The Shelf Life Test: Halo 4

By: 12.19.12  •  6 Comments

New game heeby jeebies, hype and reviews right at launch unnecessarily make a big release’s worth black and white. What’s lost in the usual Metacritic rush is the fact that games need to settle just like music before you properly critique it. That’s why TSS’s gamer division take its time with reviews or, as some call it, get caught playing them instead of timely publishing our thoughts.

Halo 4 (Xbox 360) received the usual gobs of praise with an initial dash of backlash. Nonetheless, it’s evident Halo’s already not the same exact game it was at launch. So we’re going to try something new here and go over the game’s worth after it’s first month of availability. Why did we pick this seemingly arbitrary time frame?

Usually if a game cracks your rotation for a month straight there’s a good chance you’ll stay with it who knows how long: ultimately yielding a proper value for your money. Plus games usually spend the first month or so ironing kinks. That doesn’t they get a pass but, when a game changes for better or worse soon after launch, it ought to be reported. Sounds fair, right? Now let’s get started.

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Master Chief keeps kicking ass, sports occasional Indian tear

Halo 4 premieres with Master Chief awaking on board UNSC’s Forward Unto Dawn to stop an unanticipated Covenant heretics’ ambush on the ship. Chief eventually gets pulled into a gravity well onto Requiem: a mysterious planet also targeted by the Covenant. It’s there where an errand to investigate convincing yet boggled UNSC distress signal sets Chief up to free the Didact: a powerful Forerunnner and the game’s main antagonist. With respect to the story’s surprises, you essentially spend the rest of the game launching gradual steps to thwart The Didact, his personal Promethean army and his alliance with the Covenant.

Throughout the roughly 5-8 hour campaign you’ll deal with personal turmoil as Cortana, Chief’s longtime AI buddy, begins to “die” due to passing her expected seven year AI cycle. Her senses gradually deteriorate into moments of insanity and doubt: intended to bring an exclusive feeling of despair between them. These instances attempt to humanize Chief despite his patented deadpan delivery and reputation as a 7 foot killing machine. Nevertheless, while the game’s more poignant scenes become predictable, they’re not misguided and finally give Halo’s main hero a more developed character and personality.

The campaign’s action starts out with good pace, flattens out somewhat then steps up a few notches by the games end. At the same time the story presents a hefty amount of information to you in a short time frame. You may miss plot points and other details as you progress between stages. Yet the context is far richer than most shooters using their story as a green light to shoot everything that moves.

The Halo faithful usually opts to complete the game on legendary. Thing is, Halo 4‘s legendary mode stands as one of the hardest travails in the series. The enemies sharper accuracy and boosted weapons are just the beginning of your eventual grind. Halo 4‘s checkpoints after death will regularly drop you at awkward, frustrating impasses against heightened opposition and few resources available to you. What’s worse is the enemies don’t engage any smarter than they do on heroic. They just take more shots to drop: artificially making the game harder. Such is especially true for Promethean knights who eat gobs of firepower, teleport away from danger or towards you for one hit melee kills.

It’s recommended to play on heroic and below if you don’t have pals to partake in up to 4 player co-op locally or online. Legendary is far too frustrating for most going solo and its challenge obstructs the storytelling by making the pace recede to a crawl. The campaign’s compelling with the right settings and even better in co-op. At the same time there’s not much reason to run the whole story back unless you’re driven by Easter eggs like Halo Waypoint terminals.

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