Halo 4 - Review
The first course of the Halo 4 banquet is the single campaign, the beginning of a new and already confirmed trilogy that will take us to Halo 6. After more than four years of cryogenic sleep, Cortana awakens Master Chief, drifting into space on the wreck of the Forward Unto Dawn. The destination, as anyone who has completed Halo 3 on a legendary level knows, is Requiem, a mysterious planet that is home to the greatest secrets of the precursors. Our hero, sucked into his gravitational field, will find new enemies, facing the usual Covenants and discovering the lethal Promethean. His adventure, crucial for the fate of the galaxy, is intertwined with the story of Cortana, grappling with an age malfunction, common to all types of Artificial Intelligences of its type. The tension of the events and the clashes is underlined by the evolution of the relationship between the boss and his faithful holographic friend, with sequences and dialogues that for the first time explore the feelings of Master Chief, trying to show the man who hides behind to that impersonal green helmet. It is almost a love story, albeit implicit and science fiction, that will be able to excite long-time fans, also thanks to a top-level narrative, well integrated into the furious rhythms of a subjective shooter.
Requiem weather forecast: heavy rain.
From the gameplay point of view, the campaign is undoubtedly the most traditionalist side of Halo 4, with an almost total adherence to the pillars of the series. We have a linear but spacious level design, which alternates narrow corridors with airy arenas in the open field. There are vehicles to fly, CPU controlled allies and a myriad of monsters and enemies, all with precise movement and attack patterns. Even the management of weapons recalls the old episodes, with a constant lack of bullets that always pushes to collect new rifles from the corpses, giving life to a pleasant alternation of different types of firing, which marks the rhythm of the action. For health we return to the origins, and more precisely to Halo 2 and 3, with shields that automatically regenerate when they do not take damage for a few seconds. The most significant innovations come with weapons, which for the first time include the devastating technologies of the Prometheans, capable of adapting to the hands of almost any species.
There is nothing revolutionary, but there is enough variety to entertain until the last mission, also thanks to the presence of some new enemies. The great protagonists are undoubtedly the Promethean Knights, very fast and armed warriors, capable of dodging bullets and teleporting when things go wrong. Their strength multiplies exponentially when the hateful Watchers come in, flying sentries who, in addition to shooting, can create shields for the enemy and even resurrect the fallen Knights. They are an exciting variable for many fights, also because they often willingly force the player to deal with them before, discovering the side to the attacks of other enemies.
The graphics are applause, especially considering the age of the Xbox 360.
It is a varied and intense action, without downtime, which contains more gameplay and ideas than most of the other shooters on the market, without deviating from the series formula. Some will criticize the duration of the adventure, which depending on the level chosen will require 6 to 8 hours, a figure destined to thin by tackling everything in a cooperative. Personally I prefer experiences like this, incisive and without watered down levels, but I can understand that someone can be disappointed.
343 Industries, however, prevents criticism from those who would have wanted a few more hours of plot with the Spartan Ops, missions designed for the cooperative, published in episodes. The first season, completely free, will see 50 missions, published at the rate of 5 per week. These are not trivial cooperative arenas or Firefight-style modes, but a series of adventures focused on the Majestic team, complete with dialogues and interlude scenes. The first Spartan Ops available are of excellent quality, and in addition to the online game they also support the splitscreen, which thanks to the clean graphics and the chromatic choices of 343 is more readable and usable than usual. The individual missions last about 15 minutes and can be replayed at various difficulty levels, together with up to three friends, locally or through Xbox Live.
It is a solomonic solution to the eternal dilemma on the duration of the shooters: on the one hand we have an intense main campaign, also suitable for those who do not have infinite hours to devote to video games, and on the other we find valid episodic content, which for more than two months will continue to give us Halo pills. The only problem is that Spartan Ops are accessible only to those who have a Gold subscription to Xbox Live: it is a very questionable choice, destined to raise the protests of offline players, but all in all forgivable. Halo 4 is a 70% online game, and buying it just to play solo is a waste to say the least.
The Spartan Ops, in cooperative, are a total fun.
The big knob of discord, destined to attract the ire of some fans towards 343 Industries, is undoubtedly the multiplayer, the front on which the most daring changes have been made. Looking into the future in my magical sphere, I see hordes of Bungie followers, complete with pitchforks, shouting: "You have turned Halo into Call of Duty, damned filibuster!" Some of the elements introduced, in fact, blatantly wink at Activision's workhorse, altering the rhythm of some modalities, and above all requiring veterans to develop new strategies.
Halo's competitive multiplayer has always orbited around the control of the most powerful weapons, which in the past appeared at regular intervals at specific points on the map, of crucial tactical importance. Halo 4 completely overturns this system, removing the fixed spawns and replacing them with random releases, which in some moments of the game make a weapon or a grenade appear at an always different point. It may seem like a small detail, but the pace and structure of the games changes radically. The dropped weapon appears on the viewer of all players, who can therefore immediately identify the extent of the threat: a handful of grenades can be cheerfully ignored, but a sniper rifle or a railgun are dishes too greedy to be left at the mercy of the enemy. This creates interesting dynamics, which create impromptu "hot spots" on the map, which at times remind us of objective methods. There are those who coordinate with their companions to grab a precious weapon on the fly, but also those who take advantage of the random release as bait to attract the most unwary Spartans and shoot them from distance. In doing so, moreover, campers have a more difficult life, given that the balance of the map moves continuously, making the classic stalking useless.
The Halo 4 multi takes place inside a simulator on the Infinity ship.
The other change that can be misunderstood as an imitation of Call of Duty is the character growth system, complete with experience points and levels that unlock aesthetic elements (such as armor, fully customizable) and gameplay, with weapons , powers and tactical packages. Players can therefore create various equipment, and then choose comfortably with each respawn. If in the old Halo everyone started with a soldier identical to the others, here everyone can customize his spartan, deciding before the game what type of style to adopt.
Even the powers of the armor, which in Reach were to be collected on the field, are a trait that is unlocked and assigned from the equipment menu. Once again we are faced with a bold, marked change, which clarifies the will of 343 Industries to distance themselves from the last choices made by Bungie. The armor powers in question have also been changed and renewed: Reach's hated Armor Lock has disappeared, the shot has become an innate skill of every spartan and there are powers of great weight such as the Promethean view, the active camouflage and the holograms. The other news are the immediate respawns (only in some modes) and the so-called "Infinity drops", rewards for players who get more points during a game, and who can choose whether to receive a weapon, grenades or an upgrade (at the armor, at speed or damage dealt).
Artificial Intelligences don't need bras, apparently.
La Fucina is also back, the mode for geeks who want to create new levels, which sees a series of improvements to the interface, with the possibility of duplicating objects, a system of dynamic lights that also involves the structures placed by the user and the introduction of particular areas of influence, in which a myriad of variables can be modified, from the force of gravity to the shields of those inside them.
It will take a few weeks of play to observe all the consequences of 343 Industries' choices, and above all a more in-depth test of what I was able to carry out during the review phase, even just to observe the functioning of matchmaking and netcode. That said, going beyond the appearances and the bogeyman of a flattening on Call of Duty standards, Halo 4 is and remains a Halo experience, with different rhythms but similar to the spirit of the series.
It is natural that the new studio receives a shower of criticism, because the gamer is a capricious creature who detests repetitive experiences but is at the same time troubled by changes, but 343 Industries has done an excellent job. They are sensitive but respectful modifications of the series, which demonstrate the desire to take the future of Master Chief in hand and take it in new directions, with the enthusiasm that was beginning to lack in the last productions of Bungie.
Fabio Bortolotti once fell in love with an IRC bot named Anna, but would also gladly invite that great daughter of Cortana to dinner. Come and suggest improper rhymes on Facebook and Twitter.