Halo 4 (Xbox 360) Review

By Jacob 23.03.2013 5

Review for Halo 4 on Xbox 360

It's been a while since seeing the Chief in action - and, naturally, speculation has been intense over whether newcomer 343 could truly do justice to the series that revolutionised the first-person shooter. Indeed, it's a monumental task to take over for a developer as well respected as Bungie, and some of that trepidation is evident in the end product. Developer 343 might have been a tad too reverent when it comes to the campaign, and little too hesitant to stamp its own identity on the end product. However, despite this, the team can rest easy in knowing it does have the chops to recreate the Halo experience.

The main campaign here starts with the awakening of Chief, and it immediately feels right to see him back in action. In a world of laser sights and tactical nukes, it's good to be back in the Chief's sturdy boots, yet those good feelings aside, the campaign suffers from a lot of the same problems many have had with other Halo campaigns.
Several times during Halo 4 people will ask themselves the following: why am I playing, and what the hell is going on? For those who don't follow the series mythos closely, there's some confusion to be had in Halo 4. Composers, Diadects, Libarians, and more. Developer 343 is trying so hard to be epic, so hard to be...Bungie. It can't be helped but feel that in trying to emulate everything Bungie already did, the team has thrown away an opportunity to reclaim the series and build something new. That said, the very fact that this isn't a Call of Duty - despite the fact that that series' influence is keenly felt - is refreshing in itself.

As it is, 343 has succeeded in showing that, yes, it is capable of recreating the Halo of yesteryear. Massive sandboxes, powerful weapons, intelligent enemy AI; it's all here just as it was in past games. Armour abilities have been retained from Halo Reach as well, though the implementation here feels a bit more restrained. Despite this solid foundation though, the campaign is lacking for anything new and refreshing.

Videogames can be stiflingly linear with simplistic objectives. Developers often try to get around this limitation with a convincing narrative or some other compelling hook. Give the player a reason to want to see what happens next beyond just simply blasting aliens. Unfortunately, there is no compulsion to play "just one more" level of Halo 4's campaign until eventually closing in on the final chapters. In fact, if it wasn't for Cortana's personal story, there simply wouldn't be anything to care about in Halo 4. Cortana has a condition called rampancy wherein she literally begins to think herself to death. She's the only thing that provides any sort of emotional anchor for the action. The Chief? Nah, he'll be alright. Earth? Well, that's supposedly the reason this is all being done. Lasky? Who? Aside from Cortana's struggle with rampancy, there's just nothing to drive the story.
343 does have a few nifty tricks up its sleeve, though. The campaign features a new alien race with an accompanying weapon set. Furthermore, there's a new vehicle called the Mantis that is exceedingly fun to use in the campaign and devastatingly powerful in multiplayer. Not to mention the new location that provides plenty of excellent set pieces on which to blast things. It's good fun; it's just not a huge departure from what has already been seen before.

Screenshot for Halo 4 on Xbox 360

It's a good thing the core gameplay is so solid. Gun balancing is phenomenal - it can only be imagined how the team managed to make nearly every weapon feel strong and useful and yet not overpowered. Every weapon will be loved, and which one to rely on in every situation will become second nature. That's really a great thing! There's a scene toward the end of the game where Chief is transferred to a room filled with powerful weaponry. Equipping the most powerful guns, though, is not always the best option; equipping a pair that is appropriate for the task ahead sometimes works best. Halo 4's campaign won't be ploughed through with one just firearm; more will be used in interesting and fun ways.

This balance extends to the multiplayer, which is where Call of Duty's influence is most obvious and actually beneficial. Loadouts are all the rage these days, and they are here whether people like it or not. It's a good thing, and the loadouts don't feel as unbalancing as they can be in Call of Duty. Rather, they are an improvement that helps make the game feel more personal. The multiplayer as a whole feels subtly improved - the map selection is good and free of any real duds, and the match-making is quick and painless. The changes do a good job of making the game feel fresh, but don't worry that the traditional Halo feel has disappeared. This is still Halo multiplayer - just a bit more modern.

One loss that may disappoint people is the removal of Firefight. Some may shed no tears - never having found Firefight to be that interesting, but others will. Spartan Ops see 343 recognise that and this is where its biggest gamble comes in. The gameplay itself for these missions isn't too thrilling, but the actual storyline does provide a human touch, something that makes the lack of this in the main campaign even more noticeable.

Whilst not quite loving the campaign, it has to be stated that 343 really has done excellent work here in a lot of ways. For one, the visuals are astounding, and the quality of the art is a high point for the series. The sheer beauty of Halo 4 will blow many away. Particular favorites have to be the forest levels near the beginning of the campaign - in those scenes one can easily see the work of the Retro Studios employees who jumped ship for the chance to work on Halo 4.

Beyond just visuals though, Halo 4 again sets a new audio benchmark for the series and perhaps the industry as a whole. This game must be played with an excellent sound system or quality headphones, since a significant part of the experience will be missed. The new direction the soundtrack has taken has certainly divided fans, with many preferring the thumping sounds from previous composer O'Donnel, but there's no questioning the superiority of the delivery here. With supreme directionality, high quality, and satisfying sound effects for the entire armament, this might be the most impressive aspect of the whole package. The only complaint would be that the lip syncing in cut-scenes is suspect at times, but then again how many video games nail this consistently?

Screenshot for Halo 4 on Xbox 360

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Overall, Halo 4 plays it too safe for its own good. While it's good to see Chief back in action, the campaign just doesn't feel fresh. It's very likely that 343 was being conservative for the first go around, trying to get a feel for Halo before doing anything radical. In the end, this is understandable, if somewhat disappointing. Despite this though, there's no disputing that there's a lot to like about Halo 4. The execution here is excellent, and the production values are a high-mark for the series. With Halo 4, consumers are getting a quality product, but hopefully the team has a little more in mind for Halo 5 than just a new vehicle.




Microsoft Game Studios


First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


ThisRandom (guest) 23.03.2013#1

Halo 4's music is criticised for have too many of those "thumping sounds", where the previous games where famous for their deep, moving notes. While I don't necessarily agree, don't misrepresent the arguments of those against Halo 4's music.

Otherwise, I think this is a good article.

I thoroughly enjoyed Halo 4, it's the only reason why I dusted off my Xbox and played it over the last year. The visual direction was fantastic and the re-mastered audio and tracks were fantastic. I cared about Cortana, but the rest of the story was a little bit of a distraction. Was definitely a solid, game and a return to form for the Halo franchise though for the Chief. It was different, but different good. Not quite there in terms of the scope of Reach, but was enjoyable nonetheless. 

Good review JB Jacob!!

( Edited 24.03.2013 12:41 by Echoes221 )

Jacob, not JB Smilie

I've not been able to get my hands on an Xbox 360 yet (stupid issues on eBay), but this sounds like something I'd definitely be interested in trying out. Didn't realise some ex-Retro folk worked on it! Smilie

Thanks for the review, Jacob - hope to see more of your writing here on C3 Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Adam Riley said:
Jacob, not JB Smilie

I've not been able to get my hands on an Xbox 360 yet (stupid issues on eBay), but this sounds like something I'd definitely be interested in trying out. Didn't realise some ex-Retro folk worked on it! Smilie

Thanks for the review, Jacob - hope to see more of your writing here on C3 Smilie

Woops! Fixed. 

Yeah, the senior designer had some input on it. Probably why the Prometheans looked so much like space pirates. 

Thanks guys!

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