Halo and please join me for a look at the most exciting Xbox 360 exclusive in a long time…
After 2010′s Halo: Reach, developer Bungie stepped away from the Halo franchise for good and 343 Industries, a subsidiary of Microsoft took over production duties… talk about big power armour to fill!
Halo 4 is the first instalment in the new “Reclaimer Trilogy” and is set approximately 4 years after the events of Halo 3. It marks the return of long absent protagonist and all around badass, John-117 – otherwise known as the Master Chief – as well as Cortana, his sexy AI sidekick.
Having been drifting through space aboard the derelict UNSC frigate Forward Unto Dawn, since the events of Halo 3, they find themselves in the vicinity of the mysterious Forerunner planet of Requiem. After awaking from cryogenic sleep, Cortana and the Chief make their way down to the planet’s surface, which is where the bulk of Halo 4′s narrative takes place.
Focusing mainly on the relationship between the the two aforementioned main characters, the story will centre less on the archetypal first person shooting of the earlier games and instead rely more on mystery and exploration.
Developers describe the game as being grander is scope and scale than its predecessors and say that it will reveal how humanity and the UNSC has recovered and adapted after the war with the Covenant came to a close.
As in previous games, the campaign can be tackled solo or co-operatively, with up to three other players. Unlike Halo 3′s co-op story mode, where each player participated as a different character, in Halo 4 all players take on the role of multiple Master Chiefs.
During the experience the Covenant make a welcome return but the plot’s main antagonists are a new threat known as the Promethians, a non-organic opposition of Forerunner origins. Promethians come in many forms ranging from Crawlers – aggressive quadrupeds that hunt their prey in packs like rabid dogs, to Knights – fully weaponised, heavily armoured warriors that perceive and eliminate threats with pinpoint accuracy.
Along with the new class of enemies comes a multitude of Forerunner weaponry, featuring such ordinance as the Incineration Cannon – which fires several streams of explosive particles that detonate and spread on impact, and the Scattershot – a close-range firearm that utilises schismatic dispersal of its ricocheting ammunition, as well as many more.
As well as the main campaign the game features a new story-driven co-operative mode entitled “Spartan Ops”. It effectively replaces the Firefight game mode featured in both Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach. New mission content for Spartan Ops will be delivered over the course of ten weeks to players for free. If successful however subsequent content packages will likely be paid for DLC.
Halo 4′s multiplayer, now known as War Games has managed to evolve and modernise while still retaining its core identity. Taking place entirely on the UNSC Infinity, players can customise their own Spartan-IV super-solider in their look, weapons, armour abilities and various upgrades for personal loadouts.
Your character can also advance through a ranking system as they gain XP for playing War Games, Spartan Ops, using Forge and by completing both Challenges and Commendations, similar to those found in Halo: Reach. The game’s Infinity multiplayer allows your progression to be carried over to multiple game modes, so that you’re constantly levelling up and feeling a sense of achievement after every encounter.
I was a real latecomer to the Halo series and to be honest, I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about to begin with. But the more I played, the more I enjoyed myself and in a sea of slick modern shooters, Halo’s arcadey gameplay and idiosyncratic control scheme was a refreshing change of pace.
However despite its awesome style, I’ve never found the tale the series told particularly compelling. However now that 343 Industries are at the helm, hopefully they can change all of that.
For me Halo has always been a co-operative experience and even if the story of Halo 4 doesn’t grab me, I still can’t wait to take on the campaign with a couple of friends on Legendary difficultly, tackle Spartan Ops and get my ass kicked in War Games. Come November 6th, Halo 4 will be chief on my to-do-list.
Halo 4 hits shops shelves on 6th November exclusively for Xbox 360.
Rob Gisbey is a games journalist and music production graduate from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. To listen to his acoustic demo, read his articles and listen to the VxM Videogames Podcast head to his blog.