READER REPORT:

Halo 4 not just for sci-fi fans

AARON PELL
Last updated 05:00 04/11/2012

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I have been playing Halo 4 and because I want to do this review justice and not rush anything, I have decided I will do it in two parts.

In the first, I will talk about the multi-player side and Spartan Ops side.

A bit of background on my experience with the Halo franchise. I played Halo 1 like most other people, but to be fair it was not an OMG game for me. I just didn't really care for the sci-fi style game back then. To a certain degree I don't now either. As a rule I don’t buy or even bother to hire sci-fi titles as they are just not really my bag. I am still yet to watch Avatar.

I won't bore you with how amazing the developer (343 Industries) has been or talk about anything you cant wiki elsewhere. This review is based upon my experience playing this game and sharing my thoughts on it which may help you decide whether you want to buy it or hire it.

The game comes on two discs. It will not install on to a 4GB Xbox. You need a HDD or 8GB of memory. You also need a Gold Xbox Live membership and to be over 18 to access content.

Disc 1 will give you campaign play and Disc 2 is required for Spartan Ops, War Games (multi-player), Forge, Theatre etc... You can either install it from the disc or you can download it from Xbox Live.

After installing Disc 2, I decided to get stuck right in to the multi-player side. Bearing in mind, there are some known issues pre-release and there should only be legitimate users trialling the game (they have enforcement teams banning Xbox Live players that are using a dodgy copy), I still managed to get into a lobby and had eight players in total.

Not having a clue what to expect, I wandered around the map and didn’t do too badly. As an SP1 (Spartan-IV) soldier you have the bare minimum of equipment available for your first load-out. You can pick up other weapons as they are dropped of course but unfortunately coming across a SP18 player with shields and pulse cannons and other perks and add-ons isn't much fun.

All war games take place on the UNSC Infinity and there are 10 maps at launch.

I played for a while and got the hang of it, sort of – but had an underlying sense of frustration averaging .34 kill/death ratio going 3-16 because of how crap my character was as a noob-level SP1. I am not just a poor aim, I run a respectable kill/death ratio on online shooters usually.

Your Spartan soldier is designated SP1 when you start and as you finish multiplayer games and other tasks like Spartan Ops and Forge you also gain experience points (XP) towards your characters progression. You don't just earn XP from online play. Next I decided enough multi-player exposure for one session and I dove into the Spartan Ops.

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This is very much like Spec Ops in other shooter games and I found the cinematic imagery and soundtrack immensely rich and provided great ambiance. There are five Spartan Ops missions available currently, the first one is in the vein of “clear a valley of baddies” and the second one is called Sniper Alley and you have to de energise power grids as you advance through the large level. After competing these I gained XP towards my Spartan soldier. Halo 4 has taken the approach of anything not campaign will advance your multi-player level. You can also play in split-screen mode, linked console mode or solo mode.

I really enjoyed the first two Spartan Ops missions and the way you can again pick up any weapons and drive vehicles like The Wraith – it all makes the game more interactive and less linear.

I found the enemy artificial intelligence was better than average in Normal difficulty mode, if I shoot at someone they will seek cover not just stand there like a lemon. They also will strafe and behave very much like a real player would.

Looking at the multi-player maps there is also a designer mode. In Forge, you can load an existing map and alter spawn points, start camera positions, team load out points, drop crate points etc. Basically, you can customise any map to suit your liking and I know like in most other shooter games you can have custom game modes where you alter the time, the available loadouts players can use and the score limits, but this lets you totally change the structure of the game. Set all of the spawn points in one place for eg, move all of the crates and supply drop points to the other side of the map, etc you get the gist. This is all in the basic customisation mode. There is a much more in depth mode that allows for bare bones customisation for those that want to sandbox for a bit them play a round in their new created world (map).

If you have an exceptional game you can save it to the theater. From there you can take screen shots and add them to your file share.

There is a Limited Edition Halo 4 Xbox bundle, a Halo 4 strategy guide, a 12-month XBox Live Halo 4 plus Energy Sword and also if you preorder Halo 4 – Xbox 360 you will receive an exclusive bonus Spartan Warrior Avatar and Ghost Avatar Prop and more.

So far I have really enjoyed the graphics, the sound, the artificial intelligence, the customisation, the game modes, the load times.

Two gripes I have noticed is you cannot turn the sound down individually. I like to turn off game music most of the time but in the audio settings I cannot do this so I am stuck with the looping big orchestral soundtrack during Spartan ops. There also does not seem to be a connection strength indicator to show if you are lagging online or not and I was blatantly lagging. I was going around the same corner three times at some points.

I feel confident that Halo 4 die hard fans and those not-so-sci-fi will love this new instalment. I have enjoyed playing it so far and I have not played anything like this since Quake 3.


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