The One Hour Play Test That Became a Review: Halo 4

Arguably the most anticipated title of the year hit shop shelves last week, as 343 Industries picked up the mantle from Bungie and fired Halo 4 at us like a fuel rod cannon to the chops.

It’s not like there was any pressure on 343 Industries here – I mean, they’ve only picked up one of gamings most beloved franchises, taken over one of the biggest multi-player bases and extended the story of one of the most iconic characters of the last decade.

Such an event could not pass us by, and once more Lolocaust Outpost Delta saw the lights turned down, the sound turned up and the cats banished to the garden as we fired up the latest One Hour Play Test….except one hour really wouldn’t be enough time to give such a grand launch the attention it deserved.

Halo isn’t just about the campaign after all, there is a huge amount of love for the multi-player and they’ve introduced Spartan Ops as an extension of the story. To top if off we also saw one of the finest game tie ins ever made, with the fantastic Forward Unto Dawn shorts leading up to the games launch.

*Phew* – that’s a lot to take in to consideration! But it’s with the campaign we will start, as Halo 4 picks up the story of gaming idol Master Chief four years after the events of Halo 3. Our beloved hero is woken from stasis and thrust back in to the action in an opening not entirely unfamiliar to fans of the series as *his ship* (or at least what is left of it) comes under attack.

‘Familiarity’ is probably the word of the day here. It is unmistakably Halo. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed, it may even win over a few non believers as well.

As well as extending the Halo story arc, 343 Industries have given the visuals and audio a spiffy little upgrade for gamers to salivate over. And it does look rather nifty. VERY nifty in fact! This isn’t just a spit and polish job that goes with the territory in the sequel-verse, Halo 4 is beautiful – a term I try not to throw around too much in the gaming world.

The use of lighting gives everything a much more ‘real’ feel – a living, breathing world. The cut scenes are at times breathtakingly sleek and stylish and set my mind racing in to what possibilities lay before the franchise if this is what they can do for a few minutes worth of prologue on ‘current gen’ technology…

Radio transmissions and ‘chats’ with Cortana are not just audio any more  we now get video links popping up in the HUD. The gun fire sounds seem to have a little more meat to them, and sound better than ever – as much as that may sound corny, again it adds to the feel of the game and the way it sucks you in.

Whilst none of this is particularly ground breaking in itself (every sequel surpasses its parent in these areas), it’s the little things that make Halo 4 not just snap and crackle, but pop as well.

Some have derided the campaign as too short, I say it’s is quality over quantity – 343 have gone for 8 missions of quality rather than padding out the story to make it 10 or 12. Throw in a run on Legendary and it probably won’t feel so short either….

Moving to the multi-player side of things – or Infinity as it has been re-branded – and again there is a very familiar feeling, but with some delightful tune ups to enhance the experience. Slayer, King of the Hill and the usual fair are all present and correct. The new Flood mode is like some twisted game of bulldog and will likely find a niche place in gamers hearts.

Spartan Ops provides a co-operative extension to the main story line. In simplistic terms it is very similar to Special Ops in the Call of Duty games, but seems to be much more ‘part of the story’ and less like an enjoyable blast which is loosely affiliated to the campaign, as Special Ops seemed to be.

As a spin off tale of what happens to some of UNSC Infinity’s crew whilst on the planet, Spartan Ops not only adds to the overall ‘world’ Halo 4 has tried to establish, but its feels like the natural progression of the previous co-op mode – Firefight. Again it takes all that was good about its predecessor and builds on it.

Oh, but the best thing about it all? NO FUCKING FLOOD!!!!!! Woooooooooo! *cough* Sorry, lost myself for a minute there…

Halo 4 surpasses any of Master Chief’s previous run outs. It may even be the best of the Halo games – with an honourable mention to Reach here, which is the other contender to the crown.

Whilst it doesn’t revolutionise first person shooters on consoles (as the original did all those years ago), it’s a fine comeback for the Chief and one of this generations stand out shooters.

Stuff your Black Ops, the Chief is back!


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