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Halo 4 – is it still Halo without Bungie?

The first non-Bungie developed Halo is upon us, is the Microsoft owned 343 Industries up to the standards that Bungie left us with in Halo Reach? And  how important is the return of the Mater Chief to the franchise?

“Okay Chief, look up and hit the release.”

This piece of dialogue, uttered by the AI Cortana as Master Chief exits cryo-stasis at the beginning of Halo 4 is pretty much the entirety of the games tutorial.  For FPS players used to iron-sights, lessons in crouching and so on, this may come as a bit of a shock.  For those that have lived through the Halo universe, it is more than enough.

For Halo fans the setting will be familiar, for those joining the franchise now, or even those that have only experienced Halo through ODST or Reach there will be a lot to learn as 343 Industries takes the reins of one of gaming’s biggest titles.

Having completed the single player campaign, the first thing to get out of the way is that the Halo fanatics can remain calm; the return of Master Chief to the series has been handled admirably.  In fact from a story perspective, for people that have only experienced the Halo universe through the video games, this is one of the more cohesive and well delivered pieces of video-game writing, certainly for this brand.
Without going into spoilers, this first part of a new trilogy touches on the humanity of the Spartan Progam, and indeed that most famous Spartan of them all, the Master Chief.  


The Chief and his relationship with companion AI Cortana is central to the space opera that revolves around the pair, weaving an objective based tale that requires Master Chief to be the hero at a number of levels is very creative.  At the macro level humanity is again in trouble, but at the micro level, so is Cortana.  Master Chief will need to balance military stoicism with his need to be part of the solider and guiding AI team that has developed over the course of Halo history.

Whilst the story is grand yet cohesive, one thing that has been lost in translation between Bungie and 343 Industries is the humour.  Where has that oh so funny Covenants Grunt-under-fire dialogue gone?  Halo 4 is as serious as Halo gets.

Visually Halo 4 is amazing, the game boasts a minimal of load times, even when cold reloading the game, and yet manages to pull off the lushest of outdoor environments and highly detailed interiors that [almost] seamlessly load throughout the game.  Transitioning from flying a Pelican to a landing platform and taking to foot to enter a structure is smooth and natural.

Little touches such as mushrooms and even rocky textures are wondrous to behold.  However, the realistic, yes, but initially distracting visor reflections take some getting used to.  The traditionally repeated interiors of a Halo game also make a return with the architecture featuring retina fusing bright neon that at times feels more like Tron than Halo.

Structured wise many of the battlefields provide multiple ways forward, loosening up the franchise from its tradition of corridor shooting, and there is a smattering of epic departures from run-and-gun foot slogging, most of which work fine.  Some however, including a particularly tedious section on a stolen Ghost, and a flying sequence in a Broadsword could have been shorter for dramatic effect.
Enemy AI does not seem to be as difficult as previous Halo’s.  That patented Covenant dodging of grenades seems sluggish, and at times sniping of distant enemies is just too easy as enemies return to “patrol routines” at a drop of a hat.  


The new enemy introduced here – the Prometheans – however, will put up a challenging fight,  Cortana was getting on my nerves from time to time as she yelled “More Knights!” just a few times too many as the large, heavily armoured, teleporting enemies once again appeared.  Taking out the hovering guardians that provide shields and resurrection abilities to the Prometheans, is essentially to success in the campaign.

Promethean weapons are also fun to play with, picking up a new one will see it build itself in mid-air in front of Master Chief, and there is true senses of power as some of the bigger guns are let loose.  There is however a bit of a weird trigger delay on firing some weapons during scoped combat.  More than any game in Halo’s past, ammo conservation can become an issue from time to time, there are certainly some missions much tougher than others requiring trying different approaches in order to succeed.

Dual wielding does not return and It is a shame that some weapons did not make the cut (my favourite Plasma Rifle is nowhere to be seen), particularly as in some cases there  is a bit of overlap, the Covenant Carbine for example does much the same job as the new Promethean Lite Rifle.  Still, Master Chief will have plenty to choose from, and selecting the right tool for the job is part of the challenge.
halo4 showcase 1 tif jpgcopy
Halo 4 is still Halo despite Bungies absence, the storyline has been delivered, perhaps better than ever before, it almost borders on ‘cheesy’ occasionally, but, brings it back each time.  The cut-scenes are up there with the best in the industry plus the action pacing is top-notch and in keeping with the legacy of over a decade worth of refinement.  Whilst the head may have changed, the Halo remains.


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Mike Bantick

joomla visitor

Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.