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Retroactive Posts: Halo 4

May 8, 2013

(Originally posted on November 7th, 2012)

2340615-box_halo4Halo 4

What’s good:
-Well scripted and performed campaign storyline.
-Great sound design, from original score to voice acting, environmental and weapon sounds.
-Diverse set of interesting new enemy types.
-Multiplayer is still easy to get into, and the progression (as much as it’s played out) is still rewarding.
-Refined and updated Forge mode allows for quicker (and less headache inducing) custom map design.

What’s bad:
-Rare occurrences of frame rate hitches (mostly in multiplayer).
-Multiplayer has lost some of its identity.
-Spartan Ops mode storyline (at launch) is uninteresting and the mode has around a second of input lag when played online via matchmaking.

If I were to give it a rating: 4 out of 5

Other thoughts:
Halo Reach was, in my personal opinion, the worst game in the series. A sentiment I’ve shared here on the Soapbox before. I found the multiplayer ill designed, the story poorly written, the characters within completely throw-away, and the game overall, while masterfully produced, a tremendous disappointment. In many ways, Halo 4 is the polar opposite of Halo Reach.

Halo 4 has what is easily the most emotionally resonant narrative so far in the series. Without giving anything away, this game has more dramatic weight than any of the prior Halo games put together. If you were at any point a fan of the Halo series, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. It’s paced well and leads you through a diverse set of lushly detailed environments, some of which make nods to previous Halo games.

The rest of the game is what you’ve come to expect from a Halo game, sans the cooperative horde mode that was found in ODST and Reach, which is replaced with a new episodic campaign dubbed Spartan Ops.
There is only one episode (comprised of five 15-20 minute chapters) available at launch. Each chapter contains fresh dialogue and scenarios, but they all boil down to expresso shots of  Halo combat held loosely together with a paper thin narrative. Maybe things will get interesting later on down the road, but there’s nothing about the first episode that has me hungry for more. It doesn’t help that if you choose to play these missions online via matchmaking, you’re forced to endure amounts of input lag so drastic that, while it doesn’t make the game outright unplayable, it makes you not want to play it.

Multiplayer is a mixed bag. The controls being as responsive as they are (compared to the past two games) makes the multiplayer feel fantastic, but I’m still on the fence about the “new” systems in place on the periphery.
343 seems to have taken every opportunity they could to make Halo 4 adhere to Call of Duty’s standards, from custom loadouts and join-in-progress matchmaking to killcams and point streaks. The flow of the gameplay still feels like traditional Halo, but everything surrounding it is anything but.
Each of these systems comes with a flaw it would seem, and in some cases that flaw isn’t a fun killer, but in some it is. For example, custom loadouts are good fun and all, but as with any custom loadout system, there are cookie-cutter combinations that give people unfair advantages over those who either aren’t invested enough in the multiplayer to care, or too low a level to create those combinations.
Killcams are a neat inclusion, but nothing more than that. In Call of Duty, you often die too fast to know what hit you, as the health pools are small and the weapon damage is high. In that situation, killcams are valuable for they show you where the person that tagged you might be holed out. In Halo on the other hand, unless it’s someone behind you with a power weapon, you’re going to know what killed you, as most of the default weapons take several hits to down someone. It’s a neat feature to include, but it’s unnecessary.
Halo 4 also has CoD-style multi-tiered challenges centered around different sorts of kills or the like that give you large chunks of experience points upon completion. Leveling gives you tokens to spend on unlocking new weapons or abilities for your custom classes (these items are also gated via your numbered level), as well as new customization options for your spartan’s armor or emblem.
Leveling has its place. It’s a fun gimmick when done properly (which it seems to have been done here), but it’s disappointing to see Halo go down that route after lasting so many years without it. This is what I meant when I said that Halo 4’s multiplayer has lost some of its identity. It’s still Halo, but Halo with a little Call of Duty tossed in, instead of just Halo. The innovators have begun to conform, and while the end product is still very well made, it doesn’t feel as original as it could have otherwise.

All in all however, Halo 4 is one of the better entries in the series. Regardless of how you might feel about its multiplayer on a philosophical level, it’s still perfectly valid and most importantly fun.
343 has shown that they know what they’re doing, and after the abomination that was Halo Reach, I’m pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed a Halo game again. Keep em coming.

From → Games

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