From a new Halo developer come new enemies, a new planet and new issues. 343 Studios takes the Halo reigns from Bungie for a new trilogy, but will it be approved from diehard Halo fans and multiplayer junkies? 343 walks a thin line by expanded the genre while holding true to the Halo core. It adds detail to each game aspect from sounds and visuals to plot and gameplay for a strong first step into the next Halo saga.
Halo 4 begins almost five years since Halo 3 and plenty has changed while Chief has been napping. Character depth became an apparent goal for 343 studios with John and Cortana. Master Chief peaked in Halo 3 saving humanity, but everyone has moved on from those times. The Chief is no longer immortalized. He is just another solider being put in his place early into the game. Cortana is having rampancy issues, as all AI do after seven years leading to their deletion. Each has their own issue to resolve, despite needing to save the world from a new threat. The duo of brains and brawn show a closer side for one another beyond just death defying relationship during war. These two are not alone in their endeavors, encountering new friends along with their new enemies.
After finding out whom he is in the viral video series “Forward Unto Dawn,” Tom Lasky takes baby steps into the virtual spot light to become a strong character for the Halo series. He looks to form a replacement to his outdated commanding officers from the first trilogy. For looming threat ahead, Lasky commands several other soldiers and officers for Chief to meet, like Spartan Sarah Palmer.
The theme of the man and machine relationship and man becoming machine to achieve victory is wrapped around the plot of a solid FPS standard 8-10 hours. The game creates several scenarios of action constantly being changed up among the eight lengthy levels. The new enemies, the Prometheans, are the mechanized enemy threat Spartan 117 has never faced.
The Prometheans are another caste system of warriors like the Covenant. Prometheans have three units working together to create a chaotic battlefield. The foundation begins with the knight: a powerful slow moving shielded enemy willing to withstand massive amounts of firepower while dishing out his own. Much like the elite, the knight can and will go toe-to-toe with the Chief, but is rarely alone. The knight will summon another unit, the watcher, to provide support by giving extra shielding or throwing back grenades. Still everything would be the same typical strategy fighting the covenant, until the third piece of the puzzle enters: the crawler. A weak but pack oriented four-legged creature, the crawler causes chaos by surrounding and flushing Master Chief out of cover and into heavier firepower.
When it comes to firepower, Halo 4 puts fresh weapons into the hands of Spartan 117, while maintaining a familiar feel to the Halo series. Each weapon has new sound effects, making each weapon species unique and identifiable from the other. While reloading and firing human weapons have a more mechanical vibe than forerunners advanced tech or the finesse based weaponry from the covenant. New weapons stay within the classic Halo categories, but now each category provides options. For example, the SAW feels like Halo’s basic assault rifle but it has a 100 round magazine. The forerunner beam rifle acts as the former battle rifle, while the new DMR is a short mag capacity but provides more damage.
Vehicles have a more powerful feel along with subtle changes. The classic warthog has a new look, a better grip on the ground and more muscle. The engine sounds as powerful as they come, along with devastating firepower with the upgraded gauss rifle. The new Mantis, a manned-mech with rockets and a mini-gun, can face several enemies on the field and hold its own. The tank remains the same, but the shell launches at a slower rate, while subtle visuals like the large shell casing launched out of the cannon adds a robust realism. A final note for vehicles, something rumored for almost every Halo since the original, Halo 4 puts Chief in control of a pelican.
Not every change was a good one as checkpoints. Checkpoints appear to have lost their timing. Many times after dying Chief would respawn several rooms back, because I refused to pause between sequences, allowing the game to recognize the checkpoint.
This time around multiplayer aligns itself with the story in two ways. The multiplayer, Halo fans are familiar to, remains the same as a training ground for new Spartans. The other is Spartan Ops: a four player co-op story mission that releases four episodes each week telling an entirely new story throughout 50 missions. Multiple seasons are planned, but 343 Studios was kind enough to release the first season of all 50 missions with the games release, to keep continuing the story of Halo 4.
The loadout formula has been enhanced, following the Call of Duty formula by unlocking weapons along with visual customizations. Each Spartan receives loadout points as they level up to spend on unlockables they want. Personalizing loadouts takes the reigns with a primary and secondary weapon slot, grenade slot, armor ability and a passive armor upgrade. Players can also unlock four extra loadout slots to save different strategies and preferences. These work the same for Spartan Ops, giving players the chance to build their ultimate spartan.
Multiplayer, now called War Games, keeps the majority of game type variance from past Halos with a few extras like Regicide and Flood, while removing objective big team battle. Flood is this games zombie mode, except players fight as Spartans and zombies. Regicide is free for all, but marks one player as a higher kill score. All the others remain the same except for Oddball and Capture the Flag. Oddball now added passing, and intercepting, while CTF allows your supersolider to actually multi-task with a flag in one hand and a pistol in the other.
Multiplayer gameplay has improved with weapon positioning on the map. By periodically dropping ordinance instead of assigning weapon spawns to points on the battlefield, players will stop guarding weapon spawns. Everyone can see when the random weapon spawns, because they put it on every player’s HUD. As kill streaks increase, players get their own personal ordinance with three random choices. Still the biggest enhancement is the radar. Now instead of just dots, players can see specifics, like vehicles and their neutral, opposing or friendly identifying colors.
Every multiplayer game will have its slip ups in respawn positioning, so does Halo 4. The difference this time is the minimum player requirement is too low. When a carried over game begins, the game may start two v. one and result in uneven teams even after others join.