Halo 4 has long been lauded as one of the biggest games of 2012, marking the first foray from 343 Industries into Halo territory since Bungie Studios departed for the sandy shores of Activision last year.
Well, the game is finally in the hands of the players, so how does 343 Industries stack up as a Halo developer? Can there ever truly be a successor to Bungie, the studio that created Halo from the ground up? The short answer is no; 343 Industries isn't the same as Bungie, but they don't have to be. Halo 4 stands its ground as an amazing Halo game on its merits alone, without calling for comparison to previous games in the franchise.
343 Industries is breathing fresh air into a franchise that didn't even know it needed to be revitalized, and for that we salute them.
When Bungie Studios left Microsoft and Halo behind, we weren't sure how 343 Industries was going to be able to fill such big shoes. When Halo 4 was announced and the studio started discussing multiplayer, it became apparent that many of the features coming to Halo 4 were inspired by games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. For the first time, Halo was going to include things like custom loadouts, a default sprint button and a progressive system of unlocking and purchasing weapons in competitive multiplayer.
Was 343 Industries just converting Halo to nothing more than a Call of Duty clone? After so many years of standing on their own two feet, was this new studio ushering in an era of tasteless, vapid Halo games? If so, how would that carry over to the epic campaigns that we've come to expect in Halo games?
As development progressed, we were more and more excited by what we were seeing and the doubts receded to a place in the back of our minds.
Now that Halo 4 is finally here and we've spent a good many hours playing everything the game has to offer, all of our inhibitions have been completely vanquished. 343 Industries understands Halo. They understand the core of what makes a good Halo game, as well as where there are room for changes. The fundamentals are all here, and done with flawless precision.
Simply put, Halo 4 feels like a Halo game and that is exactly what we were worried about.
Keep reading for more on our first impressions with Halo 4.
The New Breed
Halo 4 is a great game in every respect, with the addicting multiplayer action that we've come to love over the last decade, some excellent co-op options that we can't wait to watch expand and possibly the best singleplayer narrative in franchise history.
Multiplayer features a perfect blend of classic game modes with some new ones, as well. The progressive unlock and ranking system takes some getting used to, but if you've played other major first-person shooters, it won't be anything new to you. It's just a bit odd seeing custom loadouts in a Halo game, that's for sure.
These aren't negative observations, just honest ones. The addition of loadouts and ranking was a surprising decision, but one that we can get on board with. Sprint is something that, quite plainly put, we think should have been in Halo from the beginning.
Spartans are some of the most elite soldiers in the galaxy and yet they can't run on command?
Doubtless, Halo purists will argue that not sprinting set Halo apart from the crowd or that game speed was already fine without adding an additional speed boost, but in our eyes, this is something that Halo has needed for a while. A subtle addition, yes, but one you will notice dramatically if you've played Halo for as long as we have.
The multiplayer experience is expanded with new game modes, including Dominion and Regicide. Classic favorites return, as well, including Slayer, Big Team Slayer, Capture the Flag, Oddball and many more. The multiplayer offering is as expansive as we could hope for and will doubtless be expanded upon in future content updates, map packs and DLC offerings.
Campaign-wise, the story is brilliantly written and executed, filled with emotion and stirring in a way that we haven't come to expect from Halo. Previous campaigns have been great, yes, but this is something different; something deeper.
At the heart of the campaign is the 'awakening of an ancient evil'; namely, the Promethean race of enemies. This new enemy is just a part of 343 Industries' additions to Halo lore. Such additions are risky, but 343 has nailed it and we were fascinated with the campaign from start to finish and are looking forward to continuing the journey in future installments of Spartan Ops, the episodic co-op campaign that the studio has built into the game.
All in all, Halo 4 is a joy to play, whether you're jumping online for a quick game of Slayer or spending hours delving into the singleplayer campaign. If you're on the fence about Halo 4, our vote goes towards picking this one up.
Whether you're a Halo veteran or looking to hop into the action for the first time, Halo 4 is a must-buy this Holiday season.