Pros: Great presentation, good use of Bloom & FXAA, good multiplayer game modes, great campaign for long time fans of lore.
Cons: Some features not present for those who like to tinker with Forge, story may confuse gamers new to the franchise. Spartan Ops unplayable offline.
So... Bungie are out and 343 Studios are in, but the most important thing to most people is what this means for the Halo franchise? I think I can safely say that 343 are taking Halo in the right direction. Sure it may be missing some features veterans of Halo are accustomed to, and that may be reinserted within a later update anyway, but it's more the manner of which 343 have handled bringing Halo 4 together that matters most.
Presentation is strong, with many CGI cutscenes instead of rendered cutscenes from the game engine, showing that more time has been put into bringing the series to life. Throw the heavily improved graphics engine on top and you're in for a rather visual treat considering what this game is actually running on. Being the first Halo game to run at a native HD resolution without being upscaled, and with good use of Bloom and FXAA, Halo 4 is the best looking Halo title to date. Not only does it look pretty, but it runs very well also. I have not experienced any framerate problems with this title as of yet, even in multiplayer, or Spartan Ops, which can get pretty hectic. Audio sounds great. The score is more electronic than usual, but I think this is a good deviant from what preceded as this is a new trilogy and a new chapter in the series. It isn't quite Halo though. Weapons sound powerful and much improved. The audio from Needlers gets thrown around surround systems pretty well.
The Campaign is very good. The story is well presented, well handled, and well paced. This is, however, a story for those who are really into the lore of Halo. A game for the die hard fans of the series. Someone new to the franchise will likely wonder what on earth all the fuss is all about with some of the back story being filled in by FOrward Unto Dawn (a 5 part mini series released before the game launched). There are quite a few new enemies which fit in quite well with the game and setting and are well designed along with their weaponary, which is pretty fun to use mostly. Some weapons feel a little useless (like the Suppressor) though there is the odd occassion it comes in handy. Cortana pretty much steals the show though I did kind of expect her to be a little more intense. I really don't want to go into why without spoiling the story, but I think those who have played it through will understand where I'm getting at here. Jen Taylor does a fantastic job of her voice acting however, I don't think anyone will disagree here.
Spartan Ops continues the story after the events of Halo 4, and does so with style. The cinematic introductions to each Episode are worth watching and the general atmosphere of each mission gives you an entire game mode worthwhile paying for alone. With Episodic content delivered over Xbox Live (and for free so far) this looks to be one of the games most promising modes if 343 Studios can deliver. So far the missions on offer are pretty fun and can be challenging if played on higher difficulties (Legendary is a must if you have a party of four). It is compensation for the loss of Firefight, but I think most would agree that Spartan Ops is a worthy successor as long as 343 keep delivering content. I do however dislike that Spartan Ops cannot be played offline.
Multiplayer continues to set the standard for the ultimate multiplayer experience. 343 have looked at what was good about Halo: Reach multiplayer and what was bad about it, and delivered. Loadouts feel much better balanced than before, and the weaponary feels much more dominating without feeling overpowered. Ordanance Drops are really well worked into the Multiplayer, allowing you to get a Power Weapon dropped onto the map for yourself or your allies. Maps are pretty well balanced out for the most part though some maps can start to feel unfair due to weapon and vehicle placement dependant on game type (Big Team Slayer is a good example here). It does need a few options implementing to allow for custom game modes of old that community members miss and have made 343 aware of their love for, but overall it's safe to say there is a wealth of multiplayer options to choose from and alot of game types to play currently.
Forge is still available aswell as Theatre Mode, though lacks some of the options that players enjoyed about them in the past. Currently File Share is disabled via Waypoint but should be implemented later in December once it is finalised. If 343 can keep going the type of support Bungie were renowned for then they should be on to a winner without a doubt.
Overall Halo 4 is a solid title, although it has some minor flaws it is very much worthy of the praise it has recieved, especially considering this is only the second title in the franchise from a different studio to Bungie. 343 have done the game and name justice and this is very much so deserving of your money.
Graphics: Very good for Xbox 360, probably the best the system has seen yet. 9/10
Audio: Well scored, sounds great, weapon sounds are awesome, but not quite Halo. 8/10
Gameplay: A return to real Halo style gameplay. 9/10
Longevity: If supported well this will keep the community going until the next generation of consoles. 9/10
Overall: A worthy successor to Halo Reach and a title worthy of any gamers time. 9/10
Played on: Sharp Aquos LC60LE636E 60 inch HDTV, Sony STRDN-1000 AV Reciever, Eltax Concept 180 Floorstanding Speakers, Boston Acoustics Soundware XS 5.1 Speakers, Xbox 360 Console (installed).
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