It has been five years since “Halo 3.” Master Chief has taken the backseat since the finale of the massively successful game, while titles like “Wars,” “Reach” and “ODST” have focused on developing a backstory for the Spartans and allowing multiplayer to evolve. Now, he’s back and kicking ass like he never went into retirement.
Suddenly awoken by Cortana, your (mostly) trusty AI pal from the last few games, the player finds that colliding headfirst into an alien-made planet is about as unpleasant as it seems. The planet, Requiem, acts as the backdrop for most of the action in “Halo 4.” Pulling from all sources of the canon — the animated series “Halo Legends,” all previous games and even the novels — the story in “Halo 4” is by far the most developed and complex.
The Covenant are back and as much of a pain as ever, with Jackals taking potshots at the player from a distance and Hunters taking chunks out of everything within range, exactly as they have been since the series’ inception.
A new class of enemies — Prometheans — fights for the Forerunners, who die-hard “Halo” lore experts will remember as the architects behind the original Halo construct. They wield zany new Forerunner-technology equivalents of familiar weapons such as the shotgun and pistol and are the primary opponent players will run into on Requiem.
As far as gameplay goes, though, it’s the same ol’ run-and-gun that “Halo” players know and love. Four difficulties, from Easy to the fearsome Legendary, and gameplay modifiers ranging from Catch (enemies throw tons of grenades) to Grunt Birthday Party (scoring a headshot on a Grunt enemy will cause an explosion of confetti) make replaying your favorite levels with different settings an extremely fun and satisfying experience.
As expected, the multiplayer for “Halo 4” is rock-solid. Players can now sprint without the requirement of a perk, as they did in “Reach,” instead of sacrificing a play-style altering ability like deployable sentries, stealth, jetpacks or additional shields. “Spartan Ops” replaces the immensely popular Firefight mode from “ODST” and “Reach,” providing new and challenging missions every week.
The War Games mode of multiplayer allows players to delve into the white-knuckle combat that has become synonymous with the franchise. The new perks and weaponry add just enough innovation so veterans will not feel lost amid five years of changes without inherently changing how the game is played: kill or be killed in no-holds-barred Deathmatches, or outmaneuver enemies in Capture the Flag-type games. A loadout system similar to “Call of Duty” rewards players based on performance and experience gained throughout matchmaking.
“Halo 4” is everything gamers could have hoped and dreamed for in a true continuation of the series. With Neil Davidge’s composition providing spot-on music for the epic, high-intensity gameplay, the game looks and plays beautifully while managing not to feel like a rehash of an 11-year-old series about shooting things in the face. Master Chief is back and kicking alien ass in the best way possible.