Since its announcement in June 2011 all of us here have been on the cusp of spooging our under crackers waiting furtively for the triumphant return of Master Chief.
We have read the books and bulletins, listened to and appeared on podcasts, gone to expos and spoke to and played Halo with fans all over the globe all the while avoiding spoilers in a bid to take our mind off the release date which seemed like an eternity away.
Now, after all the waiting and hype Halo 4 has finally been unleashed in the wild and I thought I would pen a shit load of thoughts about it without getting too fanboyish about the whole affair. (Alert: – fanboy ramblings inbound)
This is easily the portion of the game I have most been looking forward to given that it is the only area that 343i have managed to not blurt out every single scrap of information on. From that first cut scene right up until the closing credits my brain was gripped on how much effort must have gone into crafting this delightful tale. The visuals are of artisan quality, the passion that has been poured into this is nothing short of breath-taking and captivated me throughout; partly because of its sheer beauty but also because I was astounded that this level of graphical prowess was even possible given the age of the Xbox.
But then again what are the use of pretty graphics without a compelling storyline? Thankfully 343 have triumphed here too providing us with something almost Shakespearean in its construction. A sci-fi epic come romantic sonnet, this new narrative truly adds something more significant than in my opinion even the mighty Bungie ever did. Drawing on the most recent extended fiction to ensure an unrivaled richness otherwise unseen in any of the series, 343 have pulled off something really rather remarkable, giving us something completely new and original whilst maintaining the bittersweet struggle that the universe is all about.
I have but one small gripe with the campaign and that is with the time it took for me and my fellow Spartans to complete. A mere five and a half hours it took to run through the whole thing from start to finish, which given the promise that this would be the hardest Halo yet made me feel there should have been more to it, perhaps there is an issue with difficulty upscaling because I have spoken to a couple of very proficient players who say the difficulty on solo is more of a challenge. In the same breath I do think the quality over quantity ethos is preferable to a long and unsatisfying slog. My own personal issue though is I want more! I must find out what happens next and I don’t know how I am going to pass the time until Halo 5! But then again this is yet another sign of how great a story 343 have come up with and I guess I will just have to wait it out like every other Halo nut.
As a proper admirer of Halo fiction, when Franklez first spilled his love beans about this concept, I was pretty amped about the idea of being given a whole extra campaign’s worth of story thrown into the mix for the petite price tag of zilch dolla. If I had written this as intended last week you would find me fairly underwhelmed by the whole affair given that Team Majestic came across as a bit of a herd of douche shaped buffalo in the initial cut-scene, even the sweet candy glossed visuals of that first cut-scene wasn’t enough to keep the bitter taste of these augmented dolts out of my mouth. Before you say it yes I know we take the role of the competing Team Crimson but these are the not the faces we see. I also know this move is probably intentional to promote some kind of perceived competition between you and Majestic but personally I would have preferred them to be a little less atypical jock. With that said it’s a new week and a new episode, it has started to kick off right royally story wise and all of a sudden I find myself in the same lane again and I am more than intrigued to see where captain 343 will steer UNSC Infinity next and given their track record on delivering an epic campaign I’m sure it will be a smooth jump to slip space.
The meat and potatoes of all Halo games to me comes from the re-playability and addiction that is multiplayer. I personally have been in the pro-halo camp welcoming all their revamping and in some cases rebuilding of all we love about our Spartan slaying game-types. At first I was totally loving every little sliver of War Games had to offer quickly getting my couple of loadouts sorted and streamlining my play. A couple of days in at about level 24 I had a minor freak out about the unlock system when I compared it to another game I love, Battlefield. With Dice’s military shooter having so much to offer with regards to weapons I was a little nervous about whether or not I would find a bit of a void in unlocks, loadouts wise, between late 20’s and the end game of specializations. However once I spoke to a couple of friends I realised I may have overreacted somewhat. Firstly, I see now that it was a little unfair to compare two relatively disparate games who both have utterly different unlock systems and now I am at level 34 I have found that the perceived unlock void was all in my head and I would say to anyone who may have felt a similar feeling that it’s easily overcome by embracing experimentation. At first I thought mobility and dexterity were easily the top unlocks and I would probably stick with these throughout, true I still have a loadout that I use regularly, however with four loadout slots available to me I now have more space to tweak and hone my setups dependent on map and/or gametype. Now I truly appreciate the method in which items unlock and reckon there is plenty to keep me or indeed any other player motivated to keep on fragging.
I feel I should make a cursory mention of the armour permutations. Personally, I do see what 343i are going for but I don’t really find any of the options compelling enough to change from the Mark VII armour set I was rewarded with from our legendary run. Canonically I know Spartan IV’s are meant to cost less than the Spartan II program so in that respect the armour certainly does reflect that in how cheap it looks but I doubt this was the goal set out for the armour design team. With that said I wouldn’t mind pimping my visor colour for a couple of games.
I thought I would finish off on a high by discussing what really matters: how it plays, and what a high it is! In fact I find it a little hard to breathe at this altitude of awesomesauce. Imagine Halo 2 and 3 combined with Bruce Lee, the movement is so fluid even Bruce would be impressed by how akin to water you are. That feeling of power flowing through my hands when engaging a foe truly gives my Mjolnir clad super soldier the feeling of being just as godly as the weapon in which the name hails from. Combine this awesome player movement with the most evolved and balanced weapon sandbox I have come across and the most gut punching sound effects applied to a halo game yet and you suddenly find that your witnessing a real masterclass in FPS craftsmanship, hooking you to want to play until your thumbs bleed. But it doesn’t stop there, I mean what’s the use in having a pitch perfect Spartan armed with the an unparallelled weapon sandbox without any decent game environments? Well thank Thor that 343 have served up some real classics on this front too. If we hark back to Reach a lot of the community complained that, unlike Halo 3, it did not have any standout maps. For me Halo 4 sits in the same position but for a very different reason and that is, in my opinion, pretty much all of the maps are as strong as the next. In fact I would say (and don’t hurt me for this) our beloved remake Ragnarok is probably the weakest of the pack mainly due to the Mantis unbalancing things somewhat but that is just my opinion. Movement on every single one is never at all awkward, providing multiple routes throughout each map and in any of the environs the places in which a team can camp out and hold can be overturned without too much trouble if the opposing side works together. Could you say the same about Reach? see Sword Base or Power House for proof. If I had to name a favourite map at the minute I would say Exile, Haven and Complex are right up there, oh and Adrift. My point is Halo 4, in my opinion, has the strongest multiplayer yet and can easily compete in this overly crowded FPS market.
A friend of mine known as The Woaf asked me to describe Halo on Day 2 post launch in three words, I said “almost spot on”. A week on I still feel pretty much the same given that the server issues still exist but once they solve that then I will be comfortable saying this might just be the ‘Best Halo Ever’. 343 have shown that they can make a game that is totally relevant in today’s market which not only keeps up but legitimately locks horns with the big FPS mammoths of recent years, but also feels every bit as ‘Halo’ as anything that has come before. Not only is John finally awake but so is the rest of the world to 343’s ability to make an outstanding game.
Firstly thanks for reading, I hope you can tell that this franchise bears some weight in my life and I would like to hear what you think. Do you agree or not? Is there a particular aspect I didn’t mention that you love or hate? Leave me a comment and subscribe if you want. Also my gamertag is The Quim Ninja. If you wanna play some Halo with me and the rest of the teabagordie crew send me a friend request. Requiem Awaits.
-The Quim Ninja