Score = C+
Game Type – FPS/Action
Platform – Xbox 360
Developer – 343 Industries
ESRB – Mature
Review by: Kisho Wolfe
Logline – Master Chief gets the shaft…but not literally.
When you think of an established franchise in any media, you can be sure there’s always some sort of correlation that exists throughout each chapter of said franchise. In 007 movies, for example, it goes without saying that our protagonist will be in some sticky situation, use prototype technology and of course be the ultimate ladies man; all while getting things done in some exotic locale with a level of style that most only dream of. In a Harry Potter book, you can most certainly expect our hero’s inquisitive nature to get him and his friends yelled at when he probably should be laying low from he who must not be named. In the coveted Halo series, Master Chief is known as a one-man-wrecking-crew who kicks ass like a champ! But, that’s where the similarities of Halo 4 and previous iterations end.
Halo is a unique series that has managed to do some amazing things, which may or may not be so obvious, and has thrived because of it. A sci-fi, first person shooter without the over-dramatic sci-fi clichés. An outstanding element throughout the years has been the unexpected music of Halo. Martin O’Donnell managed to create arguably some of the best music in a video game…EVER! Who knew that mixing a classical sound with sharp guitar riffs and heavy drums could make a gamer feel like they were about to blast a hole in someone, something, anything! The music turned into a major “character” of the series and easily held its own ground, with or without the game. And then there’s Halo 4. A new composer to the series by the name of Neil Davidge took the reins in the most recent game. One thought came to mind as I played through the campaign: “generic sci-fi movie nonsense.” Where’s the drums?! Where’s the gripping emotion?! Where’s the…you get the point. The more I played through this game, the more I had the tendency to pause the damn thing and look for the music volume selection, but I wanted to get through the length of the game to make sure nothing was missed. It’s clear that Mr. Davidge was on his own agenda(or worse, was directed to this result by the new developers) and created music to what Halo “appeared” to be on the surface (sci-fi heavy), which is exactly what the music sounds like; trippy, slow trance, sci-fi garbage with obligatory chant thrown in for good measure. At one point, it felt like I was smack in the middle of a Mass Effect game, which is not at all something you want while playing a core Halo title.
In regards to the length of the game, let’s dig into the campaign…all five hours of it, on Heroic. That’s right, five hours! This is by far the shortest campaign of the Halo series and we are not amused. 343 has taken our beloved Master Chief and reduced his presence to the shortest part of the Halo 4 experience?! The main plot of the campaign is for Master Chief to get Cortana back to Dr. Catherine Halsey—the person’s brain Cortana is cloned from, and also her creator—to cure her of rampancy. The sub plot turned main plot involves the return of the Promethean Forerunners, or more specifically, Didact, who believes the biggest threat to the forerunners are humans and is bent on destroying the human race. I’d speak more on these plots, but as I mentioned, it’s too short and would involve too many spoilers. It’s evident that the gaming focus is being steered more toward the UNSC cadet development process, which is an interesting direction to take things. It kind of feels like it should be more of a spin-off to Halo’s main hero adventure and I can’t help but wonder if they are spreading things too thin for one title. It also makes sense now that so many “teaser” videos were a major focus of the marketing campaign for this game. Create hype, reveal nothing, and when the game drops, surprise everyone. It’s a good concept to build a buzz, however, why not give a little information about what was done well with the game. Like the multiplayer.
Halo 4 has taken a page out of Call of Duty’s playbook and allowed more customization features to the actual game play mechanics in addition to the graphical overhaul. Rather than being stuck with the preset load outs for multiplayer games, you can build your own load outs for a more personalized experience. Main weapons, sub weapons, abilities, it’s all here. A new ability enhancing feature to the game is the addition of specializations, which is basically a specialized “perk” in Call of Duty language. Two are showing at game launch with more coming later. Once you earn a specialization by leveling up your character, via various game play selections, you’ll be able to equip one. Ninja up your character by way of the Wetworks mod and gain stealth abilities, which allow your Spartan to sneak up behind a foe without the sound of your hulking armored footsteps giving away your location. Pioneer is the second specialization available at launch. Pioneer allows you to gain extra experience points when activated during battle, ultimately allowing you to level up quicker than normal. A number of others are slated for later release and all of them have unique armor skins to go with their respective ability. Another change noted is the addition of Spec Ops to the multiplayer roster. (Firefight with a twist) This was a good update which involved flipping the stale Firefight into mission based scenarios that ultimately take place six months after Halo 4’s campaign. There’s even on-going cut scenes expected to accompany each mission that will be released on a regular basis, (reminiscent of television episodes) which is a nice touch. Co-op play is still available for Spec Ops as well as the campaign.
343 have taken on their first full featured newHalo title with Halo 4. While the bulk of their efforts are clearly in the direction of multiplayer– noted by not only the look and feel of it, but also the functionality and mission based game-play– they need to remember to cater to the expectations of a full gaming experience. For some games, it’s perfectly fine to skimp out on campaign in favor of multiplayer. For other games, it’s perfectly fine if the music doesn’t really add to the emotional aspects of the person playing the game; however, Halo is not the place to exercise these shortcomings. Every Halo title released by Bungie has given us the “complete” package of what a gaming experience should be, and let’s face it; we gamers have been spoiled by this. So it is not unreasonable for us to hold you, 343, to the same, if not, harsher, level of expectations when it comes to a damn good video game experience as far as Halo is concerned. Halo 4 gets a C+ for a streamlined multiplayer experience, but falls short on the music and extremely short campaign experience.