How NOT to make a sequel to an iconic franchise. vol. 1
Presentation: 7/10 How do you continue the story to a highly successful franchise that over a ten year span, has revolutionized it’s genre by creating iconic characters and innovative gameplay? You just write up a sequel. Halo 4 answers that age old question “What happens next?” and does it while leaving us with more questions than answers. Questioning not just the reason for Halo 4 but the very future of the Halo franchise.
Gameplay: 8/10 Halo 4 is using the Reach engine and it’s apparent the minute the Master Chief awakes from his 5 year nap. There is no duel wielding, fall damage is back, and now sprinting is a natural ability. The game justifies these changes by telling us right away that Cortana, the main characters blue A.I. friend, has updated his suit. This explains the new HUD but why our main characters iconic armor looks radically different is never explained. Purists will say that everything is explained in the expanded universe of books, and other content but it is no explanation is present in the game. Needles to say this alienates a good chunk of the audience that has been fallowing the games and only the games from Combat Evolved to Reach. It just doesn’t make sense to the casual.
In short, the way the game is played feels like a step sideways. There are tough new enemies that feel a bit too tough at times, and never enough ammo. While advances borrowed from today’s popular shooters like hit detection and grenade awareness meters are a nice touch, they feel completely out of place in this franchise.
Graphics: 8/10 The next Halo game is going to need a new engine. I have no faith that the Reach engine can be polished any further as it’s presented as mixed bag of beautiful lighting and texture effects bogged down by pixilated details and graphical anomaly’s. You will be presented with a picturesque landscape one moment that almost looks next-gen just to kill an Elite the next moment and realize that up close, these enemies look about as good as they did in Halo 3. That, and the bland barren surfaces of everything forerunner has worn out it’s welcome. These are the finer points that bring this other wise beautiful, if not aged, engine down. Oh, I have to mention the pre-rendered cut-scenes. They hold the best graphics I have ever seen in anything, ever. Why they didn’t just shoot live action is beyond me because it looks just as good. While they are fun to watch, they are so cryptic in story that you end up not really knowing what you have seen by the end, other than great graphics.
Sound: 9/10 This is where Halo 4 got it right. I’m talking about the sound effects in particular. Every weapon sounds as a weapon should. Powerful and dangerous. Your armor sounds heavy, vehicles have engines now, I mean they sound the way they would sound in reality and in general the sound effects are top notch and better than they have been in any Halo title to date.
I can’t say the same for the music. While it is fully orchestrated, original, and good quality, I found it to be forgettable. I have played Halo 4 for just over 40 hours, through the campaign on Legendary three times and I can’t hum a single tune from the game. The music at times feels just plain out of place. My best example is the main menu where if I close my eyes I’m sure I’m about to press start on a Final Fantasy title screen.
Value: 8/10 After the 6-8 hour Campaign, you have multiplayer and Spartan Ops which is a feature that essentially replaces Firefight and tells a story that takes place 6 months after the events of Halo 4. That was a mistake on 343’s part. It is not customizable, very repetitive, and tells a story that much like the campaign, leaves with more questions than answers. The multiplayer borrows alot form COD. Their is no rhyme or reason to randomly spawned weapons on the battlefield and rather depends on a scorestreak/loadout system. This is not your daddies Halo. I personally feel that while this style is functional, it detracts from the Halo experience. Frankly, it makes me want to go play COD because COD does it better. I am not happy to be saying this. Trust me.
I guess I have to mention Theatre and Forge as they are both in the game but at the time of writing this the file share system is all but broken so map making is pointless and the theatre only records your most recent multiplayer match. No campaign or Spartan Ops missions are recorded which is a shame when I’ve grown so used to doing something awesome in campaign and watching/recording it to put in my file share in past games. There are no skulls to collect, terminals you can only view by going to a separate application, Halo Waypoint and multiplayer modes that seem to lack focus in all the places that count.
Overall: I’m stuck wondering what went wrong. I mean I guess Halo 3 never needed a sequel but 343i promised so much. They said they had former Bungie employees working for them and that they were planning a new trilogy with new enemies. Coming off of Halo: Reach and Modern Warfare 3 I’m presented with an amalgamation of the two. I’m confused and bewildered that for once “Halo” on the game case doesn’t translate to “Buy this game!”. I’m faced with the conclusion that for me, Halo was over at Reach.
How can anything ever be the same?
I was still very into Goldeneye 007 when the first Halo came out but I gradually grew to really enjoy Team Snipers on Zanzibar on a saturday night with friends as I did with Pistols Only on Facility just a few short years prior. In Bungie’s Halo games we felt powerful but challenged, small but important. Halo 4 makes us just another Spartan in a sea of Spartans and where Halo: Reach proved that idea could work, Halo 4 is just feels like another modern FPS in a sea of modern combat. That’s all.
I give it a 8/10
- Impressive Graphics
- Beautiful Ending
- No Firefight Mode
- Unexplained Continuity