Dec 082012

(One minor spoiler.)

I’m a little behind here, mostly because we were at Disney World when Halo 4 came out.  This is the seventh title (if you count the two releases of Halo: Combat Evolved as one), and the first one that 343 Industries, not Bungie, has done.

I just finished the campaign on Heroic difficulty tonight.  As my review is not timely, I shall not endeavor to make it comprehensive.

Halo 4 is set four years after the events of Halo 3.  Some enemies are familiar.  Others are new, and wow, they’re awesome.  I really enjoyed the new opponents and weapons.  The game does a great job presenting a new mythology for them, with visual cues, music, and mannerisms that all establish their identity.  Excellent work.

Speaking of, again, the sounds and sights are top-notch.  You’ll make fantastic use of your gigantic HDTV and your digital surround sound.  This is true of both the gameplay and the cutscenes, which might be the most cinematic and immersive I’ve ever seen.

I loved the innovative level and encounter design, and more than once I realized I was smiling or even softly chuckling because I was having such a good time.  I want to start over right now on Legendary difficulty.

I had no significant complaints until very near the end of the campaign, when the Master Chief is called upon to pilot a Broadsword fighter.

Now this is hardly the first time we’ve flown ships in Halo.  It is, however, the first time in the entire series that there is essentially one way through the narrative.  When you’re flying this ship, there’s a highly specific path through, and if you don’t fly it, then you crash until you do fly it.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is legitimate gaming.  It’s not something I enjoy, though.  Philosophically, I don’t think it’s any different from a fighting game that requires A-C-C-A-B-right trigger to defeat a certain boss.  Some gamers get off on that.  I don’t, and historically, it’s very un-Halo.

I’ve appreciated that the Halo series validates different paths and decisions.  Even its fairly scripted Warthog runs have multiple solutions.  This Broadsword sequence doesn’t, and it hardly torpedoes the game, but neither does it settle back into the noise.  It’s a definite flaw.

I noticed and appreciated the note from 343 Industries at the end of the game.  I didn’t record it word for word, but the gist was that they realize they’ve taken the reins of something that’s dear and important to a great many people, and they appreciate the trust and support.

Very good, ladies and gentlemen.  This is another outstanding entry in the series, and it continues to define the pinnacle of excellence for console first-person shooters.

Just omit the scripted sequence gameplay from Halo 5, please.

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