In 2001, Bungie and Microsoft launched what would become one of the most successful video game franchises in the history of the industry, with Bungie behind the wheel for each of the flagship Halo titles…and then they gave it to 343 Industries. What was Bungie thinking, you ask? Is Halo ruined forever, your brain ponders? Is this even Halo anymore? Or is it the best thing to ever happen to the series?
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
Released: Nov. 6, 2012
Platform: Xbox 360
Master Chief is back, and it’s the best we’ve ever seen him. The business as usual is about putting lead through the skulls of alien scum, but the enemy isn’t the Chief’s only problem this time around. Long time companion Cortana is reaching the end of her programming cycle, and is slowly going coconuts. The Halo games have never been known for having an outstanding narrative before, and Halo 4 does have a few ends that are left loose, but this is by far the series’ most interesting and well developed plot. Even more refreshing was the long overdue character depth we see in the Chief and Cortana, and the performances by Steve Downes and Jen Taylor really drove their relationship to the exclamation point.
Halo’s gameplay has always been tight, but somehow 343 managed to refine it even further. Each weapon carries its own heft, with a new action movie quality bark to each one of them. Using turrets or vehicles never feels like a chore and are a thrill every time, and the new upgrades and abilities really make every fight a new experience. The action is paced through the campaign perfectly, and the AI always offers a proper challenge, with AI intelligence increasing with a higher difficulty setting.
The Halo standard, online multiplayer, is as impressive and addicting as ever, as well as its starting ten maps. By far my favorite new addition to not just multiplayer, but the whole game, is Spartan Ops. A series of side missions with its own story and objectives following the Spartans, with new missions being added every week for the next ten weeks.
I have no problem saying that Halo 4 is the best looking game on the Xbox 360. The sharp details of every visual and design in this game is just ridiculously perfect. Open landscapes are chill inducing, the architecture is inspired, and the facial expressions are so spot on and realistic it’s almost eerie.
It’s really hard to find anything to not like in this game. I don’t have a problem calling Halo 4 the best first-person-shooter of this year, if not the best Xbox 360 game this year. The Halo franchise is in good hands with 343, and I can’t wait to see how this next trilogy unfolds.
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