Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: Halo 4 (Campaign)

I have to be honest - I picked up Halo 4 with very little expectation-wise. I didn't think I'd get much out of it, except a chance to gloat at another sub-par sequel flooding the market this year.

Boy, was I wrong. 343 did nothing short of an astounding job not only surpassing my meager expectations, but surprising me in many ways. Potential spoiler alert.

I love that for the first time in the games, I heard Master Chief called John. I'm a real fan of the Halo series, even going so far as to read the Reach novel this past summer - which filled in a lot of the blanks regarding the beginning cut scene of the game. I highly suggest it for anyone even remotely interested in the Halo series that's looking for a good read. You can find a link to the book for purchase at Amazon here.

The real heart of the story shines through the stale game play and sub-par difficulty (until you crank it up to legendary, more on that in a second). There's a real connection established between the characters, and for the first time in many years I found myself beating a game and immediately wanting to know more. I want to see those relationships developed. I want to know what's next. 343 outdid themselves in that regard.

Why do I say stale game play and sub-par difficulty? I could literally go on for days. Let me throw out some bullet points before I sum up my overall thoughts:

 - No dual wielding. This was a fantastic addition to the games in the past, but (probably for balance reasons) was done away with. This added a bit of your own flavor to weapon combinations. Also, double-needlers were awesome.

- The new weapons are bad. Easily the worst that have come into any of the games thus far. The entire Promethean weapon set is either a direct copy of other weapons (sniper rifle and rocket launcher with different effects), or absolutely and completely useless. Unfortunately, there are many Promethean-only stages in the campaign, and you are forced to squander through them wondering why you're not just meleeing everything.

- Grunts don't look like grunts. Everything else looks nearly the same, why change them now? It looks like the pillsbury dough-boy snuck into my video game.

- The enemies don't say anything funny. Ever. Even with the rare-dialogue skull enabled.

- The vehicle control is awful at times - mostly regarding flight-capable vehicles. In previous Halo games, I'd go on 50-kill rampages with the Banshee. Not going to happen in Halo 4, partly because the control is bad, and partly because of reasons I'll mention in the multiplayer review.

 - The campaign is short, if you've played Halo before, you're used to this. It's about 5-6 hours on normal. But on Legendary...

That's where this was all leading up to. Legendary was frustrating in previous games, it forced you to take stock of situations and approach them differently in order to succeed.

Legendary in Halo 4 doesn't do that. For starters, anything but a headshot doesn't seem to count. Shooting enemies in the back is a complete waste of time. Grunts will soak up entire clips if a headshot isn't scored. Sticky grenades don't kill elites outright, just takes down their shields (yes, really). Their shields take 1-2 clips of ammo in order to bring down - then you need to finish them with a headshot quickly, or the shields recharge.

 You die in 1-2 hits, if a grenade goes off anywhere near you, you're dead. Jackal snipers, again. I've played through most of the campaign, and it's significantly harder then its predecessors - the only genuine complaint I have is that I honestly don't have enough ammo. I can play the duck and cover game, make sure my shots count, but I'm constantly finding myself without enough ammo to finish off a room of enemies.

Now, before you troll me, I'm a good player. I'm probably hitting 80% of my shots in the enemies' face. I have good grenade placement, and I don't sit out in the open and complain I get wrecked time and time again.  Truthfully, I'm not dying that much. The problem is, neither is the enemy.

All in all, it's a good game - but the Legendary difficulty is definitely one to bring your friends along with. It'll just be easier and faster. You won't notice much difference between normal and heroic, and easy is well... laughably easy. Won't divulge much more for the friends that haven't played it yet and after all, there's a whole world of multiplayer to talk about!