Continuing the Master Chief’s path to glory, this is the fourth and final part on the recently released Xbox One exclusive, Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also Available On: Xbox One Exclusive
Release Date: Out Now
With Bungie, the key developer on the Halo franchise for the first three releases, having split from parent company Microsoft shortly after the release of Halo 3, this was the first main stream Master Chief Story which saw 343 Industries at the helm.
Released in late 2012 on the Xbox 360 the game vowed to prove how the now aged console technology still had a few surprises up its sleeve, not that anticipation could have been any higher than it was.
It had been five years since we last saw a new instalment of the Master Chief’s story and although the franchise had carried on, a few releases didn’t have the same wow factor as the full blown Halo main story. Halo: Wars, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach all came and went and although they kept us Halo fans busy for a couple of years it was Halo 4 we desperately wanted.
Then Halo 4 released, breaking every franchise record for sales and with more than a million Xbox Live players online within 24 hours of its debut.
Kicking off a new era in the Halo universe, known as the Reclaimer Saga, the story is set four years after the closing events of Halo 3.
With Earth believing that the Master Chief had given his life to complete his mission and destroy the Ark, Cortana awakens him from cryo-sleep in a distant part of the galaxy.
Awoken to find that not only is his ship being overrun by a band of rogue Covenant forces but that they are on the verge of crash-landing on an alien world known as Requiem, the chief is thrown straight back into action, no rest for a Spartan after all.
Discovering that Requiem is an artificial planet created by the Halo builders, the forerunners, the chief attempts to find a way off of the planet and back to Earth. To complicate things Cortana is dying due to exceeding her AI life expectancy, adding a less than ideal time-limit to the chief’s problems.
With the continued threat of the Covenant already making life difficult for the chief, a new enemy surfaces, a living forerunner, who with an army of digital knights sets out to continue an ancient plan to conquer the flood, not by activating the Halo’s but by removing their main food course, the Human race.
That’s about as much of the story I can give away without spoiling the plot considerably but it’s fair to say that Halo 4’s campaign story benefits considerably from a number of twists throughout.
It’s an interesting story that while shaking things up a bit and bringing in new bad guys still clings on the overall legacy set by the franchises original Halo trilogy story. It’s bold enough to entice new players to the franchise but not bold enough to scare off veterans that dislike change.
But this isn’t just a standard start mission, end mission campaign; this story has unexpected heart at its core. The emotional ties between Cortana and the Master Chief form a deeper more engaging story then you’d expect from any first person shooter. Those bonds that we as players have seen grow over the years are tested to their limits in this story and we finally get to see the human side to the Master Chief, we learn more about the man behind the armour, John.
Even by Xbox One standards Halo 4 is a beautiful masterpiece. From the very beginning of the game we are treated to cut-scenes which wouldn’t look out of place alongside the recently upgraded Halo 2: Anniversary.
While that’s understandable to a degree given its age, it’s still a marvel when taken at Xbox 360 standards and what 343 achieved with that.
Outside of the cut-scenes, graphically this is a significant improvement on both Halo 3 and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, even without any real upgrades on the Xbox One besides the obligatory frame-rate and resolution improvements.
But this isn’t just a beautifully rendered emotional journey, it’s an action packed one. In my experience this is the most difficult of the Halo campaigns when played on Legendary and for good reason.
As the Halo games have evolved over the years so have the weapons available to the player. Each of the weapons has always had a specific purpose, most have always had their weaknesses and strengths against certain enemies but Halo 4 takes this to the next level.
When playing the game on the harder difficulties there are a number of missions where the wrong gun will make it impossible to proceed, where the right weapon will set out a much easier path and save a great deal of time. This adds a higher level of tactical play that some Halo veterans might not be familiar with on the single campaign at least.
Though the core gaming mechanics remain the same as its predecessors, obviously drawing on the advancement through the spin-off games as well, Halo 4 still offers a few surprises along the way.
For one, this is the first campaign that finally gives us the chance to fly a Pelican, not top of requests for most players I’m sure but it’s something that’s always been missing from previous games. There is of course the much more enticing addition in that we, playing as the Master Chief, finally get to fight alongside other Spartan’s, very useful ally’s given Halo’s infamously brilliant AI system.
If however you’re the kind of player looking for something a bit more Earth shattering then you’re in for a treat when you finally get to play with the Mantis exoskeleton armour, basically imagine the Master Chief invading Titanfall, stealing their tech and then going on a rampage against the Covenant, that’s about the level of awesome you can expect from this.
The multiplayer for the original game has become something of a legend on the Xbox 360, it’s still very popular two years on. While the majority of it’s core functionality derives directly from Halo 3, improvements from lessons learned led to a number of upgrades. Improved map editing, larger maps, new modes and more stability, everything we’ve come to expect.
Interestingly though 343 chose to add narrative context to the online battles, most notably from the Spartan vs Spartan battles which are presented under the premise of training missions aboard the UNSC Infinity. Many of the improvements made by Halo 4’s multiplayer have since gone on to make up the majority of the functionality put into place in the Master Chief Collection.
Audio-wise, the soundtrack is everything we’ve come to expect from the Halo franchise in quality but not always in tone. A difference in developer has also seen a difference in music producer meaning that the iconic music we were treated to in Halo 3 has been replaced by something which, while equal in quality, seems more sombre, less engaging or complementary to the story in the same way as the previous games.
In addition, the vocal soundtrack is on par with the best, with all of the major actors returning to voice the characters they help make so iconic. Even the background conversations going on between token characters seems more intelligent, more interesting.
Looking over Halo 4, both the 2012 original and newer Xbox One model there’s no denying this is the game that brought the franchise back to the heights where it belongs.
While many enjoyed the spin-offs released between Halo 3 and 4 they were mediocre by comparison and many loyal gamers lost faith in the series, luckily this game proved you can teach an old dog new tricks.
- Great multi-level story which gives us both plenty of action and plenty of heart
- Graphically stunning for an Xbox 360 game, it doesn’t look out of place on the Xbox One
- The Mantis exoskeleton alone adds so much fun to an already great campaign
- The change in soundtrack tone wont be to everyone’s taste
- A few lengthy missions with a couple of tedious chunks of gameplay