It seems like an all too familiar plot, Master Chief our super soldier that has a habit of saving humanity is at it again. Yet this time humanity seems to be an afterthought as the true predicament lies with Masterchiefs only real significant other Cortana, an UNSC AI construct that is on the fritz. The relationship between Cortana and Masterchief takes us down a path where Masterchief is no longer an emotionless killing machine, but rather a deeply emotional and thought provoking man. This aspect is highlighted in his dialogues with Cortana. It moves the story away from just a repetition of saving humanity to a story about Master Chief and Cortana's survival amidst a universe plunged into chaos.
You are in the year 2557, 4 years after the Halo event, aboard the Forward Unto Dawn where the alarms have triggered and the ship is in a state of non-repair. Cortana wakes Masterchief to a distressed plea of ,"I need your help". If you thought that this was asking a little you couldn't be further from the truth. Cortana is in a state of rampancy (a degenerating state) that effects all UNSV AI constructs that have been in service for more than seven years. The rampancy is literally causing Cortana to think herself to death. Where previous Halo's have been more focused on Masterchiefs struggle, in Halo 4 we are faced with Cortana as the highlighted character.
Her need to survive rampancy and stay in an oddly enough, human-like state, propels the story into a direction that is less dramatic than saving the world, but yet more touching because it masterfully displays a relationship driven story that gamers can identify with.
The campaign is spread across 8 missions, the completion time for each mission sits near the hour mark, giving the you a total campaign time of just 8 hours. This is disappointing, especially for Halo fans that have been waiting for a more elaborate tale of Master Chief and all the culminated history that was left behind.
However, for those new to the Halo franchise you are treated to a world of huge battles and unrelenting opponents. For the new player the story is extremely tricky to follow and sometimes leaves you with a desire to skip the cut scenes and plunge yourself back into the action. That having been said, skipping the cut scenes may be 'okay' in other games, but in Halo 4 it is an utter disaster to miss out on the design and beauty that 343 Studios has put into the graphics of the game. Even if you don't like what the characters are saying and even if you can't follow the dialog, you are still faced with some of the best, if not the best, graphics that has ever hit the Xbox 360.
In terms of graphics Halo 4 moves leaps and bounds away from any other game to have hit the console, even blowing other exclusive Xbox 360 titles like Gears of War, out of the water. Moving out of a cut scene you would think that there would be a huge change as is the case with most games. 343 Studios has done something amazing with Halo 4, in each one of the 8 levels there is at least one ,if not more, points of significance where you will sit back and think you have just moved into a cutscene. Then you pick up the controller to realize that you are actually playing the game. Within those moments it is best to take your time and marvel at what has been created. These moment of design genius are not stand alone features, they are coupled with a score that only adds to the atmosphere that surrounds these moments of brilliance.
Moving away from the campaign and down into the depths of the multiplayer universe is where 343 Studios has truly been tested. The Halo series has always been known as the pioneer of the first person shooter on the Xbox 360, if not across all consoles. With some of the most loyal fans and harsh critics, 343 have been faced with a mountain to climb to live up to their predecessors. That mountain has not only been climbed it has been demolished and replaced with the mountain that is Halo 4. The multiplayer experience is something that has got to be recognized as one of the best ever experiences one can have on a console.
With new feature such as the new armor abilities and tactical packages,(which seem to have been stolen from the Call of Duty perk system), have been implemented with huge success and great balancing. One the biggest factors to take note of is that South African players can play against international opponents with few problems. This means that whether your playing at 2pm in the afternoon or 2am in the morning you can find a game and still get kills.
Customization has never been more prevalent in a Halo title than it is now in Halo 4, you can now customize your loadouts with more options. Then there is also the armor customization, where you don't just change the color of your suit, you can change your visor color, your torso gear, your helmet and even your right shoulder. This makes dusting off your shoulder after a kill even that much more satisfying ;). The personal experience you receive when playing Halo 4 is something that is amazingly unique and extremely satisfying with gameplay features such as jumping on the back of an opponent on mid air and knifing his/her throat whilst your team mates watch.
343 Studios has done the impossible, they have turned me (a Call of Duty and Gears of War fanboy) into something that has never been possible with previous Halo's, they have turned me into a Halo fan. They have put out a title that I personally believe to be the game of the year for 2012 and the must have title for all Xbox 360 gamers. Hey, even if you don't own an Xbox360 buy Halo 4, at least you will be able to tell your friends that you have it.
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