Game review: Master Chief Returns in Halo 4

Cameron Koch

Cameron Koch is a Nixa, Mo., senior  and lifelong gamer. His other musings on games can be found on

The release of a new Halo game is an occasion, an event of epic proportions — and with good reason.

With Halo 4, developer 343 Industries returns to the roots of the series in some aspects while adapting in other ways to combat its biggest rival — the first-person juggernaut Call of Duty.

Halo 4 finds everybody’s favorite super soldier, the Master Chief, drifting through space right where we left him at the end of Halo 3.

His stalwart blue companion, the artificial intelligence called Cortana, awakens him when an old familiar enemy, the Covenant, boards Chief’s ship and starts messing things up. It doesn’t take long for the Chief to shake off the rust and blast them to pieces. A new enemy emerges in the form of the robotic Prometheans, and the identity of their master, without spoiling anything, should come as a surprise to those keeping up with Halo fiction.

At times, some aspects of the story aren’t explained as well as they should be. Those who haven’t read the ever-growing number of Halo books and comics may find themselves feeling confused over the course of the game.

From the get-go, Halo 4 oozes nostalgia and respect for the first game. Repelling the attack aboard the ship, it quickly escalates to a crash landing on a strange alien world, filled with sweeping vistas that are almost identical to the first game.

Chief blasts his way from checkpoint to checkpoint, occasionally piloting fan-favorites such as the Warthog or Banshee.

Expect to boot up and shut down countless generators and power sources as you have to backtrack to progress through the game. It’s tedious, but Halo’s near-perfected gunplay keeps the bulk of the game’s combat as interesting as ever with some notable additions.

A new sprint button speeds up Chief’s historically sluggish pace, and new weapons and abilities add some variety to the his traditional arsenal.

While the single-player doesn’t stray far from the tried-and-true Halo formula, multiplayer is a different story. Taking a page from Call of Duty’s playbook, players now have the ability to customize weapons, gear and abilities before entering a match.

Ordinance drops, in some ways similar to Call of Duty’s “Killstreak” system, rewards players over the course of a match for scoring kills or by providing near-instant power-ups and weapons.

It’s a big change. Halo’s multiplayer mode previously revolved around controlling important weapon locations. Now, any player could have a shotgun delivered to them personally.

The pace is more frantic, but the verdict is still out on whether Halo faithfuls will approve of the change.

In many ways, the highest compliment that can be awarded to Halo 4 is that it’s a Halo game through and through. Everything looks new, to be sure. The game boasts incredible visuals that push the Xbox 360 to the limits of its power, but underneath its shiny new coat of paint, Halo 4 is still very close to the game that fans have been playing for years.

Halo 4’s achievement lies in its ability to evolve the series, slowly but surely, while remaining true to what made the first game so popular.