Halo 4 Review: Updated Impressions

Halo 4 Updated Impressions

After spending the past month with Halo 4, here’s some updated impressions on 343’s first addition to the franchise.

Read my complete Halo 4 Review here.

Over the past couple weeks, a nagging feeling has crept it’s way into my brain. A feeling that Halo 4 is not quite everything it should be. I’m still playing and greatly enjoying Halo 4’s multiplayer. Spartan Ops has failed to capture me in terms of its narrative, but the gameplay experience is still a blast. But the campaign… there is something missing from the campaign.

Now that I have several campaign runs under my belt, a certain “hollowness” has become increasingly apparent to me. Halo 4’s campaign is filled with set-piece scenarios and hardcore fan service. 343 knows exactly what how to get Halo fans excited. You’ve always wanted to fly a Pelican, right? Here you go! You want more space combat? We’ve got that too. Remember the “Elephant” from Halo 3? Here’s something even bigger!

Halo Reach Space Combat Halo 4 Space CombatMany segments of the Halo 4 campaign aim to recapture the magic of previous games.

Halo 4 has plenty of great setups, to be sure. But the payoffs are either strikingly familiar, or they just fail to deliver their full potential.

Here’s a Mammoth filled with friendly Marine forces… just don’t expect it to do anything. Here’s a heavily armed Pelican for you to fly, but you’re only going to use it to travel between checkpoints. Here’s an outer-space arena, with nothing in it but a few turrets.

Never before in a Halo game have I been surrounded by so much “stuff”, yet felt so isolated.

Halo CE Warthog RushHalo 4 fails to create any stand-out iconic moments like CE’s final Warthog Rush

As the humongous Mammoth begins to roll through mission 5, I’m thinking “oh man, this is gonna be great!”. All the ingredients are in place for a truly spectacular gameplay experience. We’ve got a mobile base with missile turrets, deployable warthogs, loads of heavy weaponry, and a full compliment of marines. But the mission squanders much of its potential, because these elements don’t really come into play unless the player takes direct control. The player is forced to single-handedly deal with entire enemy platoons, while the Mammoth just sits there. The friendly AI might as well not be there, because they don’t shoot at anything, they rarely use the turrets, and when they do try to use one of the Warthogs they get themselves blown up instantly.

Playing this mission co-op gives the player a taste of the potential fun to be had. The Mammoth becomes a living, breathing part of the environment, with Spartans taking marine-loaded Warthogs out onto the battlefield while other Spartans man the turrets or snipe from the roof. It brings a dynamic element to the mission that simply isn’t there when played solo.

There are times when 343 comes close to matching Bungie’s knack for creating highlight moments. The Mantis vs Banshee battle during the 7th mission and the Scorpion fleet at the end of the 5th mission both have that true “Halo” level of scale, while making the player feel like they are part of a larger battle. But never does Halo 4 match the Gauss-Hog segment of Halo 2, the mongoose rush in Halo Reach, or the Scarab battles of Halo 3.

Halo 4 Tank BattleTank combat in Halo 4 is fun, but does not add anything new to the classic formula

In many cases, Halo 4’s most memorable moments are purely visual: watching the Chief float through the debris field towards Requiem, emerging through a cave and seeing the vast Forerunner planet before us, or watching the mighty Infinity rip through the clouds and surge towards the surface. The game is better at showing these key climactic moments than it is at doing them.

That is not to say that Halo 4 isn’t fun to play. It is loads of fun. But the fun is very familiar. There is nothing wrong with that, I just wish there was at least one or two moments that would make me say “I’ve never had an experience quite like this before”.

 

My hope for the future is that 343 will focus less on reminding the player of all the great moments in past Halo games, and create some new ones instead. Halo 4 is a very enjoyable game, but if I were not already a Halo fan, I doubt the campaign would capture me the way Bungie’s Halo games did. Still, 343 has shown huge amounts of potential. They’ve laid a strong mechanical foundation for themselves. Despite all my complaints, I love Halo 4. But it doesn’t blow me away… not quite.

Read my complete Halo 4 Review here.

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6 Responses to Halo 4 Review: Updated Impressions

  1. Pingback: If I was making Halo 5 – Part 2 [Campaign Design] | CruelLEGACEY Productions

  2. Golgo13 says:

    I was thinking about more or less the same thing recently, except about the level ‘Halo’, specifically where you rescue the marines in the rocks and have to fend off the Covenant assault. For me, this was the best and most exiting engagement of the series so far. Sad since it takes place so early in the first game… I just like how many different ways there are to play through that section (especially considering the whole non-linearity of that entire level, which we haven’t really seen since either.
    I didn’t really feel That “Dawn” lived up to “Pillar of Autumn” from the first game either. I’m sure there’s lots more places to make these comparisons, but I agree with you that 343 got it “close, but not quite” in their first full Halo game. IMO they make up for it with all the expanded universe tie-ins, but there should be no excuse for lackluster and unpolished levels (especially with so many competing outlets for entertainment dollars these days). I’m crossing my fingers that they do a better job now that they’re familiar with the software and firing on all cylinders.

  3. gunn3r11 says:

    I don’t completely agree with you, but you did a fantastic job with this updated review. I think most of your critiques come from being to close to the game. You have the advantage of playing Halo CE on the original XBOX. There is nothing that will ever replace that significant moment or experience.

    By today’s standards, the original lacks stunning graphics and features. But at the time, there was literally nothing else like it. It was ground-breaking. It not only drop us into our favorite sci-fi action movie, gave us beefed up guns to kill aliens, but allowed us to interact with nearly everything.

    It’s some of the small things that made Halo a phenomenon that we take for granted. Everyone is a critic with a cynical palate. Halo 4 is a sequel and i don’t expect it to replace any of the great experiences from previous games. I’m looking forward to creating new one’s with Halo 4.

    It’s the story and the emotional intimacy that this version trades on. All the space combat and elephantized vehicles are there, but we’re experiencing more than just fist-clinching, videogame battles. This is our Star Wars.

    Gunner Eleven

    • CruelLEGACEY says:

      For me, it’s not an issue of replacing my memories of the original. CE is actually far from my favorite in the series.
      To me, the greater problem is that every single Halo game has given me some kind if new, fresh experience… until Halo 4. It does a decent job of recreating established formulas from previous games, but never adds anything new.

  4. Halo 4’s levels are plenty long enough (unfortunately often padded by unskippable sequences in which the player does nothing) but they suffer from a lack of breadth and depth. Both physically and figuratively.

  5. Pingback: Halo 4 Review | CruelLEGACEY Productions

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