer, i do not own an xbox, and have never been a huge fan of Halo. I can however appreciate an excellent game, no matter what system it's on
You sure about that ?, it's a 90 metacritic right now, obviously many didn't give it a 10,9/10 is still great though.
 
 
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Leachy1983
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 7:27 PM Posted by Leachy1983
2 November 2012, 04:49 PM Reply to Mealworm
You sure about that ?, it's a 90 metacritic right now, obviously many didn't give it a 10,9/10 is still great though.
At the time i posted that comment, yes, I am sure. I havent looked since but by now alot more reviews would have come in id say, hence the score dropping a tad. Universal Acclaim all round tho, you cant argue with that!
 
 
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Wendyelise
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 8:58 PM Posted by Wendyelise
I thought that master chief died in the last halo. they even had a memorial wall for him. But no matter I love anything to do with the Halo series and Halo 4 looks awesome. I just wish that Bungie had picked up the mass effect franchise, instead of Bioware and EA. Because I'm sure that they would have taken the same kind of care they took with Halo. Well done guys and gals at Bungie.
 
 
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nguns
On Friday 2 Nov 2012 11:02 PM Posted by nguns
Lol crazy how some people are so touchy about there systems and games.. I've since sold my X360 and was never really a Halo fan.. Co-Op campaign was still a glorious gaming memory i would love to re-live.. I thought Uncharted 2/3 graphics where the best i've seen in a game but this Halo 4 definatley rivals them.. If not beats em! Crazy what they still get out of this 'ancient' tech.

Anyway, for all those with an xbox, i envy you. Enjoy.
 
 
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Pho3niXnz
On Saturday 3 Nov 2012 1:49 AM Posted by Pho3niXnz
I thought I was over Halo but now it looks like I have to get a new Xbox to play this!
 
 
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tuftsdude NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Saturday 3 Nov 2012 6:35 PM Posted by tuftsdude
Under the review (10) it says the ratings G ???
 
 
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gooseman77
On Monday 5 Nov 2012 10:44 AM Posted by gooseman77
Good review but one point bothered me a bit. 343 Industries isn't a noob Halo developer. 343 Industries was set up when Bungie decided to go independent after Halo 3 and is basically Bungie under a new name (in terms of staff). Also got to remember that 343i developed Halo Waypoint, Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo Legends and were a major component of ODST and Reach. I think they know a thing or two about the series. Halo is in good hands.
 
 
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PotatoLegs NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Sunday 11 Nov 2012 5:38 PM Posted by PotatoLegs
I like this review better:
"I'm convinced that this series only continues to exist so a handful of modelers can giggle in a dark room as they make Cortana more babe-like. 6/10"
 
 
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KatalystaKaos NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Tuesday 13 Nov 2012 11:42 AM Posted by KatalystaKaos
11 November 2012, 05:38 PM Reply to PotatoLegs
I like this review better:
"I'm convinced that this series only continues to exist so a handful of modelers can giggle in a dark room as they make Cortana more babe-like. 6/10"
Yeah that reviewer was trolling aye!! I guess like attracts like....
 
 
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Garagerock
On Tuesday 1 Jan 2013 2:54 PM Posted by Garagerock
Gotta get this... Halo never dissappoints!
 
 
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