Halo 4 is set to drop on excited Xbox 360 gamers tomorrow, with midnight launches planned for the highly anticipated shooter over night. We've already reviewed the game, calling it an "emotional journey with lessons to be learnt on morality, humanity and war," but what key aspects make the game so amazing, and why do you need to pick it up come November 6?
343 Industries does a fantastic job of introducing (and in some cases, reintroducing) characters, telling a complex story and actually making us care about the characters. It might not have the depth of a Dishonored, but it certainly sets a standard for the genre, demonstrating that a FPS experience doesn't need to be bogged down by war cliches and patriotic rhetoric to keep gamers interested.
Discussion: Talk about Halo 4
There's some truly fascinating commentary on what it takes to become a soldier and the affect it has on personalities and individuals, and Halo 4 gives us an insight to series protagonist Master Chief in a way we've never seen before.
Put simply, Halo 4 tells a wonderful tale, interwoven immaculately between fantastic level design, great combat and exciting large-scale battles.
Delightful Combat Mechanics
Halo is already known for just being simple: offering gunplay mechanics anyone can pick up and enjoy, the series has for over a decade blended accessible controls with intense combat and difficulty, making for a balanced and highly engaging experience.
Halo 4 is certainly no exception. There are new weapons and armor abilities, and certainly no shortage of ways you can approach a battlefield filled with enemies. The best thing about Halo 4 is that it makes sci-fi weaponry feel and sound real, and at least in this case there's justification for minimal recoil. Halo 4 is the definitive FPS, a game that doesn't want to be realistic, and yet it comes off making you feel like you're actually engaging with the world.
Review: Check out our Halo 4 review
Master Chief and his AI sidekick, Cortana, share a fascinating relationship that evolves considerably in their fourth game together. Their relationship is dissected and analysed throughout the game, offering us an emotional insight to the ways in which an AI interacts with who is so often considered to be a robot, but is still human at his core.
That's definitely what sets Halo 4 apart from other shooters on the market. It doesn't scream in your face, "Hey! This guy is a heartless-robot!" Rather, it asks you to consider the actions of the characters and make up your own mind, never truly going over the edge to definitively define each individual personality. It's that trust in the narrative and character development that makes Halo 4's story quite remarkable.
While loud and powerful orchestral soundtracks are hardly anything new to blockbuster games, Halo games have always been at the forefront in that regard. Halo 4 is no different. As far as game soundtracks go, this game takes the Grammy. Music is as perfectly matched with environments, enemies and cutscenes as the metal-clanging sounds of Terminator 2: Judgement Day were. This is a soundtrack that speaks for itself, illuminating and reflecting the story through powerful music that helps tell a powerful tale.
The Halo series' multiplayer has always been a standout. Love it or hate it, the term "Halo killer" was penned for a reason, and that's because, in order to be good at Halo's multiplayer you needed to commit more time and skill to it than any other shooter, which made for a large and passionate community. Halo 4 takes that passion to an entirely new level.
Discussion: The Halo 4 Checklist & Briefing
For one, the new loadout system makes the community far more diverse and challenging. Originally you'd be restricted to weapons available in specific modes, but Halo 4 now introduces a more common approach, pushing you to grind through the levels and create your own super soldier SPARTAN, packed with alien weaponry, powerful armor abilities and special skills.
Secondly, the mode itself has a special aura about it that actually makes you feel like you're part of a SPARTAN faction. It's unique and engaging, and works particularly well.
I've put in over 10 hours into Halo 4's multiplayer, and I haven't even come close to unlocking HALF of what's available on both a loadout and material front for my SPARTAN. Halo 4 uses XP across both Infinity (multiplayer) and Spartan Ops (co-op), meaning you can progress in one and carry over your unlocks and loadouts to the other.
In terms of unlockables, Halo 4 appears to do it better than most. That's because of its staunch individualism: you can change the look and stance of your SPARTAN with an insane amount of varied options, and rather than just simply award gamers with a badge for bragging rights, the look and armor of a SPARTAN on a player's gaming card in a match lobby will represent their skill and progression in the game.
Halo 4 gets it just right in that regard. I absolutely suck at Halo 4's multiplayer, but I've developed an infatuation with my SPARTAN's armor and overall appearance. It's a fantastic implementation that gives the multiplayer plenty of personality and spunk.
Evolving Spartan Ops
Spartan Ops, at time of writing, felt rather fleeting: with only one episode available and a handful of chapters, it can be completed on Normal in about an hour, if that. However, it's a cooperative experience that must be played on the highest of difficulties, and it's a mode that at times reflects the alien battlefield of the Halo universe better than any other aspect in the game.
The best thing about this mode is that, just like the campaign, it can be mercilessly hard. Play this game on Legendary and you will know the game's name is Spartan Ops: it will murder you (virtually, of course). Throw in added episodes and a long-term commitment from 343i, and this is a mode that is certainly giving Modern Warfare 3's Spec Ops a run for its money. They're certainly similar in execution, but Spartan Ops is definitely the more challenging, engaging and free-flowing.
It Will Hate On You
Normal is now Heroic. Heroic is now Legendary. Legendary is now so-hard-you'll-break-your-controller-in-frustration. Halo 4 will punish the crap out of you...over and over and over again. There's plenty of weaponry and ammunition about the place, but that won't stop enemies from constantly flanking and attacking you.
AI is super aggressive, no matter what the difficulty setting, and the experience is near-impossible on Legendary. I'm going to go as far as to say that beating Halo 4 on Legendary would certainly have to be one of the greater gaming accomplishments from this generation. Not because one bullet kills you, but because the enemies actually come at you like you're a frickin' Spartan super-soldier: they know what Master Chief is capable of, and they won't stop until he's dead.
Halo 4 is out on Xbox 360 on November 6
What are you looking forward to the most in Halo 4?
By Gaetano Prestia