Halo is one of those game series which splits opinion. Some gamers froth madly at the mouth, queue up for midnight release, and generally fangasm all over the walls. Others show monstrous amounts of dismay, like every new Halo release heralds the gaming apocalypse.
These spats aside, it’s also one of the biggest, most successful game franchises out there. However, Halo 4 is the first game in the series not developed by Bungie Studios, who have abandoned the Halo series for pastures new.
343 Studios, the new creator, had a tough task ahead of them living up to Bungie’s legendary reputation, and all in all, they’ve done remarkably well. The single player campaign introduces a number of new enemies, and a whole new back story, heavily featuring the Forerunners. The story is more important than in previous games, but at times hard to follow, even for a fairly dedicated Halo fan like myself. The game does make a fair show of getting the plot across though, even if it does have to deploy more blatantly expositional dialogue than The Last Airbender to do so. (Don’t see that film. Please. As a personal favour to me, if for no other reason.)
The gameplay itself is…well, it’s a Halo game. If you’ve played any of them, you get the idea. You get some shiny new toys, the old toys are shinier, etc. Online play is, as ever, a highlight of the series, although 343 have adapted some of the better elements of Call of Duty’s online play, making it feel less original, but kind of annoyingly, better.
If you’re a Halo fan, you’ll love it. If you’re not, it’s still worth a buy, although it’s never a good idea to jump into a franchise four installations in. If you don’t like Halo, well, there’s a new Skyrim expansion out soon. That should keep you happy for another billion years or so.