In a time where FPS games are beginning to lose their luster among many gamers and the yearly-release schedule is becoming the norm. Halo Fans have a right to be worried about 343’s first attempt at making a full blown sequel in the legendary franchise. I’ll admit it myself, from the few gameplay videos I watched, I found myself worried that the game was trying to emulate Call of Duty’s popular multiplayer in hopes of converting some of Activision’s audience.
While videos caused me to see it that way, boy was I wrong.
Playing Halo 4 brought back so many memories of playing the original Halo. After five years of no true sequel, I was eager to see what would happen to Master Chief and his faithful AI companion. The plot is no masterpiece, but it has a lot of twists that show 343 is willing to take risks. All of my nostalgia for the first three of Bungie’s Halos makes it difficult to say this, but it’s the best story in the series. My enthusiasm may be the product of my ignoring most of the coverage Halo 4 has had, but the story had me guessing from beginning to end.
While the story may be one of the best in the series, the game really shines in the multiplayer department. 343 has made changes the series needed in order to modernize itself while still staying true to its classic formula. Rather than players spawning on either side of a map and rushing to get to weapon spawn points like in previous Halos, the standard match of Slayer feels much more organic and constantly changing. Much of this is because of the new Ordinance Drop system.
Ordinance is similar to Call of Duty’s Kill-streak system but plays a smaller role in the overall conclusion of the deathmatch. Instead of players being required to get a certain amount of kills without dying, they need to get a certain number of points (5 points for an assist, 10 for a standard kill, 15+ for other feats) to receive a Ordinance Drop. While Drops are game-changers, they wont necessarily win or lose a battle. Rather than scattering weapons like the sniper rifle and Needler around the map, the weapons are received via these Ordinance drops. How much these special weapons help the team is completely dependent on how good the player is at using them. When a player with a Ordinance weapon is killed, said weapon can be picked up by any player in the map as with all other weapons.
With all of those great things said, there are a few things that are missing from Halo 4’s Multiplayer experience. The most important being the lack of the twenty-some-odd matchmaking game-types that made Halo 3 stay popular as long as it has. The second being that there is no “classic” game-type that allows players to play with old school Halo rules for a nostalgic ride. While these things could easily be added with patches in the future, it would be nice if it had been in from the start.
Halo 4 has shown me that console games can still look pretty while keeping their frame rate respectable. As a result of recently purchasing a high-powered desktop, I sort of lost hope in console games. Not that graphics are all that matter, but really; any pc-gamer will know that gaming on a high powered computer will really spoil you. Anyways, Halo 4 looks stunning. The lighting, the environments, it’s all beautiful… for the most part. I noticed that contrary to most games, the game looked better when I was up-close to objects. This is because to get the XBOX 360 pumping out these stunning environments, the game adjusts the quality of certain pieces of geometry dynamically. This is particularly noticeable in multiplayer, but to be honest you wont notice it unless you’re looking for it. The game of course can’t be blamed for this, it’s just a sign that the consoles are aging; but can still pump out beautiful pictures given a few tricks.
Unfortunately, when compared to Halo Reach, Forge in Halo 4 is entirely less ambitious. Much like in Halo 3, you are restricted to building in standard mutliplayer maps. While the tool-set has been improved, the lack of any sort of Forge World map is a disappointing step in the wrong direction.
The game plays like Halo, but has some welcome editions that bring the classic control scheme into the year 2012. Players will now be able to sprint (no matter what armor ability they’re using) by pressing down the left analog stick; and rather than to the right analog stick, crouch is mapped to the B button. While these sound like silly changes to mention, they all really bring the pace of the game up by quite a bit.
While players (such as myself) may be scared of 343 Industries changing the game so much that it feels like “just another first person shooter”. They really have nothing to worry about. The game really hasn’t “changed” so much as it has just been improved. While it is disappointing that a few minor features appear to be missing/lacking, that is no reason to write off this fantastic game. Halo’s gameplay is still unmatched. It feels modern, but keeps its identity. Do yourselves a favor and pick up as soon as you get the chance.