Tech News on G4
Halo 4 guns for familiarity
Nov 13, 2012
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Gamers always knew Halo 3 wasn't going to be the last they would see of the green-armoured Spartan known as Master Chief. What wasn't as obvious was how successful or unsuccessful developer 343 Industries would be taking over a series that until now was lovingly created and crafted by Bungie.
It's clear 343 Industries went the safe route, opting not to mess too much with what made the Halo series so popular over the course of the original Xbox and the Xbox 360.
That lack of boldness keeps Halo 4 from being the best game in the series, but let's make one thing very clear here: this latest entry in the Halo saga still maintains rock-solid first-person shooter mechanics, and the multiplayer is still some of the best you'll find in any shooter, anywhere.
The biggest gripe about the campaign is that Halo fanatics - the ones who read all the books, watch all the video shorts, find all the easter eggs, etc - are the ones who will get the most out of the story. Everyone else will be left trying their best to figure out what the heck is going on half the time.
Even bonus video clips that help tell the game's back-story are hidden in very difficult-to-find places throughout the campaign, and once found, the videos can only be viewed in Halo Waypoint, which is a hub for all things Halo. It's a completely separate beast from the games themselves, and must be launched on its own, which is a pain when you just want to see the two minute clip you found.
There's no doubt Halo has a vast back-story, with numerous subplots and characters, but that doesn't matter one bit if the individual stories in each game can't stand on their own.
Halo 4 is part one of the three-part "Reclaimer Saga", (I'm pretty sure Master Chief himself is the Reclaimer ... I think?), and the game picks up nearly five years after the events of Halo 3, with Master Chief being woken up on a floating space frigade by AI construct Cortana.
The ship is under attack, and Master Chief begins his eight-chapter campaign where he, well, does what he's always done, which is shoot lots of aliens and activate lots of computer terminals to complete numerous objectives.
If you've played any of the numbered Halo games, "ODST", or "Reach", you'll instantly be right at home in Halo 4. You'll shoot a whole lot, throw plenty of grenades, and ride some Warthogs as you make your way across a mysterious planet.
Armor abilities are brought back from Halo: Reach, though some have been dropped and others have been added in. New weapons, created by a race of aliens known as Prometheans, are added to the game's arsenal, and while they look cool as they hover in pieces before assembling right in Master Chief's hands, none of them do anything we haven't seen before, either in other Halo games, or in other first-person shooters.
Other tweaks have been made to give Halo 4 a more serious tone in the face of countless FPS games. Guns, for instance, have a much heavier sound, giving real weight to them while you're unloading a clip of bullets into a Covenant Elite or a Hunter.
This is also not just the best-looking Halo game yet, but one of the nicest-looking titles on the Xbox 360. There's a greater level of detail to just about every environment you encounter. Lighting effects are spectacular, and even the numerous Forerunner elements, which aren't particularly interesting to look at, still show off a sheen that adds to the game's look.
And while it is difficult trying to follow the nuances of the story, 343 Industries did a good job developing Master Chief's character, along with his relationship with Cortana. Chief is seen as more than just a faceless super soldier, even though he is still that - a faceless super soldier. In Halo 4, he is clearly showing a more human side, and that's a good thing, especially when you consider he'll be starring in at least two more games in the series.
At the end of the day, the campaign itself is a mish-mash of battles as generic as any you've played in any FPS released in the last decade. You'll enter a room or outdoor area, kill a wave of enemies, activate a checkpoint, rinse, and repeat until you've completed the level.
You'll get to control some vehicles, and hop into a mech, but this is nothing we haven't seen before. Boss battles, which were finally done - and done well - in Halo 3, are essentially non-existent once again in Halo 4. It's quite a shame.
The campaign can be played co-operatively with up to four players, but it adds little to the experience besides having some real life partners to take over for the friendly AI characters, who couldn't drive a warthog more than five feet without hitting a boulder if their non-life depended on it.
Halo 4 would be one of the biggest disappointments of 2012 if it weren't for the multiplayer suite of features, which, while missing some fun and/or popular modes from its predecessor, is still crazy addictive.
Inexplicably gone is the Horde-like Firefight mode. I was actually never a big fan of Firefight, but it certainly had its fair share of fans, which makes its exclusion strange to say the least. In place of it is another mode called Spartan Ops. This is a set of five standalone chapters that is updated with new chapters each week.
Like just about everything in Halo 4, Spartan Ops is clearly meant to further flesh out the story, which is all fine and dandy for those aforementioned Halo fanatics. For players who just want an interesting new mode to play through, Spartan Ops leaves something to be desired.
The chapters aren't particularly long (30 - 45 minutes), and they all involve the usual - kill a few waves of enemies, yadda yadda yadda, reach a rally point and that's that. Like the campaign, these chapters can be played alone or with up to four players, but playing solo makes the levels too difficult, while playing with a full set of four players, even on Legendary, is far too easy, as respawns are unlimited.
Where Halo 4 makes up for its shortcomings is in competitive multiplayer, aptly titled "War Games." Here you'll find the usual list of game types, from Slayer, to Capture the Flag, to Oddball, and more. Once again, 343 Industries has decided to leave out some cool modes from Halo: Reach, such as Headhunter and Stockpile. Weirdly enough, single flag CTF is also left out, and we're not sure why.
One new mode that is particularly solid is Domination, which acts as your typical "Capture and Hold" mode, but throws in a few neat features. Once a node is captured, walls are automatically built up, and you're given the chance to build turrets, grab power weapons such as rocket launchers, and more. It makes it more difficult for the other team to simply steal a node, and adds a whole new layer to the strategy involved in this mode. It's sure to appeal to both types of players - those who prefer deathmatch, and those who are biased toward objective-type games.
There is a whole lot more to like once you've delved into matchmaking in any mode. The maps are superb, as expected, and offer plenty to discover even after being played dozens of times.
The levelling-up system is pretty standard fare, but the best thing about it is it won't take hundreds of hours to unlock all of the weapons and abilities - that is, the stuff that will alter how a new player and a seasoned veteran stack up to each other.
What these unlockables do is quickly allow each player to alter several loadouts to his or her style of play. If you're a long-range type of player who prefers to hide in the shadows, you may want a sniper rifle as your main weapon, with a cloaking device as your armor ability, and extra ammo for your support upgrade. If you prefer acting as a support player, you may want to use a close range weapon like a Suppressor, armor ability such as Regeneration Field, and AA Efficiency for your upgrade package.
There are several unlockables that alter the way your character looks, and these will require putting a lot more time into multiplayer, but it doesn't change how one player acts compared to another.
Challenges return from Halo: Reach, giving gamers even more incentive to continue coming back each day, week, and month. Challenges are mini-objectives you can complete for bonus XP - such as "Win three matches of Oddball" in one day, or "Win 117 War Games matches" in one month. Challenges are devious in their brilliance.
And of course, for those who prefer to create their own maps and game modes, Forge is back, allowing players to customize all sorts of things. If the standard fare offered by 343 Industries just isn't doing it for you, Forge is just the ticket.
A lot of people were worried that 343 Industries would "screw up" the Halo universe, and it seems the developer went out of its way to play things safe with Halo 4. With a fanbase as passionate as Halo's, it's little surprise that's what happened. The game does suffer because of it, but here's hoping the follow-up will see a few more chances being taken to evolve the series.
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