Halo 4

Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360
Allegiance: 343 Industries
Vintage: 2012
Rating: M

Intelligence Agency Report by Shadow:
Blaring energy signatures, a panicked AI, and a sleeping warrior. It is not the beginning of some bad horror story, but a continuation of the story of Master Chief. The greatest warrior humanity has ever known is awakened once more to defend us from an evil long imprisoned and thirsting for vengeance. It’s time to grab your weapon and take the fight back to old and new enemies alike…and maybe against something far closer to us than we realize.

Field Agent Report by Shadow:

Plot 10.00
Visual 10.00
Characters 9.00
Audio 10.00
Impact 10.00
Gameplay 9.50

Overall: 9.75

Halo: Reach, the most emotional of all of the Halo games to date and largely considered the greatest and deepest, was the end of an era.  Bungie exited the stage of Halo with grace, humility, and thanks. To all the fans of Halo, the experience was likely over.  However 343 Industries, long-time friends and teammates of Bungie took up the mantle of the Halo universe’s story and we now have a new trilogy in the story of Master Chief.  It is time to continue the legacy that Bungie left the game and to knock the rust off the armor.  But what could possibly be left for a Spartan II to accomplish after saving the world and galaxy from the most dangerous threat ever posed to sentient life?

There are no spoilers here, as always.  What will make this game interesting is that you won’t need to play the prior three main Halo games to understand the story, though it will provide you a LOT of depth.  Chief is awaked by a panicked Cortana, who is seeing signatures approaching the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn with less than friendly intentions and what seems to be a boarding party.  To make matters more dire, the ship is being scanned by an unknown entity and you are now looking at a Forerunner Shield World!  The situation begins to go FUBAR when the Covenant attack the Master Chief and then a gravity well pulls everyone into the planet, on top of what seems to be a major issue with Cortana.  From there, you will have to play through.  Though to give you an understanding of how well-developed and powerful the story of Halo 4 is it will help to know that several veteran players have broken down during and after the game.  Finding themselves to be an emotional wreck that has caused a stoppage of play for a few days.  343 Industries did it right.

The characters in the game rely on two old standards, Chief and Cortana.  Apart from that, the game brings a small number of new characters.  Chief among them are the Didact, Commander Laskey, Lt. Commander Sarah Palmer, and Captain Del Rio of the Infinity.  This is one of the few times that there is anything about the game that didn’t meet or exceed the standards.  Characters in this game were relatively cut and dry with the exception of the Didact and Laskey, who had actual emotions and were not cookie-cutter military personality characters.  Where the game shines in characters is with the two previously developed ones.  Interaction between Chief and Cortana becomes very important and reveals the humanity in Spartan 117 that has long been buried by the need to fight for a cause greater than himself in the eyes of the government handlers.  It also presents an internal struggle for the two characters, and arguably one that may keep both characters from eternal damnation because of their own issues.

Audio and visual are beyond hard to describe in this game because the only words are nothing shy of the highest level of praise.  Halo: Reach delivered a deep graphics upgrade for the video games of the current generation and showed a talent that was latent in the XBox 360 that only games like Gears of War have previously delivered on.  Halo 4 has DESTROYED that standard.  The same goes with a soundtrack that only serves to make you fight all the harder and give you the emotional drive to rend your enemies in two.  The soundtrack also knows how to make you feel the pain of Chief and Cortana as well, restoring the humanity to the game or imparting a sense of urgency where needed.

Multiplayer is about the same as it has always been with exception of a combination of the Modern Warfare-style loadouts in combination with the Reach style of setting up your armor, looks, colors, and additional perks that you have.  This gives the player a lot more free reign in how they handle what they will be able to run from the offset of a match (or even in the co-op mode) and be able to use their Spartan IV (spoiler alerts if mentioned any further, sorry gamers).  It is also a much better system than Reach especially since now you no longer pay for items of armor that provide no benefit, just unlock them through various levels and achievements.  The standard horde mode that was in Firefight has been replaced by Spartan Ops, an additional story about fireteams Crimson and Majestic taking place six months after the main campaign.  It is five missions a piece broken into what appears to be ten chapters, one new one placed each week.  Players can link up as a full fireteam (highly recommended) and lay the hate into the Covenant and new enemies in short missions, all while finding easter eggs and learning even more about the aftermath of Halo 4.

It turned out wonderful…..that’s what 343 deserves to hear about Halo 4.  It was a near seamless transition that Halophiles everywhere are sure to enjoy.  The plot is deep and rich, and far from the clichés of gaming.  It will leave hard-core and long-time gamers emotionally tied up and wondering where things are going.  The audio and visual aspects are beyond hard to describe because of the immaculate job that was done.  Don’t rent, just buy it and play it to death until Halo 5 comes out.