Halo 4 Review
Halo 4 was the first time the Halo franchise had been handled by someone other than Bungie, with Microsoft’s in-house 343 Studios taking the helm. The results were…mixed:
+Graphics: Halo 4 is one of the most technically impressive games of this generation. Arguably the best-looking game on the Xbox, everything form the character models to the sprawling trademark Halo vistas are genuinely impressive to look at. The opening level in particular wastes now time in showing off 343s fresh engine. At times it wouldn’t look out-of-place on the Xbox One.
+Gunplay: Crucially, Halo 4 gets the most important thing right: the gunplay. The ever-present high quality gunplay of the series is still present, with the weighty feeling of the Chief satisfying to control, as you strive to outmaneuver CPU or player-controlled opponents with strafes and jumps. The new guns are good (AMR is great), but it’s the familiar favourites like the sniper rifle and the BR that make a triumphant and successful return. The most impressive thing about Halo games is how it manages to get battling in both close quarters and across open landscapes so right, and Halo 4 triumphs in this department yet again.
+Long haul: The single player game is lengthy, and the multiplayer options are plentiful. Content-wise Halo 4 gets it right.
+Co-op: As ever, the best way to tackle the game’s campaign is with a friend. It also makes the game a lot more manageable on higher difficulty settings, allowing you to re-spawn if your buddy gets to a safer area ,as opposed to dying and starting the whole thing over.
+Online: Halo games live or die by their online components, and whilst not without its flaws, for the most part Halo 4 does it really well. The levels are well-designed, and a Lone Wolf or Team Slayer match can result in carnage. The load out system makes for a different type of match than traditional Halo games, which tend to be much more territorial, but the system works well for what it is.
~Loadouts: As mentioned, the loadout system is divisive. For Halo purists, who are used to battling for map hotspots (where the sniper spawns, etc), they will find that a different approach is now needed. Now you earn a weapon drop by racking up kills, and the weapon spawns in front of you. It makes for a hectic game, but not one Halo fans will be used to.
~Legendary: Halo 4 carries on the Halo tradition of having a slightly too easy heroic mode, and a ridiculous tough-as-nails Legendary mode. The trouble with Legendary is that it effectively makes some guns redundant, rather than actually making the enemies cleverer/more plentiful. Enemies are now bullet-sponges with super-power weapons that drain your health with one hit, forcing you to employ cover at every opportunity and pray for plasma pistols. A difficulty setting in between Heroic and Legendary is still sorely needed.
~New guns: I’ve praised the guns already, and many of them are great, but some, particularly the new Promethean/Forerunner flavour, are either ridiculously powerful (scattershot) or pathetically weak. They don’t really add too much to the game.
~Perky: Halo 4 follows in Reach’s footsteps by allowing the player to take advantage of various perks and enhancements. I’m torn about these, because on the one hand it adds depth and customisation (and the jetpack is just fun), but on the other it causes the game to deviate further form the overall fairness and balance Halo has been known and praised for. Coming up against an enemy online who has unlocked the jetpack when you haven’t makes the game inherently unfair.
-Campaign: Sadly, Halo 4 continues the trend of worsening campaigns. The story is at best dull and at worst nonsensical. The ‘Cortana is losing it’ narrative just isn’t interesting, and it isn’t really clear what the new enemy’s motives are, and the Covenant feel a bit shoehorned in. The levels also get blander and blander as the game goes on, which makes having to repeat them constantly when playing Legendary a chore.
-Split-screen frame rate: Playing 4-player split-screen local LAN has always been a favourite thing to do for me any my pals in previous Halos, but the increased graphical fidelity of Halo 4 means the game takes a real sub-30FPS hit when playing with 4 people. The fact that 343 (blasphemously) removed split-screen entirely for Halo 5 is testament to the priorities they have as developers.
-Spongey: Even on the lower difficulty settings, some of the enemies (particularly the Promethans) are absurdly bullet-spongey, giving no real indication of how much damage they’ve taken. Worse, one particular teleporting enemy has a teleport animation very similar to their death animation, making them very frustrating to fight.
Overall: 343 tried very hard with Halo 4, and its production values cannot be faulted. However where it falters it falters hard, making it probably the weakest and least-replayable entry in the series up to this point.