If you were to ask me what series of games I’m most nostalgic for, the answer would probably be Halo. The memories I have of the series span almost my entire gaming career and are some of my earliest gaming memories. I remember staying at my Grandmother’s house in Florida for a week one summer where she had Halo: Combat Evolved installed on her computer. It was the first FPS I had ever played and I played it to completion that week, pretty much ignoring my grandma for the one week I got to see her that year (I still feel bad about that). I remember trading in my Gamecube with all of it’s games and accessories for an Xbox with 2 controllers and a copy of Halo 2, which turned hours of what should have been homework into late night Slayer matches. I remember the empty school bus on launch day of Halo 3 and my jealousy of all of the kids who’s parents could afford an Xbox 360 and a copy of the game. I remember the joy of opening an Xbox 360 with two controllers and a copy of Halo 3 on Christmas that year, a gift courtesy of my parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles. My brother and I sunk countless hours into that game well into my late and his early teen years.  I remember coming home my sophomore year of high school ready to pester my mother to take me to Gamestop to pick up my pre-order of Halo: Reach only to discover that she had picked it up while I was at school and had it booted up and ready to play in the Xbox.

Halo 4 Singleplayer 2

In fact Halo 4 was the first game in the series that I didn’t play as soon as I had the opportunity to. By this point I had started playing on PC and was losing interest in the series. Furthermore the new kids on the block 343 Industries hadn’t exactly inspired confidence with the release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, a straight port of the original game to 360 with updated graphics that they somehow managed to ADD glitches to (not to mention the horrendous netcode). I finally sat down with the game recently though and I have to say that I actually thought it was pretty good, but there were definitely some issues with it that make it fall short of my standards for the series.

Halo 4 Cutscene

As I started the campaign it began with Chief and Cortana exchanging one-liners and a scripted elevator shaft climb followed by a quicktime event. Needless to say I was preparing for the worst at this point. The rest of the first level did nothing to change my mind either with it being a straightforward corridor shooter. However as the campaign moves along it opens up into the stunning alien vistas and dynamic combined arms sci-fi gameplay I love the Halo series for. You also have a new enemy in the form of the Prometheans who use Forerunner weapons. For the most part the new Forerunner weapons are just carbon copies of either human or Covenant weapons but there are a few unique additions such as a pistol that can charge up into a shotgun blast. However the Brutes don’t make an appearance this time around so their weapons are gone from the pool. Overall there are about the same number of unique weapons in the game as any other Halo game so the combat remains just as dynamic with a few new additions here and there. The only new vehicle is the Mantis. A giant mech suit with machine guns and rockets that is a blast to use. However it only shows up for one level where you use it for the entirety of said level. I wish they would have been scattered through some of the games more open areas but either way it is a welcome addition.

Halo 4 Mantis

While the gameplay held the same core values that made the Halo series so attractive to begin with the story that accommodates all of it is haphazard at best and confusing and stupid at worst. Essentially Cortana awakens Master Chief on the Forward Unto Dawn to fight off incoming Covenant ships on the radar. Then after they fight off the boarding parties they realize that they are heading straight towards a large artificial planet. The planet then opens up a gravity well that sucks both Chief and the Covenant onto this planet and traps them there. You later find out that one of the last surviving forerunners, the Didact, is on the planet and tricks you into freeing him from his prison.

Halo 4 Singleplayer 1

[The rest of the story section will contain spoilers so if that bothers you skip on until you see another section of brackets]

Now this is where the story begins to fall apart. My rose-tinted shades are not so opaque that I think that the Halo series ever had an excellent story. It was always full of silliness with a dash of utter confusion sprinkled in for good measure, but the story in Halo 4 makes zero sense and it removes the humor and levity that let the previous games get away with that. For instance you later find out that the Promethean army that the Didact commands are humans that have been converted into digital code. So apparently digital code now has a physical mass that can wear armor, carry weapons and think independently. There is also a point in the game where the Chief meets another one of the forerunners in some sort of dream I guess and she explains that they planned to have the Chief fight the Didact and that he had been created from the ground up for this purpose, which was so stupid that I audibly uttered “what” in a room entirely by myself as soon as the dialogue had concluded. I just couldn’t help it, that statement raises so many questions such as:

“Was your master plan really to create a mortal human for this purpose? What if he had just taken a bullet to the head and died at some point? He could have easily gotten cancer or some other fatal illness and died before any of this happened as well.”

“How did all of the things in Chief’s life line up perfectly for this? The odds of that happening are beyond astronomical and I find it even harder to believe that the Forerunners were there pulling the strings behind everything completely undetected.”

“Why would you have Chief come free the Didact to kill him? Why not just keep him imprisoned? It seemed like that was working perfectly fine.”

These are just a few of the questions raised. Also this messes up the entire Halo timeline up to this point by not having the Covenant be the first human-alien contact. At least as far as I understand it.

Then there is the other major through-line in the story which is Cortana’s rampancy. Apparently AI’s in the Halo universe start to wear out after about 7 years and Cortana has been in service for 8 at this point so she basically starts to go crazy and Chief is determined to get her back to Earth so they can find some way to repair her.

A large portion of the story is dedicated to this and the relationship between Chief and Cortana, which is going to be hit or miss for some people. Some people find it creepy or weird but I found the vague love story between a faceless emotionless space marine and his holographic AI partner kinda charming. However this story concludes with Cortana’s death which honestly felt like it would have been a fitting conclusion to the series and given some good closure but 343 have already announced that this is going to be the first part of a trilogy. I have yet to see how the story pans out in Halo 5 but if I had to guess I’d say that they’re going to find some contrived way to bring her back making all of this a moot point.

Halo 4 Cortana

[END SPOILERS]

I also have some more minor gripes with the story. For instance Master Chief talks a little too much. Having a voiced protagonist in an FPS always brings me out of the experience and Chief did talk in the previous games however when he did it was usually in cutscenes and it was very brief and to the point. Here he talks during gameplay frequently and will often have full dialogue exchanges with Cortana and other characters.

Also the grunts no longer speak English and I don’t remember ever hearing the marines say anything particularly funny so it feels like a lot of the comic relief and humor from the previous games has been removed which was one of the big things that made Halo unique and was also one of my personal favorite elements.

Halo 4 Multiplayer 2

The final boss of Halo 4 very well may be one of the worst final bosses I’ve ever experienced. Basically Cortana becomes part of the light bridge and clones dozens of tiny versions of herself to grab him (yes really) and then you plant a grenade in his chest in a quicktime event. That’s it. Now Halo has always had pretty terrible boss fights but this was a whole new level of bad and anti-climactic.

The graphics in Halo 4 are some of the best on the Xbox 360. It’s clear that 343 were squeezing every ounce of power out of the little white box and I never experienced any framerate drops in the singleplayer campaign. However the same cannot be said for the multiplayer. In any match with more than 8 players in it the framerate would drop to the point of being unplayable for long stretches of time, several times in a match. This had to have been noticed by the QA team as big team modes are the most popular playlist and must have had extensive testing.

Halo 4 Cutscene 2

The fact that 343 decided to not just tone down the graphics slightly to have a stable framerate in multiplayer is really dumb and inexcusable as far as I’m concerned. However when I played the standard Slayer playlist (my personal favorite) I always got a steady framerate and had an excellent time.

Halo 4 Multiplayer 1

The multiplayer in Halo 4 combines uses the best features of Halo: Reach and adds a few new tricks of it’s own. The armor abilities are mostly the same with a few small tweaks and additions and the new class system allows you to choose perks, an armor ability and a primary and secondary weapon a la Call of Duty. This allows more flexibility in the way you play and also lets the level designers focus on where to put power weapons in the map and gives more room for balancing around those weapons.

Halo 4
Overall I had a pretty good time with Halo 4. While the campaign didn't quite meet my expectations it was still good Halo fare. The bigger modes in multiplayer had some inexcusable technical issues, but the Slayer playlist is as fun as ever. Overall I'm looking forward to seeing where 343 takes the series from here.
7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)
6.7

About The Author

My goal is to make reviews that are more informative than the average IGN trite, but with a sense of humor. Check out my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJqrTyFNAX5EoKv4wM5QooQ