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343i delivers, despite any skepticism.,
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This review is from: Halo 4 - Xbox 360 (Standard Game) (Video Game)
Having been a long-time Halo player and fan, purchasing this new installment of the game was a must. Not only has it been a few years since we've seen the Master Chief in action, but it's the debut game for the new Halo developer, 343 Industries. While many members of Bungie's original Halo team still work as a part of 343, it has been interesting to see the franchise transition into a new atmosphere, with team members that had never been a part of the Halo universe contributing.
The campaign starts the player out in the same predicament as the original Halo--Master Chief is on a ship heading towards an impending doom, and have to fight your way out to discover the big surprise the remainder of the campaign has in store for you. Throughout the campaign, there are plenty of homages to previous Halo games, whether they be similar musical motifs or level structure. 343 has made sure the player feels like they are playing the same Halo they are familiar with and have always known.
The plot of the game brings the Chief to a forerunner planet and introduces the characters to a new race of enemies. This new race included the typical grunt-like creatures at the bottom of the ranks, all the way up to new "elite" members that introduced gameplay mechanics never seen before in Halo enemy AI (such as teleportation, regeneration, etc.). 343 does a fantastic job in transitioning the player into this new environment with never-before-seen enemies, primarily by mixing and scattering the traditional Covenant enemies throughout the game as well.
As this is the beginning of a new trilogy, the plot brings a level of new questions to the table, while only answering a few along the way. Leaving the details aside, one will notice when playing through that 343 takes a step in the direction of giving the player a more personal view of Master Chief: the plot reveals more information regarding his backstory, and how his role plays within the entire universe (which becomes a major plot point). The dynamic between Chief and Cortana is also built upon, and presents some emotional elements within the plot, never before experiencing in previous Halo games.
The new plot, levels, and characters, mixed together with the various difficulties (with the notoriously difficult legendary setting) create a truly unique game, and a must-have for anyone invested in the Halo universe.
The only thing missing from the campaign experience is the musical talent of previous Halo composer Marty O'Donnell. While the music still maintains a familiar Halo feel, new motifs are introduced and old ones trashed as 343 attempts to differentiate the new trilogy from the old. The music doesn't quite match that found in the original trilogy, but it should not be overlooked, either. The new soundtrack introduces a new, movie-esque soundscape, accentuating the epic impact of some of the game's levels and cutscenes.
Along with a new singleplayer experience comes a new multiplayer experience. While game types such as Slayer, Swat, and Snipers are still available to play, 343 has thrown in some new ones as well. The in-match scoring system has also changed, awarding the player points for accomplishing certain actions (kills, assists, etc.), rather than scoring based on kills alone.
New maps were released with the game, with confirmation of more map packs to follow soon. Some of the new maps are completely new, and some are remakes of older maps from previous Halo games. Unfortunately, as was an issue with previous Halo games, players usually end up on the same map for every game type, due to the voting mechanism introduced in Halo: Reach. Whereas the system previously chose the maps for the players, they are now given three choices, and those in the lobby are allowed to choose which they prefer (majority wins). While most players tend to flock towards the better maps, it becomes disappointing for those who favor unpopular maps.
The release of a new ranking system sometime next year will help the online experience, as the only current ranking system is experience-based and does not prove any indication of still. While the behind-the-scenes mechanics of Xbox Live has no trouble sorting players based on their skill, a visual indicate and level system will only add to the games favor, for both casual and competitive players alike.
New to Halo 4 is Spartan Ops, a campaign and co-op mission-based strategy gametype where players can continue the story via installments released regularly from 343 Industries. This mode essentially replaced Firefight from the previous games, as it allows players to team up against hordes of enemy AI. While each episode is accompanied by its own cutscene, the primary objective for each chapter usually follows the same formula--find the objective, clear the area of enemies, or defend certain obstacles. Unlike the campaign mode, players, playing either by themselves or with another player, have the ability to infinitely respawn throughout the level, rather than respawning back to the last checkpoint before death. While this takes away from the valor of completing some of the tougher levels, it also takes away some of the frustration brought on by playing some of the more difficult levels on legendary, which have become notoriously hard.
Overall, Halo 4 has done well in keeping up with the hype preceding it, but 343 will need to continue to improve if they intend to lengthen its lifespan as newer, better shooters enter the market. The expected ranking system restructure next year will help, along with 343's intended weekly release of Spartan Ops episodes.
Halo 4 has set the bar high for the rest of the trilogy, and it is any indication of how the remaining games will pan out, players should be nothing less than excited.