Halo 4 – Review
Combat good, but distinctly unevolved
Michael Plant is chief editor and writer of gaming ezine and blog GamesCatalyst.com, as well as editor of 'The Independent'’s games review printed in the Saturday supplement 'Information'. Established in February 2011, Games Catalyst endeavours to bring its unique brand of fact and satire to the videogaming community and, in tandem with 'The Independent', hopefully turn a few non-believers on to gaming while we’re at it.
Tuesday 06 November 2012
Do you ever get that feeling of déjà vu when you know that you’ve been there before? Well, Halo veterans should be prepared for something similar when playing Halo 4, a game which takes the mantra of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ to new heights.
In fact, short of stamping their own signature on their freshly held series, 343 Industries seems to have gone out of its way to pay homage to Bungie’s Halo: Combat Evolved; the scoped pistol makes a return, your Covenant foes – re-skinned for Reach – are back to their original appearances (albeit realised beautifully) and those same iconic environments return too (even if the returning Master Chief has swapped the Halo ring for a Forerunner world).
In what I can only really put down as a ‘tease’ there are early signs that 343 might have a whole new, infinitely more visceral, Halo in store for us. Early on the Chief is tasked to climb a shaft as debris falls on him from above, so forcing him to leap Nathan Drake-like to parallel handholds; next he’s ripping a door apart with brute strength alone (well, brute strength and much tapping of the ‘x’ button). Sadly however, such moments are sporadic at best throughout the rest of his adventure, 343 either unwilling or told not to stray too far from the series’ established party line.
Still, it’s not all bad news as said party line is of a very high standard indeed and Halo 4 has been crafted with exceptional aplomb. Those same qualities that made previous Halos great fun – huge expansive environments, sandbox encounters, aggressive AI (literally in this case) and vehicle combat – all returning, and wrapped-up in graphical finery which surely pushes the Xbox 360 as far as it’s ever going to be pushed.
What is different works well enough too, the most obvious and impactful change being the addition of the Prometheans, a network of belligerent energy beings who are the very definition of artificial intelligence as they flank you, bog you down with sheer numbers and work together smartly to cover each other.
And don’t think the Covenant are going to be far away either – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, remember? – but by deploying the Prometheans on to the field of battle alongside the Covenant, 343 have been able to challenge players in a brand new way by mixing up the way player’s must approach given situations.
The newbies do cheat a bit however, the Promethean Knights for example won’t think anything of teleporting from one side of the battlefield to right behind you, while their one shot, one kill Scatter Shot energy shotgun can get a tad annoying (particularly on Heroic difficulty and above). The nimbleness of the Watchers – flying droids adept at buffing their allies – is a further annoyance, particularly given the amount of ammo you’ll expend trying to pick them off at distance (lest they reanimate their fallen brethren).
I would also have sooner seen Covenant and Promethean engage each other in combat more; indeed, even during short sequences when they do they tend to exchange blows without ever looking for that killing shot. How much better had the Chief looked to bury the hatchet and temporarily teamed up with the Covenant in a bid to even up the superior firepower of the Prometheans? Surely there’s scope there for huge engagements between forces – or does the Chief’s ego have it that he must always be the central figure?
Still, on the whole combat remains immensely satisfying and the fact that 343 have resisted the cover mechanics so synonymous with the modern day FPS can only be a good thing – indeed after Warfighter the less time spent popping up from cover to shoot enemies who have themselves popped up from cover the better.
Instead Halo 4’s bad guys bring their own cover, the aforementioned Watcher beaming shields in front of its allies for example, while most enemies (certainly of the larger variety) come with their own self-recovering personal shields to rival that of the Chief himself.
Away from the Master Chief’s exploits I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the game’s online options, but what I’ve seen leaves me confident that I’ll still be returning often in the months to come. Spartan Ops sees players partake in a multiplayer campaign, which runs alongside events of the single-player experience, and promises to expand exponentially with 343 looking to add regular missions for players to partake in; while War Games pits Spartans against each other in simulated holodeck-like military training scenarios (read: traditional deathmatch).
Ultimately Halo 4 plays exactly how you’d expect which is either a blessing or curse depending on your point of view. 343 haven’t looked to rock the boat and in doing so have only ever made it possible to create an experience we’ve played through before. That said the genius of the old design means even now that same gameplay has merit, here’s hoping however that Microsoft and 343 don’t try a repeat trick upon the release of Halo 4 as surely a new console generation calls for a new experience.
Format: Xbox 360
Developer: 343 Industries
Life & Style blogs
Your best friend as a teenager can determine how healthy you are as an adult
A daily walk 'can add seven years to your life'
iPhone 6s and 6s Plus battery capacity will be weaker than predecessors, Apple leaks suggest
Pansexual: What is it - and when did the term gain popularity?
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 1 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 2 Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
- 3 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 4 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 5 I'm a sex worker in a legal brothel – here are the five biggest misconceptions about what I do
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
COMPETITIVE +Benefits: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager / Sales (w...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is looking to recruit a highly ex...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be producing compelling ...
£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This online user testing compan...