Yes, the universe is under threat once again and yes a video gaming icon is called upon to take on all who oppose him.
But unexpectedly, the real fight is from within; 343 Industries have taken the Halo franchise under its wing and improved upon the series in a big way and brought us the much anticipated release of Halo 4.
Marking the huge triumphant return of the Master Chief and his AI companion Cortana, Halo 4 marks the beginning of a new trilogy in the series, bringing forth its tremendous narrative, gunplay and a vast array of weaponry, with breath-taking sights and sounds and of course its ground breaking multiplayer (I will review that separately as it is a beast of its own).
Set four years after the event of Halo 3, the Master Chief is frozen in a cryostasis chamber on board the USNC ship Forward unto Dawn which is partially destroyed and floating close to a forerunner planet.
After we see Master Chiefs AI sidekick Cortana awaken the Chief, we find out that the Covenant still roam the universe and have taken refuge on the nearby planet, and it is soon apparent that this mysterious planet is home to a new enemy, Didact and his Prometheans.
That’s the basic premise of the sub-story (yes I said SUB-story), the true battle is with Cortana who is suffering from ‘Rampancy’ which is a condition AI’s suffer from when their existence is coming to an end making death inevitable.
So Master Chief embarks on a journey, not only to save the universe, but to save his fellow companion.
The story telling in Halo 4 is unprecedented and is told so well that it keeps you glued to the screen. It oozes emotion and purpose and the brilliant voice acting from returning Steve Downes and Jen Taylor, who reprise their roles as Master Chief and Cortana, is second to none. It is so good you can feel Master Chief’s emotions even though he doesn’t have a face.
343 Industries have outdone themselves with regards to the visuals straight from the word go.
Starting from the iced up chamber of the Chiefs slumber, to the all-out war sequences that take part on the surface of the forerunner planet which is on such a scale, it would make Halo’s 1 to 3 combined look miniscule.
It’s the attention to detail and eye-watering visuals that make Halo 4 superior to its predecessors and with the introduction to the new enemies which look stunning and are tough cookies.
Facial graphics on the humans and on the antagonist are something else to behold, every muscle and texture is super high quality and is only comparable to the blockbuster movie Avatar.
Another point worth mentioning is the way the promethean weapons seem to assemble when they are first picked up which was a joy to watch.
The shooting mechanics remain intact and have been fine tuned to suit players of all types.
Each level starts off with a specific load out, however you will soon find yourself scavenging from your enemies. The variety of weapons enhances the first person shooting gameplay immensely. On top of the returning human and covenant arsenals, we are introduced to the new promethean weaponry which is faster, more powerful and a lot more diverse.
Like the Scattershot, for example. It is primarily a promethean shotgun, however the shells bounce around when fired if no target is hit.
The gunplay is fast and frantic and enemies are smarter than before, making the player think about their movements and with the large scaled environments, finding cover is essential.
Halo 4 also brings back its vehicular sequences, with returning vehicles the Warthog, Ghost, Banshee and the new addition, the Mantis which is a mech type vehicle that walks on two legs.
However it packs a serious punch with its machine gun and rocket launcher which compensates for its slow groggy movements.
The gameplay is second to none in Halo 4 and with the ability to sprint added, gives this game a more tactical feel and gives Master Chief a more soldier feel, still no iron sight view though.
The vehicles handle superbly and your comrades now act smarter which makes them more useful when they man the big gun on the back of the Warthog.
The flying sections are superb whether it’s a huge pelican or a banshee, flying is bliss and gives Halo the depth is boasts.
The return of Master Chief is a triumphant one! 343 Industries and Microsoft have set the bar on first person shooters with this masterpiece. Halo 4 has the best shooting and driving gameplay you have ever experienced. However it’s the visuals and grand scale that makes Halo 4 a force to be reckoned with in the gaming industry and it will take something special to top it. Full marks go to 343 Industries.
To read our review of the multiplayer element of this game, go to www.theleet.co.uk
Developers: 343 Industries
Publishers: Microsoft Studios
Genre: First Person shooter
Release Date: 6th November 2012
Story – 5/5
Graphics – 5/5
Gameplay – 5/5
Overall – 5/5