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Master Chief is back – with a vengeance

Halo 4: It’s unmistakably Halo, with a shiny new look

Gulf News

From the moment the opening sequence ended and I took control of Master Chief, I knew I was in for a great ride.

It felt right, in a way that Halo Reach and ODST didn’t (and let’s not even mention Halo Wars). Halo is Master Chief, and Master Chief is Halo.

And what a ride it is. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous; in the opening scene I had some doubt as to whether I was watching a live action film or a computer-generated one – and I mess around with 3D graphics in my spare time, so I have some knowledge of it. It is CGI (the hair gave it away), but 343 just raised the bar on what’s possible.

Movie scenes do not make a game, however. Nor do great graphics – and make no mistake, Halo 4’s graphics are great: lighting, textures, animations and atmospherics are superb.

What counts is gameplay. And here 343 have done themselves proud, because it doesn’t feel any different from the original Halo trilogy. There’s been a ton of development in computer game engines and play styles since the first trilogy ended, and I’m sure there are a lot of changes under the bonnet.

But 343 recognised the winning formula Bungie developed, and they’ve stuck to it, resisting the temptation to upgrade the experience too much, though it is smoother and prettier – very much smoother, and very much prettier.

For that, they should be applauded. There’s been a lot of speculation about the changes 343 might bring to the game, a lot of naysaying and pessimism in the months running up to the launch. That, as far as I’m concerned, has been proven unfounded.

But don’t be fooled into thinking Halo 4 is an old-school FPS along the lines of Goldeneye. Halo has never been that old school; there’s always been more characterisation and story, and that’s one of the reasons it’s proved so popular.

But talking of Goldeneye, check out the offline multiplayer mode – up to four players in split-screen mode; oh, wow, that brings back some memories.

When we last saw Master Chief, he was drifting in half a spaceship to an unknown planet. The new story picks up exactly where the old one left off. The Covenant have boarded the ship, and the Chief must clear them off. The sequence makes a nice intro for those who haven’t played Halo before.

But half a ship doesn’t fly too well. You don’t think something as minor as a crash from high orbit could stop Master Chief, do you?

On the planet, the game proper begins. The Chief’s artificially intelligent ally, Cortana, is degrading rapidly, and he must find a way back to Earth to heal her. Only the planet is stuffed with Forerunner ruins which have attracted a particularly fanatical band of Covenant troops.

It’s time to lock and load, and rev up the Warthog.

My friends, this is exactly what we’ve been waiting for. They did it right. Master Chief is back.


Quick score

Developer: 343 Industries

Publisher: Microsoft

Genre: First-person shooter; science fiction

Platform: Xbox 360

Age rating: 16+

Star rating: 4.5/5