Not only is this the first Halo game by Microsoft-owned developer 343 Industries, it’s also the first instalment of a brand new trilogy, so ambitions are clearly very high for the team stepping into Bungie’s epic shoes. Halo 4 is a trial by fire for all involved, so a lot is riding on how well this highly anticipated title is received.
The action picks up right after the previous game, as Master Chief escapes the crumbling planet and runs headlong into Covenant after drifting in space for a little while. The Covenant are accompanied by a technically advanced inset race known as the Prometheans, so you’re once again faced by three-way fights that have become Halo’s signature.
The story mode allows you to gun through the action solo, or you can draft in up to three other co-op players to help you with the carnage. You all get to play as Master Chief, too, so there’s no arguing about who plays which character.
The missions, once underway, are very familiar. Long, snaking segments of bullet and plasma-riddled war zones with checkpoint objectives to mark your progress. To help you make these simple missions a success, Halo 4 dumps a metric ton of options and weapons on you from low orbit, so no two games ever really play out the same if you tinker with your equipment.
Sure, we’ve seen this before, but it’s not entirely a criticism. The developer has clearly chosen to follow quite precisely in Bungie’s footsteps, and done its best to blinker itself against the changes in FPS gameplay since Halo 3. This does give the game a vague sense of déjà vu, but Halo fans should worry about that one bit. It’s everything you loved about the previous title, with a bit more polish and just as much rampant combat.
The obligatory multiplayer options are also present and correct, and although they’re still winding up right now as we wait for the world to buy the game, you can expect some slick and seamless battles with other humans as well as the Covenant and Prometheans.
If you’re new to Halo, this is a good a place to begin as any. You probably won’t appreciate the plot too much, but that’s hardly a deal breaker. As FPS games go, this seems like as good a Christmas present to buy yourself as any.