How it pains me to begin the review in such context, seeing how I’m a true Blue Wolverine thick and thin. Yet, with Halo 4‘s most anticipated mode yet not being available until…well…today, reviewing this game without Spartan Ops makes absolutely no sense.
But I’mma do it anyway.
Spartan Ops is a shining revelation in a time where most hardcore gamers are consciously looking ahead to the 720 or NeXtBox or whatever shifty name Microsoft deems relevant for the next generation. Spartan Ops is basically a weekly episodic campaign mode. That’s right, it’s free and it’s exclusive to XBOX Live Goldmembers (“dah!”) and sounds unruly superkickass.
Imagine the plot of your favorite television show, all sci-fi’d the F’up and playable either alone or with a few of your pals. Surely makes up for what imagines to be the shortest campaign in third-person shooter history, right?
Halo 4′s campaign mode is a lot of fun — especially with two — and highly reminiscent of the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved (massive jungle terrains, dizzying intergalactic shuttles; Chief even makes a funny about the usually mundane combat landings). The graphics are pretty wondrous, as there’s arguably never been more impressive environments in a shooter. Add in some rather lengthy Blu-Ray level cinematic sequences, a massive array of new guns such as the Scattershot (which I found annoying ’til I realized one uses it as a ricochet) and, my go-to, the DMR (designated marksman rifle). The majority of the stealth, jet packs and the addition of Promethean Vision is a lot neater this year, as well.
The story in the fourth Halo (or 7th if you want to count all of the loose tie-ins) is vastly improved, as it centers on the two most riveting characters Master Chief and Cortana. The former is just trying to erase the commander’s doubt as an over-the-hill quarterback, if you will, with the latter dealing with her own demon in a cubicle. Her plugs are clearly not fastened tight enough in this one, yet it’s entirely disappointing that her “glitchiness” is due to a prototypical demonic figure. Who *without spoilers* you should have absolutely no trouble beating.
In fact… OK, I’ll just stop at that.
To this reviewer, the story is partly ruined by an intensely underwhelming final confrontation. “It’s the journey…” blah blah blah says the corporate video gamesites stamping Halo 4 with superior scores. But, when it only takes me 8-hours to get to that final demon, you bet this Minister wants a fight.
The only fight, empirically, is wondering whether Halo 4 lives up the hype. A lot of the huge reveals were predicted by the Halo horde far before the game was even leaked; so, yet, while beautiful in visual and in spirit, one has to wonder whether this game lived up to the 5-year hype. One thing that Halo 4 does better than any game before, however, is the constant vehicle accessibility. There’s a numerous amount of times when the Ghost comes in a lot handier than foot; the Mongoose also, thankfully (!!), drives a lot better than it had in the past; the Warthog will still probably get you killed; but the later mission Phantoms will have you screaming “Jedi!”
There’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to taking down the Covenant.
Unfortunately, only the continued adventures of a surely fragmented Spartan Ops will tell the test of time. If this 1.5 GB-per-episode mode is as cool as it sounds — and avoids the beat-in-an-hour likeliness of it — then Halo 4 has no choice but to tear the Flood into some snowy shreds. I’m just afraid the co-op superiority of next week’s big release, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, will be up and beyond the Master Chief’s pay-grade.