Halo 4 Review: A Triumphant Rebirth For Master Chief

Rating: You really have to applaud what 343 Industries have achieved with Halo 4. Handed the reigns of the mega-selling,...

Simon Gallagher

Executive Editor

Rating: ★★★★★

You really have to applaud what 343 Industries have achieved with Halo 4. Handed the reigns of the mega-selling, but slightly wayward property after Bungie’s contract ran out, the company could have continued to churn out the same kind of uninspiring material that was released in the later year’s of Bungie’s contract. Because regardless of what the most ardent of fans might suggest, the Halo franchise had lost its way and was becoming little more than a cash cow: little was created in the name of innovation, and everything released after Halo 3 felt oddly sterile.

But 343 have not only fixed the franchise, and made it worthy of the hype it has attracted recently, they have also gone above and beyond, making Halo 4 one of the greatest shooters on this generation of consoles and raising the bar right at the end of its life cycle. And most importantly of all, they’ve done it in a way that makes the game feel like it was lovingly crafted by fans of the property for fans, with every intention to surprise and delight. This is arguably the greatest example of the shock and awe campaign of recent industry memory.

It all starts with a monumental bang, thanks to a jaw-droppingly beautiful cut-scene that sets the scene and the tone of the story, tying in details of former Halo games, but also offering an appropriate enough foundation for newcomers to be immediately gripped. From there we’re quickly dropped into the gameplay, establishing, quite surprisingly that this isn’t exactly Master Chief’s story at all – at least not from first inspection. We learn that Cortana is deteriorating thanks to rampancy – a condition that afflicts long-service UNSC AIs, whereby their expansive knowledge banks effectively kill them – and the only solution is getting home for a tune-up (in layman’s terms, of course.)

Though the game opens on Forward Unto Dawn, the action quickly shifts to the Forerunner planet Requiem, where the Chief is forced to do battle with foes old and new – both the returning Covenant forces and new Prometheans. The environments are incredibly well-drawn, grand in scope and beautifully designed, and you get the feeling that 343 know exactly what they have created – they want us to explore their planet, and marvel at what they have achieved. The initial reveal of Requiem, where the Chief climbs an incline to reveal a jaw-dropping vista is just incredible and the effect is enormous.

The game’s sound design is just as impressive as the visuals: sound effects are excellent, and lend themselves well to the heavy-duty action spirit of gameplay and the sound-track is exceptional. It might not quite be the irresistible track-list of earlier Halo efforts, and it isn’t quite as immediately identifiable, but it is a strong complement to the gameplay and the atmospheric effects are arguably more immersive than tracks that might take the player out of the game.

The gameplay is exceptional, and it isn’t just in the glorious, industry-leading gunplay that 343 have dazzled, it’s also in the balance between grand battle set-pieces, exploration and vehicle sequenes – wonderfully also including flight and fight sequences in a Pelican. The development team have captured exactly the right pace throughout the campaign: it’s possible to enjoy the game, rather than simply slog through battles aiming for the next check-point, and there is a lot of opportunity to explore, adding an extra dimension to the FPS.

But then, it’s the gunplay and the opportunities to enjoy it that are the game’s biggest thrills – the shooting is precise and engaging, and the new enemy AI makes both the Covenant and the Promethean forces a far more tasking threat than the usual walking cannon fodder of other shooters. The Prometheans in particular are a brilliant new addition, and their various different types ask more of your decision-making than has ever been the case in a Halo game – there is a far more precise sense of battlefield prioritizing, and it makes the gunplay all the more engaging.

Head to page two to read our thoughts on multiplayer, our verdict and scoring break-down for Halo 4…