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Halo 4: What the critics are saying

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."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

November 7, 2012

5 Min Read

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 Metacritic.com. 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."

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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