While "Halo 4" plays as you would expect it to play based on the original Halo titles, it is a great departure from the original trilogy in terms of its story, and follows in the footsteps of "ODST" and "Reach". The result is a brilliant single player to rival the engaging multiplayer, a powerful combination the previous titles often lacked.
The campaign mode takes the Master Chief into the Forerunner shield-world Requiem. If that is confusing to you then the one big issue with the game's campaign may be a problem for you: It plows forward without providing much context or explanation. Information mentioned by other characters or in the collectible videos lying around provides some context, but doesn’t explain everything.
Despite this, the main campaign towers over those of previous "Halo" games. Developer 343 Industries has worked hard to make everything from the characters to the audio dynamic. The Covenant (a group of aliens sharing the same god) returns stronger, and the new Prometheans (remnants from a supposedly-extinct alien race) offer a unique challenge. The presentation is the real star, as redone audio will leave the guns blasting and cracking through your speakers while the lighting and detailed graphics take your breath away. The environments feel majestic and unique, making the game breathtaking.
Multiplayer comes in two parts, War Games and Spartan Ops. War Games are generally the same Halo multiplayer as before, with modes such as Slayer, Capture The Flag, and SWAT. Each focuses on a death match variant, whether you’re aiming for the most kills in Slayer or killing the enemy team to capture their flag. Spartan Ops is a collection of five co-op maps, to be played with up to four players. These will provide an opportunity to play through unique scenarios as a Spartan (augmented human soldiers with advanced armor), and 343 Industries promises to keep adding packs of five maps throughout the year.
The changes to the War Games multiplayer, chiefly that there are now loadouts, are actually a perfect compliment to the game. Loadouts give players an option to customize their assault weapon, pistol, grenade type, armor power, and two perks (one offensive, one defensive). The result is a "Halo" game that plays a little more toward your preference without allowing anyone to abuse over-powered guns.
Speaking of which, in previous "Halo" games weapons appeared in certain areas, meaning experienced players could camp at those locations to ensure constant access to a rocket launcher. While some weapons spawn on the map natively, the player now has access to Ordinance Drops, a set of three guns/tools to help you. These are earned by filling a meter through kills, assists, etc. For example, a typical game might give you the shotgun, railgun, and speed boost. You are free to chose one that best suits your needs, allowing games to dynamically change based on the preferences of those playing.
Minor issues aside, it’s been a while since a game has come out that is as multi-faceted as "Halo 4" without compromising on quality. Some believe the original "Halo" was the definitive game; however, "Halo 4" sets a new standard for the series. From graphics and environments to characters and multiplayer, this is what the "Halo" series was always meant to be, period.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Austin Sandford is a junior sociology and writing double major from Austin, Texas.