A new era in the ‘Halo’ franchise

By Jordan Alsaqa

Technician, North Carolina State U. via UWIRE

Halo 4 Review

Developer: 343 Industries

5 out of 5 stars

One of the biggest questions in gaming this year was whether or not developer 343 Industries would be able to successfully take over Halo 4 from the franchise’s creator, Bungie. For nearly a decade, the Halo series has set the standard for first-person shooters (FPS) under Bungie’s guidance, so the idea of a new team taking on the franchise left many fans nervous.

In this case, though, change is a good thing. Not only has 343 hit the ground running, it has brought a plethora of new features and updates to the formula that makes Halo 4 the best game the franchise has seen in years.

Halo 4 picks up four years after the end of Halo 3, and finds Master Chief and his AI partner Cortana still stranded in the depths of space. Things change quickly, however, when a Covenant attack alerts them to the Forerunner planet their ship is in orbiting.

Upon landing on the surface, it becomes clear that Cortana is no longer in top form. Now in service for eight years, Cortana has begun to deteriorate into a state known as rampancy. Not one to give up without a fight, the Chief promises to find a way home to try and save his oldest friend. Along the way, he must also combat a long-dormant threat and discover the truth of the Forerunners’ disappearance.

The narrative in Halo 4 is an absolute success by FPS standards, and serves as a great way to kick off a new trilogy in the Halo universe. The relationship between Chief and Cortana has always been one of the series’ best, and Halo 4 explores it in greater depth than before.

Learning about the ancient Forerunner race is also a treat, but the biggest addition its presence brings is a new race of enemies, the Prometheans. From the powerful Knights that can mow Chief down with a single swing to Crawlers that attack in large swarms, the Prometheans bring a fresh sense of action, especially when paired with the classic Covenant troops.

Regardless of whether Chief is up against enemies new or old, the refined combat system makes every encounter an exciting one, with each weapon having its place on the field of battle.

Halo 4 is just a joy to play, which is made even better by the lengthy campaign. Of course, you can blow through the story mode on Easy and Normal, but those up to the challenge will find the game truly shines on Heroic and Legendary.

As you go through the campaign, you’ll also be treated to some of the best visuals of any game this year. Everything from the Covenant armada to the environments has been upgraded, making for a game that has beauty around every corner, even after it has been filled with bullets and explosions.

Of course, Halo has always been known for the revolutions it made in online multiplayer. While Halo 4 doesn’t bring the same amount of innovation, it has picked up a few new tricks from Call of Duty that again help set it apart from what came before.

The abilities to set specific weapon load-outs, pick unique perks and call in ordnance are nothing new in the FPS landscape, but their inclusion in Halo brings the series to a new level. The multiplayer also manages to stay true to its roots, with the same announcer, score structure and top-level design included.

The aforementioned weapon tweaks also make for a more level playing field, especially with the ability to pick which weapons you start with. The Battle, Assault and Designated Marksman rifles all serve as solid choices, with aiming and sniping now much easier to pull off. Competitive play is still possible, but the emphasis is on providing a fun multiplayer mode that anyone can enjoy.

The last major mode in Halo 4 is the new Spartan Ops, which replaces the Firefight mode from Halo: Reach. The mode offers 10 episodes with five levels each available on a weekly basis.

Though the mode is more of a free-for-all shooting gallery than a structured campaign, the story sections, centered on a new generation of Spartan soldiers, offers a solid reason to return to the game each week.

Halo 4 is the start of a new era for the franchise and 343 Industries has proven itself more than worthy of carrying on the legacy of the Xbox’s biggest series. It may not be the Halo that it used to be, but Halo 4 is easily one of the year’s best games and proof that the series still has plenty of life in it.

Read more here: http://www.technicianonline.com/features/a-new-era-in-the-halo-franchise-1.2792994
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