Way back in 2001, Bungie Inc. introduced Xbox players to Master Chief, the Covenant, and Halo. Oh yeah, and along the way, the developers behind the project also managed to reinvent the entire First Person Shooter genre. Now, over a decade later, 343 Industries has taken the reins from the development company that has released four Halo titles and brought in over $3 billion in sales. While ‘Halo 4’ is a very large step away from the original Halo franchise, its completely revamped campaign and multiplayer system successfully thrust players back into the utterly encapsulating futuristic world of Halo.
Set five years after the events of ‘Halo 3’, ‘Halo 4’ once again puts players into Master Chief’s big, green boots as he is cryogenically thawed out of deep sleep and rushed back into fast-paced, bullet laden action. With a brand new enemy foe set on destroying the human race—the Prometheans—and your AI sidekick Cortana quickly becoming obsolete, it is your job as Master Chief to save Cortona, the human race, and ultimately bring balance back to the Universe.
Even though the campaign mode lasts no more than twelve hours (when playing on Legendary Difficulty), the incredibly detailed maps and amazingly choreographed cut scenes make the engaging albeit short story mode the best way for players to acclimate themselves with the fresh Halo universe. With countless new weapons and powerups, a reinvented button configuration, and retooled onscreen health and ammo readouts, even the most seasoned Halo player will have to re-adjust to this groundbreaking game. Don’t worry, it won’t take very long before Master Chief’s high-octane gunplay tactics will start to become second nature again. By the end of the campaign, which supports four person Xbox Live co-op, players’ running, jumping, shooting, and grenade chucking skills will all be highly toned and primed for the completely new multiplayer system: Spartan: Infinity.
Spartan: Infinity is essentially the heart of the Halo multiplayer universe, and also just so happens to be the name of the biggest Spartan warship on active UNSC duty. From the Infinity hub, players can update his/her armor look and color, change his/her weapon load out a la the Call of Duty franchise, and play various new game variants.
Multiplayer games fall under two central categories, War Games and Spartan Ops. In War Games, players are treated to the tried and true set of games Halo fans are used to. Oddball, Capture the Flag, Team Slayer, and Team Swat are all brought back, in addition to several new game types including Dominion (a territories type game mode) and Extraction (an asset retrieval game mode).
The most innovative aspect of ‘Halo 4’s’ multiplayer experience, however, is the introduction of Spartan Ops. This first of its kind serialized exploration into the lives of various UNSC Infinity crew members from a special Spartan faction known as Majestic Squad, give players the chance to continue the Halo story through updated, immersive storytelling and high-quality cinematic gameplay.
343 Industries goes even further with the immersive nature of ‘Halo 4’ through the introduction of Halo Waypoint, a downloadable Xbox app that can be loaded on a player’s android or Iphone. This app allows players to view their Service Record, research the long list of Spartan Intel (including descriptions of all guns), and even unlock special in-game content.
‘Halo 4’ is a great example of how transmedia (or the cross platform synthesis of various media forms) can be successfully woven into a great game experience. For a development company that has only handled Halo comic books and novels before embarking on this project, the interactive nature of Halo 4’s multiplayer experience is reason enough to purchase this game. It also helps that the game has incredibly rich graphics and level designs to back the title up even more. ‘Halo 4’ is a great game, and is definitely worth checking out.
By David Morris