Halo 4 - my "review"
I've now finished the Halo 4 campaign on Normal, played some of the Spartan Ops and a bit of multiplayer, final verdict; this is, in my opinion, the best Halo game yet. The title of best Halo game was for me previously held by Halo: Reach and before that tied between Halo CE and Halo 2, CE being the superior campaign offering and 2 delivering superior multiplayer (Reach took the lead in both departments).
The campaign consists of eighth missions that do an excellent job of mixing up the gameplay and visuals throughout. The story is probably the strongest yet that we've seen in any of the main titles much thanks to the fact that John actually displays some sort of real personality, Cortana has a much stronger one and we get quite a few well-made cut-scenes. There are also terminals to find yet again which will tell an extra story, strangely finding these terminals will unlock the videos in the Halo Waypoint game/app on the 360 rather than letting you watch them then and there in the game which was a bit odd.
As a whole the production values feel a lot higher, the graphics look great (though there are textures in the game that can't stand up to any kind of close inspection), the games sounds great, the weapons, the vehicles, all sound a lot more, well, real. The music is also well done and fits the game but there is unfortunately no track that is as memorable and immediately recognizable that the good old theme from the first trilogy or even the one of Reach which is a bit of a shame.
The "sandbox" as they call it has seen a real update bringing a whole new faction of enemies (think we all new that) with their own assortment of weapons to the game. There are of course no Flood though so I guess on the enemy side of things it's about the same, the new Prometheans are definitely a lot more interesting to fight than the flood are though. As for vehicles the sandbox mostly consisting of the old classics (redesigned in a few cases) with the only real addition being the Mantis walker, there is also a new aircraft (seem to be an emerging pattern, every new game having an exclusive aircraft. The Hornet in Halo 3 and the Falcon and Sabre in Reach) as well as one that we've seen before but never been allowed to pilot. Both of these are only available in the campaign however.
On the multiplayer side of things it's all pretty familiar, the biggest addition being customizable loadouts. Reach had loadouts consisting of a weapon, sidearm and armour ability but they were preset depending on gametype. In Halo 4 you get your own set of loadouts that you can customize as you wish and use in most gametypes (obviously some gametypes like SWAT or Flood have their own presets) the loadouts lets you select what weapon, sidearm, grenade, armour ability as well as a tactical package and a support upgrade, these last two are basically small perks like extra ammo, increased shield recharge rate or spawning with two primary weapons instead of having a sidearm. The two perks work out OK and as a whole the loadouts is a feature I welcome with open arms for the simple reason that it gives me the choice to spawn with the Assault Rifle even if everyone else goes for the Battle Rifle, something which simply hasn't been an option before. It also gave 343 the opportunity to have several similar weapons like for example the DMR, the Battle Rifle, Covenant carbine and Light Gun (promethean counterpart) all in the game and available in the multiplayer as players are able to choose.
Another big change is in how scoring works. The scoring in Halo used to be very simple, one kill equals one point, first team or spartan to a set amount of points win (there were game mods like CTF, Invasion and Infection that worked a bit differently, but kills were the standard). In Halo 4 the scoring system has been expanded to count more than kills. In a standard game of Infinity Slayer the goal is to get to 600 points, you still get points for a regular kill, 10 to be exact, but do anything that in previous games just gave you a medal and you'll get a bit extra. You also get 5 points for assist which should work out as a great incentive for teammates to stick together and work together.
A thing I have noticed with the competitive multiplayer is that the penalty for leaving a match seems to be too small. I'm not leaving any games myself so I don't know what the penalty is or if there even is one but what I have noticed is that there are a lot of people leaving matches mid-game which means it isn't being discouraged enough, this isn't only bad for the other players in that match but for the guy who has to join said match mid-game to even out the amount of players.
I haven't looked at it myself but I know Forge mode has been quite heavily upgraded so I really hope 343 will do like Bungie did with Reach and add some of the best Forge maps made by the community to the official matchmaking playlists.
Finally there are there are the Spartan Ops, this far they seem to come as small, rather simple but still fun missions that thankfully work well even in solo play. It's sad to see that they had to leave firefight out for this but considering there are five missions already and we'll get additional ones over the next couple of weeks together with the new Spartan Ops episodes (CG cut-scenes telling their own story taking place after the campaign) there will be plenty of replay value there anyway as well as a possibility of future seasons.
All in all, this is the best Halo game yet and I feel the franchise is in very capable hands, possibly even more capable hands than before. I can't wait to see what's next for Halo.