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 Halo 4 : What the critics are saying
Halo 4: What the critics are saying
November 7, 2012 | By Danny Cowan

This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to 343 Industries' sci-fi first-person shooter sequel Halo 4, which reviewers describe as "one of the finest shooters in years." Halo 4 currently earns a score of 87 out of 100 at

Joystiq's Ludwig Kietzmann gives Halo 4 5 out of 5 stars. "You don't often see a monolithic franchise putting up a fight for fans, but the departure of Bungie has awakened doubt -- enough to incur a fierce response from Halo's new custodians at 343 Industries," he notes.

"The speed at which that uncertainty evaporates is the real surprise," Kietzmann continues. "Halo 4 is an expert at making you play along with the unfolding spectacle, and makes sure you're never ensnared by it."

New enemy types provide added challenge. "The introduction of challenging new enemies -- the armor-clad Prometheans -- is a major alteration within Halo's intricate and iterated combat," Kietzmann recalls.

"The airborne Watchers can shield their companions and return your grenades, while the hulking Knights can disorient your aim by teleporting. If they finish you with a brutal hit, it's because your shields were whittled away by a pack of canine-like Crawlers, who wield all sorts of guns in their mouths."

Halo 4's new cooperative mode is another successful addition. "The nature of Halo's fighting, which is to push back just as hard as you prod it, translates beautifully to a four-party team, but it's the method of delivery that makes the Spartan Ops mode exciting," Kietzmann says. "Every week a new episode will add five missions, exploring the fallout of Halo 4's events and giving direction to your slaughter of the alien hordes."

"Halo 4 is Halo -- a surprisingly successful, mandatory step for 343 Industries," Kietzmann writes. "But the game strives for more than competence, giving it a forceful march and a decadent show of strength. Our doubt and questioning of Halo's continued existence has, in some small way, helped deliver one of the best games in the series and one of the finest shooters in years."

Chris Watters at GameSpot scores Halo 4 at 9 out of 10. "A thrilling, moving story and intense competitive multiplayer help Halo 4 continue the series' reign as one of the premier shooter franchises," he praises.

Watters is especially impressed with Halo 4's single-player campaign. "343 Industries [...] has charted a new course for the iconic Spartan and his AI companion, Cortana," he notes. "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."

Watters feels that the Spartan Ops cooperative mode falls short, however. "The missions themselves feel fragmented and disconnected from each other," he recalls. "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."

Competitive multiplayer offerings are more substantial. "War Games is the new name for the vaunted competitive multiplayer action that has been a genre standout for more than a decade," Watters describes. "The classic deathmatch and objective-based game types return in free-for-all and team varieties, with only a few tweaks and additions. [...] 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."

"Halo 4 is every bit the massive shooter package that its predecessors were, and it holds the series' standard high," Watters assures. "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."

EGM's Brandon Justice rates Halo 4 at 7 out of 10. "The first 15 minutes of Halo 4 almost fooled me," he begins. "But after the thrill of better visuals wore off and the eager anticipation for more non-shooting thrills went mysteriously unfulfilled, I was left with a frustratingly similar Halo experience that other top-tier shooters have long since blasted into the oblivion of dog-tired gaming conventions."

Justice finds the single-player campaign to be repetitive: "Unlike most modern games that claim to care about narrative, Halo 4 doesn't seem interested in moving into modern storytelling via integrated objectives, causing the campaign to quickly degenerate into a rinse-repeat relay of pumping way too many bullets into the same half-dozen enemies over and over on your way to pushing some random-ass button or blowing up a shield generator -- only to find yourself forced to backtrack through yet another sea of the same bad guys who've magically spawned in behind your position."

Justice continues: "These low points are openly exacerbated by the series' staunch refusal to get with the times when it comes to game mechanics and level design, ignoring obvious enhancements like big-ticket sequences and proper iron-sights mechanics in favor of their age-old addiction to slow, methodical combat in unnecessarily large environments."

Multiplayer is where the game shines, however. "Conversely, multiplayer's one of the strongest efforts in the category in ages, offering full campaign co-op for up to four combatants, episodic co-op Spartan Ops missions, and the newly dubbed 'War Games' in a vastly playable smorgasbord of violence," Justice praises. "Also included are a host of intelligent enhancements and peer-inspired upgrade mechanics that make the ills of story mode seem like a bad dream."

"Is Halo 4 a bad game?" Justice asks. "Not at all. It's clearly an impassioned effort by a lot of well-meaning folks who wanted to give the fans more of what they've come to know and love. But the fact that they delivered on precisely that isn't exactly evidence that they've built the game the series deserves. From where I'm sitting, 'good' just isn't good enough for Halo anymore."

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Paul Marzagalli
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Reading the reviews for both this and AC3 has been interesting: reviewers seem happily surprised by how good both games look and how they play. It seemed that if it were up to the media and many fans, we would have had a new console generation 2-3 years ago. These games and other (very) late-gen successes seem to show that the life cycle of consoles isn't as short asmany think it should be. Personally, as someone who got weary of upgrading costs with both PCs and consoles a long time ago, I would be thrilled if Sony and Microsoft took a longer view approach going forward.

Michael Rooney
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I didn't want to buy Halo 4 till after christmas, but I ended up buying it because the reviews sounded so positive. Hopefully they were accurate.

k s
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@Michael Rooney I've been playing it since Tuesday morning and it's really good so don't worry your money was well spent.

Ben Rice
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Sony is pushing it's 10-year console life cycle, which is longer than ever before. How much longer does it need to be?

Sorin Sandru
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Well any review will be a good review now days. As long as there's enough of a marketing push and money flowing to the reviewers. Personally i think that Halo 4 stands out from this and last years games in terms of quality and gameplay value. It's got solid game mechanics and an interesting way to dealing with Co-op. It's not only going the route of having alot of content but it's also doing it well in comparison to alot every game that aims for a lot of content but delivers verry little in the way of good gameplay.

AC3 on the other hand does not deserv the hype it's getting. All gamemechanics are worse than previous instalments of the game and frankly it's just frustrating to play the game with mediocre mechanics.

Harlan Sumgui
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@paul: tech advances quickly, would you also want phones, tvs, cars, etc also to have remained stagnent from 2006 until today?

@micheal: I'll give you a protip: reviews that come out the day of a game's release and especially those that come out earlier are, umm, shady. Pre-release review code always comes with strings, whether spoken or least when we are talking about mega-corps like Microsoft and media outlets run by other corporate types. But I hope you enjoy the game regardless.

Zirani Jean-Sylvestre
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I can't believe that big publishers favour pre-reviews from "friendly" or "halo-enthusiast" reviewers. Never happened before!

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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Eh, I really didn't like the Halo games up to this point, but the reviews have been quite accurate, same with ACIII. Both are pretty much the peak of what we could've reasonably expected from a AAA title on old tech.

There's a difference between a paid review, and finding someone who will enthusiastically extol it's virute.

Harlan Sumgui
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"finding someone who will enthusiastically extol it's virtue". That is a great way to put it.

Zirani Jean-Sylvestre
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'someone who will enthusiastically extol it's virute' is one thing and forcing a reviewer to do a very good reviews (even if the game is the peak of what we could reasonably do) is another. There's a problem in the latter, it's called "ethics".

Robert Marney
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The main difference between 2006 Halo and 2012 Halo is that the developers have internalized the lessons of Call of Duty 4, even the unnecessary ones like the orange-and-gray color scheme.

Ron Dippold
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Halo 4 is a really, really good Halo, but I have to agree with Brandon - it needs to evolve to be great. You changed just enough things just enough to keep me interested, but it's really showing its age. Maybe now that 343 have successfully established that they can do a really good Halo they can do that. Or maybe commercial fears will prohibit it.

[sideline: so far I think Reach was a better game. Tighter, self contained arc, some long term baggage jetisoned, Bungie swan song. But Halo 4 is amazingly good for a baton pass.]

Kirt Farrell
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You took the words write out of my hands! (See what I did thare??) For me, both games were exactly that. Additionally, while I understand Justices perspective, we are here to play Halo, this isn't a new shooter entering the space. I believe, as a gamer, that some tenets must stand in order for the title to carry it's previous monicker.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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Hm, I felt differently-ODST was the first one since the original where I felt like there were actually new ideas on display, and that they actually cared about interesting anyone who wasn't already a convert. It didn't really hook me long term (I crapped out on the campaign on the second last mission, and only did a few MP matches), but I appreciated it trying something new.

Reach felt pretty staid and safe to me, and seemed to exemplify everything I've found dull about the series since day 1.

So far (keeping in mind that we're not even a week in), I've been quite impressed with 4-the weapons finally have a good response to them (something the first did well for its time, but each successive release managed to not change at all, to their detriment), the graphics are finally competitive while still retaining the look of the series, and while the story is baffling and opaque (am I supposed to have read the books?), it shows a much stronger interest in telling a story, not just gun playgrounds.

What I've played of the MP so far suggests I may actually come back to this one, which is pretty rare for me-I don't like MP shooters in general, and have always found the halo titles lacking both immediacy and response; You don't die and kill as quickly as a CoD style game, but it also doesn't have the speed or precision of a PC shooter like QIII. This one has made enough tweaks to weapon feel that it's no longer a barrier to my enjoyment at least.

Either way, I don't think this is a series we'll ever see -huge- innovation out of-it's a sacred [cash] cow at this point, not something 343 will try and jeopardize.