Halo without Bungie: worth it?

This is Halo reborn. Are you ready?

Halo 4. (Microsoft Corporation / 343 Industries)

Halo 4 marks the beginning of a brand new trilogy for everyone’s favourite genetically enhanced super soldier. Iconic developer and Halo creator Bungie has moved on to new horizons, and Microsoft has replaced them with their own Halo-specific division known as 343 Industries. While this move may make many dedicated fans apprehensive, after extensive play this reviewer feels it is safe to say that Halo is in capable hands.

The last we saw Master Chief John-117, he had supposedly finished the fight with the Covenant, and his tattered ship was careening towards a mysterious planet. Halo 4 opens with his AI, Cortana, waking him from cryo-sleep to request even more of his special brand of ass-kicking because, coincidentally, the aforementioned mysterious planet holds a terrible secret. The new storyline is surprisingly even more compelling than that of the original trilogy because of how deep the game delves into the psyche of the Master Chief and his relationship with Cortana.  The campaign is lengthy and wrought with new enemies and new weapon types with which to shoot those new enemies in the face.

The game’s sound design deserves special kudos. New composer Neil Davidge does an admirable job stepping into the sizeable shoes of iconic Halo music man Marty O’Donnell, but the real draw here is the overhauled sound effects. Nearly every weapon sounds as if it could tear through your TV screen at any second. It adds an exhilarating aspect to every firefight. Graphically, the game looks outstanding, with crisp sprawling environments and colossal set pieces to stare at throughout the missions. Stages and environments show excellent texture and detail, while animations are smoother than ever. Halo 4’s cutscenes are absolutely outstanding visual displays that only enhance the already excellent story.

While Halo has always had fantastic campaigns, the spirit of the Halo community lies in its multiplayer suite. This isn’t the Halo multiplayer you remember. It doesn’t even have the same name. Multiplayer is now Infinity War Games. Even Halo: Reach’s specialty loadouts may not prepare you for Halo 4’s new detailed class system. Players will choose their own primary weapons, sidearms, and abilities based on how they would prefer to play the game. While this results in a slightly less balanced game, these highly customizable classes add a new challenge to the multiplayer component.

Despite all of the changes, the biggest new element to multiplayer is something deceptively simple: the ability to sprint. Used as an armour ability in Halo: Reach, every player now has the ability to sprint at any time, which compared to traditional Halo, feels like cranking multiplayer games up to delirious speeds.

The exceptionally fun Forge and Theatre modes return, and as the months roll on there are sure to be many exceptionally original game types created and spread across the globe through Halo’s fileshare system. Also new to multiplayer is the addition of Spartan Ops, a separate co-op-based series of missions than can be used to earn points for character customizations.

Halo 4 is a marvel of game design. 343 industries have managed to take the franchise to new heights while still respecting the traditions of Halo. Many wondered if even making Halo 4 was a good idea – with the long and arduous journey the Master Chief had already taken, many wondered if it was wise to bring him back to save the day yet again. The answer is yes: yes, it was.