Master Chief is back from the dead and he now faces his biggest challenge yet: ensuring that the Halo series endures. Bungie, the team that created the Halo games, has moved on to pastures new since the completion of Halo: Reach and so the job of creating the latest addition to Microsoft’s blockbusting sci-fi shooter series falls to new studio 343 Industries. But can their vision for Master Chief match the sterling reputation that Bungie cultivated?
Master Chief vs The Prometheans
After countless battles with the Covenant and the Flood, Master Chief gets a new set of villains to face: The Prometheans. They range from puny lizard things called Crawlers to heavily armoured knights that take plenty of firepower to put down. While its nice to see some new enemies on the Halo battlefield they don’t exude the personality or, indeed, the brains of the Covenant. Luckily there’s plenty of Covenant to contend with, too, even if we’re a little sad that the grunts aren’t quite as comical as they used to be.
Weapons and Power-ups
New enemies mean new weapons, because what the Prometheans use can be turned against them. And they certainly have a nice line in weaponry, including an energy shotgun with a serious kick and snazzy animations that show the gun assembling in Master Chief’s hand when he picks it up. Better still is the addition of power-ups that include security drones to help you fight, jet packs and see-through-the-walls vision that is straight out of Predator. There’s even a chance to be a militarised Russian doll by getting Master Chief to wear a mech suit and act like he’s Ripley from Aliens.
It might have new enemies, new weapons and power-ups, but make no mistake; this is Halo through and through. There’s still plenty of scope for fantastic fire fights and commandeering various vehicles. The power ups do alter the tactics just a tad, but it’s all for the better, and while the Warthogs feel heavier than before it’s more of a tweak than a game changer. The main campaign does rely a little too much on corridor-like levels, but when it serves up standout moments such as riding around on what appears to be an enormous BigTrak the more generic sections fade into the background.
UNSC Infinity War Games
Halo 4’s big innovations are lurking in the multiplayer, which is grouped into War Games and Spartan Ops (more on which in a mo). War Games is the home for the familiar player-versus-player game, but to pep things up there have been plenty of change, including the introduction of random weapon spawning and customisable guns. Players also get rewarded for kills and kill assists with grenades or power-ups. But be prepared to purge your Xbox 360 hard drive because you have to install the multiplayer modes if you want to play.
The other multiplayer feature is the co-operative Spartan Ops mode, a second campaign that follows on from the main story. It’s a clever and so far successful attempt to bridge the gap between Halo’s single and multiplayer worlds by connecting the Halo 4 story with multiplayer action for up to four players (loners can play it solo if they like). Unusually, it’s being released in episodes like a TV series, so expect this mode to keep you playing long after the main campaign’s all done and dusted.
Halo 4 may play it a little too safe at time, but there’s plenty in here to keep the series feeling fresh, including the innovative multiplayer experiment of Spartan Ops and a nice line in power-ups. And when the classic (and still fantastic) Halo action kicks off it’s easy to forget that the team that invented the game weren’t also pulling the strings on this one.