The story of Halo in my experience is a love/hate kind of thing. I am on the indifferent side. The very first Halo shocked me, story-wise. I thought it was well written and well delivered through the game. Halo 2 is where things started to veer off for me whereas my focus shifted towards the multiplayer experience. So much so, that by the time I got to Halo 3, the campaign wasn’t of any interest and still remains to be untouched. I may not be the right person to talk about the campaign due to my indifference, but Halo 4’s campaign is one that should be spoken about. The campaign could last you anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the difficulty and your skill. If the campaign completion time doesn’t disappoint you, it will be easy to say that you will be when you finish it. Not only did I find it to be short, but it seemed like nothing happened, and none of the set-ups pan out into anything. For example Cortana’s rampancy was lacklustre and not really enjoyable, and the Didact arc just the same. The Didact started off an all-mighty powerful entity with a sputter of significance to the story. In the beginning, the story was a little rough to follow but as the story progressed, the explanations became clearer as you pieced things together one-by-one. Saying I was disappointed by the storyline would be an under-statement, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t care all that much about the lore. I can only imagine someone who has invested all this time would think. To sum it all up: All Flash; No Substance.
Now to talk about the campaign as a whole. I had one heck of a time with it! The gameplay throughout the campaign was thoroughly enjoyable. Jumping into each mission introduced you to new and fun weapons, the new Promethean race adds a fresh feeling of inquiry to the Halo Universe, and the cut-scenes were not only well produced but looked amazingly gorgeous. Gameplay had some memorable moments that were not only cool–like the last mission where you’re basically Luke Skywalker about to blow up the Death Star–but also had a lot of variety to the experience. There are also some quick time events in here, one of the first things you do is climb up an elevator shaft, it only happened around 3-4 times though. I never felt bored by what I was doing gameplay-wise, and was thoroughly impressed with all of it. Unfortunately there’s just not much of it.
The Spartan Ops mode sort of ties into the events of the campaign, but it’s kind of hard to tell. There is an intro video that has a funny moment and looks great. The problem I had was that I expected more from it, but it ended up just being 5-15 minute for each of the 5 missions. Not only that, but nothing happens in them. It’s go here, shoot these guys, turn on/off this thing and you get picked up and mission over. I hope they do more with the second episode incoming at a later time.
The Online is why I enjoy the Halo series. Ever since Halo 2 introduced the inclusion of Xbox Live support, I was suckered in. This title manages to not only be great but will also be a game that players should remain interested in the online, pumping out efforts to the war front. My only gripe is that it does nothing to differentiate itself from past Halos. Sure there are some new game modes in here, such as Flood, Regicide and Spartan Ops but nothing sets this game apart. I’m not saying it as a bad thing, if anything that’s what most core Halo fans want. It will not change anyone’s opinion about the franchise as a whole. 343 did manage to make it a solid experience though, the matchmaking is quick, the menus look slick and the customizability of your Spartan is excellent. The theatre makes a return and is quite handy when you find yourself with a big moment you want to have forever. Forge also makes a return, it’s pretty much the same as past games. Again though, not a bad thing and it should be interesting to see what the community can do with it.
The graphics are absolutely amazing. Everything from the gameplay, in-engine cut-scenes and CG cut-scenes are great. Actually at a few spots, I thought the CG scenes were live-action (I had an argument with my girlfriend at the beginning of the game, stating that it was actors on the screen instead of CG), that’s how great they look. Even the in-engine stuff looks great, life-like in spots as well. The only real complaint I’d have is that the lip-syncing is strange. At times it seemed like a hand was moving a Sesame Street puppet’s mouth. That’s literally all. These are the graphics we’ve been waiting from a Halo game since 3. Reach looked really good, but was still not up to snuff. Halo 4 is amongst the greatest looking FPSs ever. The look of the new enemies is designed great and manages to make the transfer to 3D in-game models as well. The way that the tech such as the Promethean armor, guns and weapons just float around and magnetically pulls in together is cool. Last thing I want to bring up is the HUD and menus, they look simple yet tell you what you want to know and do it gracefully. Cortana’s rampancy actually affects your HUD at points, making it look corrupted while glitching around, which is a sweet effect.
The sound is another area that had significant improvements. I think that all the guns sound more vicious, more violent and overall a nice insight as to what future weapons might sound like. The Covenant is back and is probably the biggest difference going from Bungie to 343. No longer are they kiddy sounding or deep voiced, they have an interesting way of speaking. Almost like their voices are coming out of tinny speakers, the sound will please a novice audiophile. Ultimately the rest is really hard to describe, because it’s all essentially Halo-like. It’s familiar but has enough of a difference that it’s noticeable. The only minus I could think of is the Warthogs, something seems off about the way they roar.
Overall, the game is fantastic regardless of it’s faults. If you are expecting a huge sprawling campaign, you might want to re-adjust your expectations. The multiplayer is familiar but why wouldn’t it be? Not only is it fun, but it works flawlessly. I personally wanted a Halo game to look this good and it delivered on it. I’m giving this a 4/5, only because of the lacklustre campaign and Spartan Ops, not to say they are bad, there simply is not enough content.