You get the idea that 343 Industries, the developer that supposed the mantle from Bungie, was nervous about Halo 4's reception. They even go so far as to thank the series' fan base for their faith and goodwill at the campaign's conclusion. Having played through the first instalment of the "Reclaimer Saga," I'm happy to report that their anxiety is somewhat misplaced as this is a fine addition to the series; may not be the best one, but still worthy of the line.
If you're seeking the wide-open battlegrounds, floaty physics and varied arsenal that are the hallmarks of the Halo series, you're in luck. It's a bit slow to get going (read: the first three levels were fairly tedious), but the excitement and enjoyment keeps building with battles that seem to only increase in terms of scale. There's also some lengthy and memorable vehicular sequences, with one in particular that should be a real treat for Star Wars fans (read: original trilogy or death). It did feel a little bit shorter when compared to its predecessors, but in this case, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. No cast member, enemy type or play mechanic really has a chance to overstay its welcome.
Master Chief's latest outing is also the most visually spectacular entry in the series. I thought Reach would represent the limits of the Xbox 360's power, but I'm actually struggling to think of a better looking game on any console. To more effectively illustrate just how breathtaking the visuals are, please observe this salty quote from Hip Hop Gamer:
ITS OFFICIAL #HALO 4 Best Graphics EVER ON XBOX360. 343 Industries BUTT FUCKED THIS GAME WITH NO LUBE. IT'S AMAZING THE JUNGLE LEVEL OH SHIT
— hiphopgamer (@hiphopgamer) November 11, 2012
Funny thing is, I didn't even think the jungle looked that great. The caliber of the visuals -- much like the scale of the action -- becomes all the more impressive as you progress.
When you're shooting, driving, jumping, boosting and sniping, you've got a winner on your hands. The story, however, is a bit of a clusterfuck. Obviously, I won't go into any detail for fear of spoilers, but there are a few events that the player is supposed to accept without exposition. Alliances, crazy AI diseases and Cortana's new dimensions all pose questions for which I had no real answers when the credits rolled.
Also concerning was the feeling that there was nothing substantially new to play around with. There's only a handful of Forerunner enemy types mixed in with the usual Covenant rabble, and the functions of most Forerunner weapons overlap with that of UNSC and Covenant equipment. The new vehicles do breathe some life into the formula, but if you've never been sold on the series previously, Halo 4 isn't going to change your mind.
When it comes down to it, Halo 4 is more of the same. 343 Industries have done nothing to sully the name of Microsoft's flagship game franchise, if anything, they've crafted something that will keep it in high regard. Slow start aside, those who do sign up to fight alongside Master Chief will experience some thrilling scenarios as well as see exactly what the ageing Xbox 360 is capable of. Highly recommended for anyone who's enjoyed a Banshee flight or Warthog ride.