Halo 4 Review

Developer: 343 Industries / Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood, Violence]


It’s been five years since the conclusion to one of the biggest trilogies in videogame history. As the main Halo story wrapped after Halo 3, questions still lingered. Possibly the biggest, broadest, most telling query today being: do we need another Halo trilogy or is it time to move on? That’s ultimately what we hope to answer today as we drop in with our feet first into hell with Halo 4.

Story

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The main story begins with the Master Chief and Cortana floating aboard the back section of the Forward Unto Dawn four years after the events of Halo 3. After a brief introduction to the situation, the ship is boarded by a group of Covenant and the two are then sucked inside the self-contained shield world, Requiem. Here you’re introduced to the crew aboard the UNSC Infinity and a whole new cast of characters. For the sake of brevity and to avoid potential spoilers, I’ll just say that as far as story is concerned, this ranks among my favorites in the franchise. I prefer the smaller, more intimate stories like ODST, Reach, and the original Halo because of the human interaction. But more than that, I crave the lore from the expanded universe; how outside characters and events shape the story of the games.

Those who’ve read every book, watched every video (live action or animation) and played every game will get more here than in any other Halo before. It feels like 343 isn’t afraid to explore the Halo universe and address issues that no other game has ever touched before. Issues like the moral ambiguity of the Spartan II program; something I’ve prayed the games would explore ever since The Fall of Reach. By the end of the campaign I was left with a range of emotions: sad, confused, happy, confused again, but by the time the final cinematic kicked in I was ultimately satisfied. To clarify, as of the time of this review, we’ve only seen one chapter of Spartan Ops: a separate cooperative campaign that continues the story six months after the main single-player. So while the game does wrap up most questions, more story exposition is promised down the line.

Gameplay

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Aesthetically, Halo 4 doesn’t stray too far from the classic Halo formula. Missions vary from wide open spaces with grand vistas to more claustrophobic environments. Most levels offer something new, constantly infusing an I.V drip of new weapons, vehicles, and locations to explore. The most negative and distracting addition though is the occasional quick-time event found in the single-player; not because of their inherent annoyance but because of how they actually detract from key moments in the game. Having trivial gameplay instructions pop up on screen towards the end of a climactic scene more than once took me out of the experience, and I would have loved an option to remove them completely.

Introduced in Reach as an armor ability, Sprint, is now a default option. While it may be a topic of controversy among the community, it’s a welcomed addition and finally showcases the speed potential and movement of the Spartans. Armor abilities have returned, though updates like ditching Armor Lock in favor of the less overpowered Hardlight Shield make the game feel more balanced. While the armor abilities offer variety, at its core, any wannabe Spartan will survive with your three basic abilities: shoot, melee, and grenade. It’s a tried and true formula and it still works to this day.

Visuals

What can I say about Halo 4 that hasn’t already been seen? The visuals have been massively overhauled to make this the best looking Halo, if not the best looking 360 game to date. With that said, this is a game on hardware that’s pushing seven years and the inevitable shortcomings of the console are definitely shown here. Some textures look low res up close and while the new lighting system is gorgeous, some might find the overuse of lens flares distracting.

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The new location of Requiem provides a compelling mix of location types familiar from other Halo titles, like jungles and deserts while adding new Forerunner settings that look absolutely stunning. Amazingly, the art team has managed to create a whole new world while maintaining the look and feel of the previous games. Like its predecessors, most of Halo 4‘s story is revealed through Cortana’s dialogue and in-game cutscenes that feature well-choreographed action and memorable interaction with new characters. Some of these cutscenes look so good that I could have sworn a few were pre-rendered or CGI, except that the actual CGI used had me questioning whether I was looking at computer graphics or real life.

Sound

Anywhere the game suffers visually from its dated hardware is redeemed in the sound department. Sound effects that didn’t exist in Halo before—like the heavy crunch of your clunky metal boots hitting the ground—are now present, and just about every sound effect is beefier than past games. Every returning weapon has been audibly remastered with the human arsenal receiving some very obvious special attention. But now to the giant musical elephant in the room: the soundtrack.

343 has retained the spirit of Marty O’Donnell’s spellbinding original work while maintaining a cohesive theme throughout the game. It feels like a respectful evolution of the soundtrack and overall I’m happy with the direction composer Neil Davidge has chosen for the series.

Multiplayer

The multiplayer aspect of the Halo franchise is as important, if not more so, than the single-player side. Halo is the series that made mainstream online console gameplay what it is today and Halo 4 has embraced the world it helped create. Multiplayer (now called Infinity) is no longer a classic standalone option as it takes place after and within the main storyline. Infinity consists of the map creator Forge, the post—single-player story co-op Spartan Ops, and the competitive War Games.

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The three major updates to the multiplayer: default sprint, loadouts, and instant-respawn are now in the game but not ever-present. Just about every addition can be game-type specific, so if you want the classic Halo experience, just stay in that playlist. But if you’re the least bit curious about the new additions, dip your toe in to these options to see if you like them. Personally, I found that the instant respawn worked really well in free-for-all and Slayer game-types since it maintained the pace and intensity at a much higher level. It’s honestly the most addicted I’ve been to the multiplayer since Halo 3.

Forge has been updated but its full potential won’t be understood until weeks after release. Messing around I found the new magnet system and duplicate ability extremely accessible to aid anyone creating maps. The addition of player trait zones will make for some interesting new game-types, but it’s honestly something I trust the community with over my lackluster abilities. Spartan Ops—the replacement for Firefight—offers five separate micro-missions and attempts to weave a story in and out of each episode. Right now only one chapter is available but 343’s plan is to release a new set of missions weekly…for free. It’s ambitious, but like Forge, it’s something we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.

Bottom Line

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The arrival of Halo 4 is a bittersweet moment: it marks the end of an era, signifying the departure of the studio that created it while a new caretaker takes the reins, one that has some ambitious goals for Halo’s future. It’s clear 343 has not set out to reinvent Halo; the team just subtracted what didn’t work and added parts that do.

Are there issues? Sure. Like any game I have minor grievances, but nothing so glaring that it takes away from my positive experience. But the overall question persists: do we need another Halo trilogy? The answer to that is a surprising no, for you, the general public that’s looking for nothing more than a minor multiplayer distraction. But from one dedicated Halo fan to those looking for an evolution in story, creation, and online play, yes, we freakin’ do. It feels good to finally say after many years that Halo is back.

+ Great expansion of the lore

+ Amazing Multiplayer

+ Best looking Halo to date

10 / 10

 

  1. Great review Adam! I tried to watch IGN’s but…that video was corny beyond belief…

  2. I cant wait get my hands on its game now

  3. awesome read!
    you looked pretty tired after that halo 4 session lol.

  4. They give the biggest Halo fanboy on the site the Halo 4 review? This review wrote itself beforehand.

    • Label me as you will, sure, but being a Halo fan should not make a difference for a review. Would you rather have a Madden expert review Halo 4? Maybe his/her opinion would resinate with you a bit more than mine. I would hope that by being a fan of the series, readers/viewers would know my background with Halo along with my likes and dislikes for the series. Halo has done a lot of right things in the past 10 years but it’s also had a lot of missteps. This is a review from someone who cares about this series a lot, if 343 did wrong by Halo’s name I would point that out. But maybe this review just wasn’t for everyone and I understand that. This is for people who dig the lore and the characters who have been waiting for a proper sequel since Halo 3. If you’re coming into the series with mild interest or as a first timer well, I’m not really concerned with your opinion. You may not like my relationship with the Halo series but I hope overall it gives me more creditability than my lack of journalistic experience (like the actual pros I work with.) I appreciate the feedback and helps me stay self-aware of how I am perceived but please understand this review took about 2-3 rewrites of me non-stop stressing; so it didn’t really write itself. I usually don’t do written reviews since I’m not really a journalist but rather an enthusiast.

      • @ Russel Gorall

        You sir win the dumbarse of the week award. Who else could review halo at what was once “Inside Halo”? Did you see him blast Halo 3 several year ago for being tired and recycled? Yes, Adam is a fanboi, but he is the best kind: The kind willing to object if it sucks. I have had my problems with Kovic over the years, but when it comes down to it he is actually a very good game journalist.

        @ Adam Kovic

        Your slipping brother, back in the day you would have had a tool like that crying in the corner instead of nicely telling him to go F himself.

      • Did you just try praise integrity on a site that does nothing but give big press to big ad buyers on their media? That is like going to ESPN for a Madden review.

        Sorry opinions get you so butthurt.

      • There’s a difference between slipping and screaming at a teenager over the interent for no reason other than being called a name. If anyone ever wants to get in the dirt and fight that’s fine, but until then I would like to keep this place as civil as possible. Movie along, pick up that can so on and so forth.

      • “anyone ever wants to get in the dirt and fight that’s fine, but until then…”

        Is it strange that I was expecting the best video ever?

      • Are you drunk, or are you just not good at typing?

        It is the best review that could be done for a game played mainly at Microsoft Headquarters. I don’t see any difference between a Madden reviewer or a Halo reviewer, these are mainly the same types of people.

        Don’t get so irate for somebody on the Internet questioning you. Raving like a teenager because you got to review the Halo 4, while Microsoft wipes you chin with more promised hands on events in the future. Lick it up yourself.

        Cheers, I suggest you move on to make more money more easily. In other words, keep doing what you are doing. As I state for just about every review you guys do, STAY AWAY FROM REVIEWING GAMES, you guys are way too much into the proverbial “publisher’s pocket” to do a journalistic review.

        Love, Rusty.

      • *slow clap*.

        I for one am glad someone who is as huge a fan of the lore as me did the review. Good job Kovic!

      • When you have to start explaining your own opinion there may be a problem.

        I could care less as I am used to it, gaming journalism ethics are far from even being able to be scrutinized at this point as they are so bizarre compared to any other form of journalism. You get paid, they get paid and big games get big scores.

        Cheers.

      • Please, allow me to clear something up — the integrity that you’re claiming we lack is not only a saddening insult to everyone on this team who works excruciatingly hard, it’s an insult to the hard working teams of games writers from numerous outlets in this industry who work their tails off to deliver you news, previews and coverage so you don’t have to be spoon-fed marketing from publishers all day.

        You’re getting free opinions, why is that such a bad thing?

        Nobody is getting paid for scores, not at our company or any I’ve written for or worked with. Big games tend to get big scores because they’re big for a reason — because they tend to be great games. If you still don’t believe me, check out my Medal of Honor Warfighter Review. Not all big games get big scores.

        As Adam said, please keep it civil or move along. We’re all about the pursuit of happiness and promoting dick jokes on here, so let’s keep it that way.

  5. i love the hit series on halo 4, It makes me want to buy the game SOOOOO BAAAAAAD! :P

  6. I’m still going through a Halo marathon until this game is released! ODST down, Reach to go!! And then its off to Reclaimer!!

  7. Adam I don’t know if you venture on Bungies forums anymore, but it’s just a shit storm over there. Non stop bitching about 343i. Allot of crazy people there.

  8. Don’t let them get to you Adam, I didn’t even know this was you who wrote this until I was at the bottom. It’s a great review that I’m sure reflects the final product nicely.

  9. Holy shit did Kovic just call that dude out? Im putting my money on Kovic, WHOOP HIS ASS!

  10. Hey, don’t you guys here at Machinima do the “Forward unto Dawn” series? Why in GODS name would you guys put up a review of this game with your heavy investment in the game on FULL display? Not to mention all of the recent criticism of the gaming press at large for being far too close to developers and PR. I’m not saying it’s not deserved or genuine but a 10/10 could be perceived as pandering at best.

    Seems ill-advised.

    • Machinima is a company with many divisions to it which involves our (partnership) network, director network, original content, editorial, and more. It’s a hard thing to describe sometimes given how different Machinima is compared to other editorial only outlets. Machinima did not make the Forward Unto Dawn series, that was all Microsoft and 343; Machinima simply distributes it on YouTube. I know at the moment editorial integrity is a hot topic and has been brought into question for many outlets, and it will continue to be a concern of mine even when this all dies down, but rest assured…

      Editorial integrity is not at stake here.

    • In addition to the response Esme (IG’s Associate Editor, mind you) just put out, I’d like to clear up the fact that just because an incident occurred with a handful of journalists doesn’t in any way indicate an application to all of them — including us.

      The team here works long days and nights (a lot of nights) to get the best news and reviews we can to you, all for the low, low cost of nothing. Why in the world would we bother spending so much time doing all of this if we were secretly scheming with PR?

      • Because the PR is paying you guys off to seem legit!
        Let it sit with you

      • Esmeralda Portillo

        If you’d like to continue to believe PR is paying us when we’ve clearly stated that is not the case, there’s nothing more we can say. We appreciate our readers who know we have not been bought and never will be.

      • Oh please don’t take that comment seriously, I was just joking around. I honestly can’t believe these loons think they way they do.

      • I’m in no way being accusatory. You guys seem a little defensive for a comment meant to be taken as a word of caution not blame. In any case, I’m glad to hear that you hold editorial integrity so high. Apparently not high enough though to recuse yourselves by simply not doing a review. Whether or not you have good intentions, the review still could be seen as “shady” for lack of a better term.

        Even if your company has different facets doing different things you still are involved in the production or delivery of the series.As a company, the review seems like a bad idea from an integrity standpoint. Let’s say Giant Bomb did a review for Cards against Humanity, having been involved in it, it would seem like some sort of impropriety was going on. Besides what would not doing the review hurt? I don’t think your site would be losing out on anything by this decision. In fact, it would be seen as a good thing. So humbly I state for your consideration.

  11. Can’t believe the people crying that Machinima reviews are somehow biased or have been paid off… I’ve found them to be very accurate for the most part, and consider the company in general to be one of the most transparent among the gaming sites I visit. Oh well, I guess bored people need something to complain about.

    Aside from that nonsense I really can’t wait to get my hands on halo 4, looks like a lot of fun.

  12. Bleh its sad to see this happen, Look people Adam knows Halo, if Halo 4 did not live up to its hype he would point it out.

    Also epic Review cant wait for It

  13. Would you rather a fan of halo or a fan of call of duty review this game?
    Just head over to egm to see how a cod fanboy reviews it

  14. what a shame

    http://i49.tinypic.com/2r2os60.jpg

    i was legitimately excited for halo 4 too, seems like reviews are just another marketing tool these days

  15. @RussellGoral

    Examine the phrase “gaming journalism ethics”. Then be sad, for you think that the sharing of opinions over the subjective quality of electronic media has an ethical component. The only way a reviewer breaks the social contract of ethical conduct is either through blatantly lying about the content of the game OR providing information that a person who has not played the game would not have access to (i.e. spoilers).

    Ethics are rules used to guide human behavior in the realm of things that matter. You know, in real life. Maybe its time to review your priorities and reconsider the relative importance that you give to video games as opposed to…I dunno…family, friends, pets, work, love, food, and the finer points of English grammar.

    In short, ur a douche.

  16. Taking bribes and being paid off isn’t something I expect, or will ever expect, from Machinima. If people are not happy with the review there is an address bar at the top of your web browser that will show you out.

    @ DMatomisk Your careless remark has earned you a slap. Label your sarcastic remarks better next time.

    @ Russell Gorall You should backup your claims before vomiting some more of your bile.

  17. Anyone saying Adam is a fanboy are idiots. ALL other sites are giving Halo 4 THIS score or something very similar. It’s not just Adam, there goes your blatant accusing of a misguided review. Can’t you people just accept Halo 4 is this good? I know people blindly hate Halo so much these days for no reason but its time to grow up.
    Also Adam would never lie about Halo, I’ve watched enough of his videos to know that. He loves it and cares about it but he would never gloss over problems, he WANTS it to succeed and improve. If a major Halo critical fan said this game had only minor problems, why should we doubt this game at all?
    Fantastic review Kovic, yours and IGN’s reviews take the cake.

  18. I loved that you guys gave an honest review of Medal of Honor despite them having their show hosted on Machinima Prime. To me that showed the honesty of you guys over at Machinima and I’m completely confident that Adam gave his real opinion on this review and not what some of these stupid people are saying.

  19. Great job. It’s reviews like these that really change my mind about a game. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the review and I’m looking forward to playing this game.

  20. Trolololol! Seriously.

  21. Come on Russell. Just leave already. It is clear that you do not like Machinima. I think you are just spitting into the wind at the moment.

  22. As a massive halo fanboy that has fallen out of love with the franchise as of late, it was nice to have a “halo expert” write the review, it was a nice read/watch (I showed the video with a few friends as I respected your thoughts so highly).
    I’m glad you were able to point out and answer truthfully about the elephant in the room and I admire that, despite your review I will not be getting the game just yet (Student finance went on books and borderlands rather instead) despite earlier this year planning on getting the console edition and pre order bonus stuffs.
    I am insanely jealous of how much time you have spent on the game and though my competitive flame towards halo has all but been extinguished, the pull of the story, spartan ops and generally just a continuation of the lore means halo will be on my Christmas list.

    Also – having watched Inside Gaming daily alot it was nice to have someone write a review that I feel like I “know” more than other reviewers on the site.
    I miss the halo 2 days where everyone who had an xbox; ate, drank and slept halo. I’ll always miss bungie but I look forward to trying out 343′s attempt, just once borderlands is out my system. :0

  23. hahahahaha all you codfanboys trying to dump on a review just because its halo getting a good score. BAAHHAH 9.0 gamespot. 9.8 ign… 10/10 machinima… destructoid 10… joystiq 10….. yeah. halo 4 is goty. deal w/it you scrubs. hahahahaga cya codrecycledops

  24. I’m disturbed by a 10/10 review for any game; let alone something that is not new!

    I think this kind of score is going to have a huge impact on this companies credibility: is this for real or are they just in the pockets of the makers for a quick buck here.,,I guess we will find out if the is a 10/10 game real soon now.

  25. i just halo 4 i just can’t wait when i get it. i am a halo fan but when i get the game i will beat the creatchers on the planet. and kill all the fuck in halo 4 campane. pease swagger. ps yolo

  26. 10?! THIS SHIT IS 10?! -.- This is the worst episode of the series and it’s strange, that when other games have problems like this game, then those get just 6 points because of them, but no, this gets 10.

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