Genre: First Person Shooter
Developed by: 343 Industries
Published by: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: XBox 360, PC
Feeling Like: Stone Cold Master Chief
I feel totally unprepared to tackle the Halo franchise in written form.
It’s totally synonymous with modern video games; the original arrived like a nuclear bomb, taking console shooters to a new level and making the Xbox a household name. It’s not hyperbolic to say without the Halo series, we wouldn’t have the Xbox One today (or the next generation Xbox next year). It’s as influential, if not as critically lauded, as Super Mario.
In what seems to be an inevitable course of action on the 500, I’m starting a franchise with my least favorite entry. Halo 4 is still a competent, flashy, exciting first person shooter. It also is the first in a new trilogy, goes in a different direction and had nowhere near the impact of previous iterations.
I mean, you can’t do it forever. Eventually, every series plateaus. Pixar had an incomprehensible run of near-perfect movies, but even they hit a slump with Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University. Square-Enix has definitely seen that it’s impossible to be seen as the most revolutionary name in role playing year after year. There’s always a bigger fish coming, without having the disadvantage of having preconceived expectations from your legions of passionate fans. Do I even need to mention Star Wars?
It’s not as if Halo 4 is bad. Hardly. It has campaign co-op (as you’ll remember from Resistance: Fall of Man, I really like this feature), the controls are as tight as ever, it’s a giant new world with fascinating aliens and technology aplenty. The soundtrack is phenomenal. The levels are exciting to navigate, if a bit samey as the previous iterations. The story really pushes Master Chief’s relationship with his AI companion Cortana nicely. The graphics are astounding, even for 2012. The voice acting rocks. In fact, there’s really not much to complain about.
I think the only main reason why it’s not higher on the list is the even higher reverence I have for the other titles in the franchise. I rarely outright owned a Halo game, but hours and hours were spent with my high school buddies, namely Ian, Dave, Scott and Kyle. Multiplayer dominated our sessions, but that didn’t mean we didn’t find time to go through the entire campaign in co-op with four players. It remains the first, and only time I’ve gone through a story with four instead of two or one and for that reason, you’ll find Halo 3 very far up the list.
I’ll have to go into my history with Halo later on and focus more on what I did find in Halo 4. As usual, I didn’t dive into the multiplayer much, but this was one of the first games I played with Kyla. It’s always a treat playing games with her; we’re very different in terms of approaches to puzzles and fights. I rush in, she’s more patient. I give up easily, she’s more resilient. I experiment, she remembers things. Many of the games on the 500 enjoy the benefit of being played next to her; everything is better when we’re doing it together. It’s one of the (many) reasons why I asked her to marry me. Thankfully, she said yes.
I don’t remember the details of the story (Master Chief and Cortana, I vividly remember proposing in Hawaii), but I do remember the gravitas of the cutscenes. Characters had more personality than previous games; decisions weren’t always clean, there’s much more of a blurred line between “good” and “bad.” The greater good, history and allegiances are all strong themes here and it works. Or at least, it worked for me when I played it.
Am I just getting old? Have I just played too many games to properly remember things? Or is it just a natural progression of memory; when a campaign only lasts 10 hours, a fraction of the total time I’ve dedicated to games, how can it possibly leave that much of a lasting impression?
The more I dig in, the more I remember why I loved this experience. Gunshots were loud. Vehicles were thrilling to navigate terrain with. MECHS.
There are mechs.
This is cheating when it comes to endearing ol’ HSkey; I LOVE MECHS.
Soaring through the air on banshees next to Kyla was just terrific. I was really disappointed with Halo 5: Guardians‘ announcement that there would be no campaign co-op, but pleased to hear Halo: Infinite will have it!
Don’t get me started on how Halo: Infinite doesn’t have a “6” in the title.
Now I’m getting sidetracked. Halo 4 was a blast. There.