Play
Please use a flash video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Review

Halo 4 Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • X360

A thrilling, moving story and intense competitive multiplayer help Halo 4 continue the series' reign as one of the premier shooter franchises.

'

Halo is in new hands. After chronicling humanity's defeat in Halo: Reach, developer and series creator Bungie passed the reins to 343 Industries, who has charted a new course for the iconic Spartan and his AI companion, Cortana. In Halo 4, the duo confronts a fresh new threat to the human race and grapples with mortality in a way the series never has before. The result is the most compelling story a Halo game has ever told, conveyed through a campaign that combines the excellent combat, pacing, and environmental design that have long been hallmarks of the series. The intriguing new cooperative mode feels flimsy, but the competitive multiplayer reasserts itself as one of the most exciting offerings in the genre. Halo 4 doesn't just take the franchise baton in stride; it sprints out confidently to keep Master Chief and company at the head of the pack.

At the end of Halo 3, Master Chief and Cortana were adrift on a derelict ship, having just struck the final blow to bring an end to the Covenant's devastating campaign against the human race. Chief then entered cryo-sleep for the next four years, while humanity poured its energies into fortifying its defenses and expanding its galactic presence. A captivating opening cutscene shows this new initiative taking a critical look at the past, foreshadowing some interesting tension later in the game. Meanwhile, Chief and Cortana are roused when they stumble upon a dire threat to humanity's existence. This foe provides the series with its first proper villain, one whose roots in previously-vague Forerunner mythology soon come into frightening focus.

These galactic machinations are dramatic and intriguing, and they are brought to life vividly by Halo 4's stunning technical prowess. From sweeping panoramic vistas to claustrophobic jungle clearings, the environments are rich with detail enhanced by thoughtful lighting and sharp textures. The excellent artistic design that makes human, Covenant, and Forerunner architecture so instantly recognizable is on display once more, helping to create a cohesive sci-fi world. Expressive facial animations bring characters to life, imbuing the cutscenes with extra emotional weight and making the story that much more engaging. It's all tied together with an amazing soundtrack that complements every aspect of the game. Alien environments ring with eerie strains, characters' emotions are reflected in plangent chords, and the intense action is driven along by urgent orchestrations.

Yet for all the excitement and emotion of the main plot, the most engrossing drama of Halo 4 takes place between Master Chief and Cortana. Everyone's favorite artificial intelligence is nearing her expiration date, forcing these two all-but-invincible characters to face the prospect of death in a way they never have. This delicate, degenerative process is handled eloquently, and great voice acting, animation, and writing combine for some poignant moments. 343 Industries delivers a compelling narrative on both an intimate and a grand scale, with a satisfying conclusion that will make you excited for what's to come.

Halo 4 is a striking step up in storytelling for the series, but when it comes to the action, things are more familiar. Halo has always been a shooter built on clear gameplay systems that combine in complex and gratifying ways. The crafty and aggressive enemy AI squads work together, adjusting their tactics as you assault their ranks. Your four-pronged arsenal of guns, grenades, melee attacks, and armor abilities fuels a variety of different battlefield strategies. And the environments both large and small provide enough space to maneuver creatively, occasionally furnishing a vehicle or two for your driving enjoyment.

These systems are a through line in the series and they continue to hold up well in Halo 4, right down to the Covenant enemies that you fight at various points throughout the campaign (apparently not everyone knows the war is over). They still make great foes, but the new Promethean enemies offer a fresh combat challenge. Canine crawlers fire from a distance or swarm up close, while hovering watchers flit back and forth, offering maddening support to their allies. The hulking knights look fearsome and put up a mean fight, teleporting both defensively and offensively to make killing them from a distance a tricky proposition. New enemies come with new weapons too, and though these guns fit familiar niches, neat tweaks like the boltshot's shotgun-esque alternate fire and the scattershot's ricocheting bullets make them feel distinct.

As you balance aggression and restraint, you see your enemies doing the same thing, and this tactical interplay makes the core combat eminently engaging and replayable. The campaign is well paced and often challenging, and though some Forerunner areas flirt with repetition, the whole endeavor is exciting for the 8 to 10 hours it takes to finish it. Playing with up to three other players is a blast, and Halo 4's campaign thrives in cooperative play. More Spartans means more freedom for you to employ team tactics, put vehicles to good use, play around with the various game-tweaking skulls, or simply have fun horsing around.

You can also flex your cooperative muscle in a new mode called Spartan Ops. Planned as a regular series, each free, downloadable episode of Spartan Ops comes with a CG-animated short depicting life among the Spartans, as well as a number of brief playable combat scenarios. The first video features a lively cast and some enjoyably dramatic scenes, with animation quality comparable to the cutscenes from the campaign. Though the commanding officer from the video lends some voice-over supervision to the individual scenarios, the missions themselves feel fragmented and disconnected from each other. Though they can be played solo or with up to three others, these skirmishes are over in a matter of minutes, and this brevity makes them feel inconsequential and unsatisfying. Still, it's a flexible and novel way to deliver fresh postrelease content, and it will be interesting to see how the Spartan Ops story builds in the coming weeks and months.

Back on more familiar ground, War Games is the new name for the vaunted competitive multiplayer action that has been a genre standout for more than a decade. The classic deathmatch and objective-based game types return in free-for-all and team varieties, with only a few tweaks and additions. Infection has been renamed Flood, casting the "zombie" characters as Flood-mutated humans with super speed and a giant spike arm that behaves like an energy sword. Regicide is a new free-for-all game type that puts a bounty on the player with the highest score and occasionally grants him or her an overshield or other perk for remaining on top. Invasion is gone, and in its place is Dominion, a team contest focused on capturing and maintaining control of three bases. Bonuses for holding them include spawnable vehicles, automatic turrets, and weapon drops, making for some feisty back-and-forth struggles.

(An important logistical note: To play these modes, you need 2GB of storage space to install War Games, and 1.5GB per episode of Spartan Ops. It's unclear how much space Spartan Ops will demand in the future, but suffice it to say, a memory card won't cut it.)

Halo's competitive multiplayer modes have always dictated the weapons available to players in a given match, creating a level playing field from the get-go. But now, in a move reflective of modern shooter trends, Halo 4 introduces loadouts. These consist of familiar categories like primary and secondary weapons, grenades, and armor abilities, as well as two new attributes that grant small bonuses, like quicker weapon switching, bigger grenade explosions, and broader motion sensor range. You unlock extra loadout slots and the ability to equip these bonuses as you level up, and you must also pay to unlock individual loadout items with points you earn with each rank. It can feel a bit limiting at first, but regardless of your rank, there are always a few fully stocked predetermined loadouts to choose from, so you're never at a disadvantage for being low-level.

Not knowing the map is also less of a disadvantage now, because weapons spawned on the battlefield are clearly marked. Furthermore, players who do well can call in their own ordnance drop mid-match. Familiar weapons like needlers, shotguns, and swords are accessible only through such drops, as are new entries like an explosive railgun and a light machine gun. There are even boosts to shields, movement speed, and damage output. Picking one of the three random options in your personal ordnance reward is an interesting strategic decision that affects how you proceed and adds another defensive consideration for your opponents.

New abilities can help you deal with these variables; Promethean Vision lets you see your enemies' silhouettes and identify which weapons they're holding, while a hardlight shield can save you from an imminent explosion. The online battlefields of Halo 4 are more varied than their predecessors, but none of the changes or additions are powerful enough to destabilize the core balance. This plays like a richer version of the competitive Halo that many have come to love over the years, and the new tweaks add a welcome freshness to the action.

If you want to avoid or embrace any given element, you can always fire up a Custom Game and tinker with the battlefield conditions to your heart's content. Options are as robust as ever and are exponentially expandable once you dip into the still-incredibly-powerful Forge level editor. Though it can be daunting, some changes to Forge have made placing objects easier and the whole experience generally more user-friendly. Play around with friends, tweak existing levels to your liking, craft something using the new tools, or simply download the fruits of other people's labor--Forge remains an impressive platform for creative play and thoughtful design.

Halo 4 is every bit the massive shooter package that its predecessors were, and it holds the series' standard high. The thrilling and emotional return of Master Chief and Cortana is the highlight, and the campaign breaks new ground in narrative quality for the franchise. The top-notch competitive multiplayer picks up where Halo: Reach left off, infusing the action with some mainstream elements while still remaining undeniably unique. Spartan Ops may stay a mere sideshow or prove its worth in the weeks to come, but there's no doubting that the next planned Halo trilogy is off to a great start. 343 Industries should be proud of what it has accomplished, and you should be excited to experience it for yourself.

'
The Good
Engrossing, emotional story
Stellar combat mechanics
Attractive environments, charismatic characters, and exceptional soundtrack
Greater diversity in competitive multiplayer
Powerful creation and customization tools
The Bad
Spartan Ops missions are too fleeting
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

Discussion

31 comments
TrueProphecy22
TrueProphecy22

Still enjoying playing split screen multiplayer with friends every week.  


Still haven't finished the second mission in the campaign.  


While I've heard some great things about the campaign experience, this review being one example, I just don't have any interest in it.  I loved Halo:CE, I loved Halo 3, and I spent the time and effort to beat the trilogy on Legendary.


I beat Halo: Reach's single player without really enjoying it.  Because of that, I thought I would be excited for the return of Master Chief's story.  I'm just not.

Jon_Sly
Jon_Sly

This Halo felt empty to me. It lacked what gave Halo Reach and Halo 3 that excitement. Backgrounds were mostly all blocks and not very realistic and the new enemies were extremely boring. The main bad guy is a joke and frankly no one seems to care to be honest. Also if Cortona needed help, why didn't she wake up the Chief earlier.... oh sorry chief for waking you up I am just dying, but letting you sleep is good to. I don't even know why he was asleep for 4 years... Anyway the days of not having a face are over, and Masterchief is just plain boring at this point. We need better ideas then this garbage and I hope these guys turn it around for the next game, and bring in some better side characters as all the good ones are dead now lol. 

moyshirow83
moyshirow83

I love the game so far, being getting my ass handed to me because i'm playing it on Heroic solo, but i want the achievements.

Ratsneve
Ratsneve

A debate is raging in me to try Halo 4 again.  I did once and got disoriented and frustrated early on.  What is the point in dropping the directional marker _ever_ so you have no clue which way to go?  This is my only gripe to date.  Perhaps more will come if I ever get back into the game.  Halo 4 has been on my 'no play' list for months now and this doesn't sit well with me.

Have they updated the direction of travel marker any or is this just suppose to make the game harder whether you like it or not for simple adventurers?  Thanks.

toby_hussein
toby_hussein

Good gameplay - RUBBISH campaign, NO firefight mode. Verdict: PASS.

Salta06
Salta06

After paying through 4 I was left with the feeling that something was missing. I did like 4 but repetitious levels get boring pretty quickly. Halo 3 and Reach are better games for this reason.

What was missing and why was I left feeling this way after completing 4. Unfortunately I think what 4 lacked and what was missing.......

was Bungie.

TheHH
TheHH

Halo for PC please!!!

greymon12345
greymon12345

Superb game.  Best shooter game on the Xbox.

sheytoonak
sheytoonak

i played the previous one,it was absolutely ridiculous so i'm not gonna pay for this.and of course it doesnt deserve 9

colonel_forte
colonel_forte

NICE! I just Microsoft points for free from this site! :D freemspointsforever com

youcouldbeblind
youcouldbeblind

i have decided to not read comments about games i love to play, as the comments are just filled with haters who MOSTLY have not even played the game. shame on you. its too bad the console war crap is probably going to increase come next gen...

TheBusterMan
TheBusterMan

Alas,the bane of the modern FPS is the short campaign.Apart from Far Cry 3,granted the story is shortish,but outposts,hunting,etc,gave it some meat.May get Halo 4,the campaign can't be any worse than COD blops 2 can it? That sucked more than a toothless ho!

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

This is one great game period. If you own an Xbox this is one game that's a must have in your library. But view the credits to catch Master Chief's lasts comments you will not be disappointed.

Johnny-n-Roger
Johnny-n-Roger

It's quite obvious that a lot of these commenters have not even played the game.

OG_ZombieInk
OG_ZombieInk

I need players to go through the campaign and spartan ops with.

Both on legendary. Interested?

Gamer tag is OG ZombieInk.

Xbox all the way!!!

zeonfollower
zeonfollower

I wanna buy XBOX 360 because of this Master Chief and Cortana!

Erokrad
Erokrad

The real attraction for most Halo fanatics is the story.  And while it may seem generic, that is truly only surface deep.  Unfortunately, 343 thought it was a good idea to explain the story in the ACTUAL detail required through hidden terminals.  This rendered the story fairly generic and generally incomprehensible.  Dig deeper, go to Halopedia.org, and you'll see just how complex the Halo universe really is.

NinjaMaddy
NinjaMaddy

 Loved it. The only thing I dont like, is the opening screen theme. They should of kept the original.

halfblood23
halfblood23

Okay so this is my first halo game, nice visuals, has a feel of grandeur about it, one thing I loved is that the campaign seems more difficult on normal setting than other FPS.

fredstermaster
fredstermaster

ehhh... I have to say 343 definitely seem to have a different approach to graphics, in places it is quite lazy. I noticed this with combat evolved anniversary and the later halo: reach map packs they did. They went all mass effect 3 with the lens flares which at times is annoying and pointless. 

The story didn't really engage me as the previous ones have, just a whole lot of running around familiar-looking shiny buildings pressing buttons and whizzing through portals. Don't get me wrong, all halo games have a very linear story-line  but it just felt really forced in this one. I felt like meeting a foreunner was actually pretty anti-climatic. generic bad guy motives and voice... who obviously will return for the next couple of games. Aaaaaaand *spoiler* since cortana is dead I am seriously concerned about how she will be replaced. They've been a duo since the beginning, and I wonder if 343 will pull an old deus ex machina and produce some sort of excuse as to how she can be revived.

And no theatre mode for campaign?? that's just shit. really, really, shit. Taking a step backwards there. And why have we not got a forge world equivalent? And why does forge insist on updating the lighting each time you switch from mode to mode, instead of after each round? even though it only takes a few seconds it gets annoying really quickly. 

Spartan ops is just a bit silly really. I mean, at least with firefight, they don't try and glorify it with some sort of storyline, it's just waves of enemies for no reason and it's fun. I don't really give a shit about these generic military characters, I mean if you actually listen to the reasons they give for re-visiting each map area again and again, it's completely nonsensical. I like the idea of a secondary storyline, and the CGI clips you unlock look fantastic, but it is not needed to justify recycling campaign maps. 

I think that is everything I want to rant about. On a smaller side note, I do not like the main menu. I know. but I am really anal about these things and it bugged the crap out of me seeing them use a white flash when you exit infinity. Laaazzzyyyyyyy. I think halo: reach got it right with the 2.5D matte paintings. and the buttons are just bulky. I'm sorry but you can tell it's not bungie because they would be more tasteful than that.

/RANT

chocomatrix
chocomatrix

I dont really see the difference between Halo 3, Halo:Reach and Halo 4. Beside some graphic changes and cortana looking differente in each game. I like Halo 4, but come on ppl, stop saying its the best thing ever or the worst thing ever. Ust enjoy it or dont play it.

WhataLameName
WhataLameName

I am looking for people to play halo 4 with (war games), if you're interested add me, GT = WAR ISTHEAN5W3R

TNamaypoke1972
TNamaypoke1972

I'm new to console gaming add me Thrash Emperor for XboxLive and Thrash_Emperor for the PSN.

capper64
capper64

Great game, took the best parts of the previous Halo games and sped it up just enough to make it more fun.

Agent_47
Agent_47

343 Studios outdid Bungie with this new chapter in the Halo saga as it is easily the best of the best in the series - looking forward to the next chapter in the Halo universe now :)

kishen95
kishen95

The only thing gearing me towards an xbox, god damnit if only I could get this game.

kenthanxxx
kenthanxxx

Great games, love the graphic and gameplay, but  very short campaign

Atermi
Atermi

This game is very beautiful if you never seen Skyrim, Battlefield 3 or Far Cry 3. It has a great multiplayer if you have never played Battlefield 3, Unreal Tournament or  Planetside.The story in Halo 4 is just amazing.... If you never saw a game with a story before, and I am not even talking about Pathologic or Bioshock. It has a great music indeed... Unfortunately not in a world where there are McGee's Alice, Populous 3 and Dawn of War. So, you see, Halo 4 is a very very good game! Not its fault that all other games are just better! LOL  

Fartman7998
Fartman7998

Sure, you beat the game on Legendary difficulty to get almost a whole entire second of footage of something that we already knew.  Then it's all cheers and w00ts.  But you do three times the amount of work in Mass Effect 3 for a huge reveal that is supposed to give you the emotional satisfaction that you triumphed over all odds and survived, but all of a sudden it's all like  *BOO*  *HISS*  "THE ENDING TO ME3 SUCKED BAWLZ BIOWARE CHANGE IT"

CaesarIIII
CaesarIIII

I got this game from a friend to day, and I going to have a go at it... and probably that is the only way I ever going to play this game.... for FREE..

I mean... come on.. who wants to pay the full price for JUST about 6 hours of game play, that resembles all the other Halo games ?

fa11en1134
fa11en1134

here is my review. ok, your a space marine. there are aliens that you have to kill. some little funny ones and some big ones. you have a rifle and a handgun and sometimes u can get a sniper rifle and a rocket launcher type gun. bad stuff happens and you save the world at the end.

 

this review is good for all the halo games.  im kinda talking trash but honestly ive bought and played all the halo games and while I enjoy them it just makes me think people haven't had a chance to try some of the better games out there. to each their own I guess.

Geardudu
Geardudu

@toby_hussein While I agree the campaing was a bit repetitive on mission goals, the pacing, level design, story, narrative, graphics and sound design are superb. As a fan of the Halo universe (from games to books), I absolutely loved it. Some of my friends that don't care about the story didn't like it so much.

D-Ripp
D-Ripp

@youcouldbeblind well if all the Microsoft b.s. is true and Sony does the same thing too then its steambox or pc for me i guess

robertcain
robertcain

 @fa11en1134 I'm inclined to agree with you. My problem with Microsoft is that they just aren't being very original with new IPs. They're mostly relying on refining the same franchises including Halo, Gears of War and Call of Duty rather than make new ones like Sony is doing or adding many new things to their treasured game series like Nintendo has done over the years. Maybe that will change in the next Xbox (if it's announced this year of course!)

Atermi
Atermi

 @fa11en1134 Actually, the game where you really 'are a space marine' (ironically called 'Space Marine') has a much more satisfying melee, shooting and hit registration, and better graphics and level design, and still considered to be a failed game. What to say about Halo then?.... 

Atermi
Atermi

  @toffy666 What answer do you expect for your three letters?

Halo 4 More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • Xbox 360
    Halo 4 is the fourth installment in the Halo series where Master Chief returns to battle an ancient evil bent on vengeance and annihilation.
    8.6
    Average User RatingOut of 2521 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Halo 4
    Developed by:
    343 Industries, Certain Affinity
    Published by:
    Microsoft Game Studios
    Genres:
    3D, First-Person, Team-Based, Action, Shooter
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood, Violence