Xbox 360 takes over London's skies to launch 'Halo 4'. Fans and spectators were treated to an aerial lighting performance visable for miles over London. / Master Chief joins fans for the spectacular flight of the 'Halo 4' glyph to mark the launch of Halo 4 on Xbox 360. / the 'Halo 4' glyph symbol is one of the largest and brightest manmade structures to ever fly over a capital city and measures 50 feet in diameter and weighs over 3 tons at Tower Bridge on November 5, 2012 in London, England. (Ph
As lines build around the country for the release of the new Halo 4 video game, USA Today's Brett Molina offers his review.
REVIEW | How's this for a challenge: resurrect the icon for a first-person shooter franchise that vaulted the Xbox into popularity and somehow manage to make his next adventure as good or better than any other series title before? By the way, it must be accomplished with the original studio no longer in charge.
Stunningly, studio 343 Industries makes it look easy with the launch of Halo 4, an explosive, gripping first chapter for the franchise's next trilogy.
Halo 4 represents a significant transition for the series, with creators Bungie handing over the development duties to 343 Industries. From the onset, the studio shoots down any fears of a letdown as quickly as Master Chief with a Battle Rifle.
The Xbox 360 title brings back Master Chief and his digital ally Cortana, who seems to be nearing the end of her "life" as an AI. The duo set out to find answers, all while discovering a new threat to the universe in the form of the Prometheans. Players witness a closer look at the relationship between Chief and Cortana, as the duo work together to eliminate this new danger as well as keep Cortana alive.
Halo 4 adds several tweaks to weaponry, vehicles and even Master Chief's armor, but what stays constant is the high level of intense action featuring relentless, intelligent enemies. Several classic weapons are still available -- many of which receive notable revamps -- such as the standard assault rifle, a long-range DMR and alien Covenant gear including Needlers and Carbines. The Prometheans come equipped with their own weaponry such as the Scattershot shotgun, Suppressor rifle and Pulse Grenade.
Promethean enemies break down into three types. The four-legged Crawler speeds up walls and across walkways, pelting players with shots from their weapon. Knights are the answer to the Covenant's Elite: they're tough, smart and powerful. They can also teleport to either escape an assault or surprise players with a nasty melee strike. Making them even more challenging is the aid of the Watcher, an enemy that not only hovers from above firing at players, but can assist the Knight by erecting shields or even bringing slain allies back to life.
Add the standard assortment of Covenant foes from Elites to Grunts, and players will find plenty of incredible battles throughout the campaign. Enemy intelligence is among the best of any first-person shooter. Elites and Knights find cover when their shields are down, roll away from oncoming grenades and quickly rush your position when weakened. Every completed skirmish leaves players with both excitement and relief.
Developers provide wonderful balance with levels, offering fights in tighter spaces as well as wide-open encounters where players can approach with the strategy of their choosing. There's also a healthy mix between combat on foot and inside vehicles such as the Warthog jeep, Scorpion tank and Covenant Banshees.
On top of a powerful campaign, Halo 4 delivers an equally impressive multiplayer component known as War Games. The enhanced customization adds to an already great package of matches and detailed, multi-level maps.
Portrayed as a form of military training, players suit up as a Spartan soldier and battle in a variety of online matches. They start out with baseline armor they can customize with different colors and special emblems. Players also have weapon loadouts they can design to suit their combat style. They choose primary and secondary weapons; Armor Abilities such as a Jetpack, Promethean Vision (view enemies by heat signature) and Hologram; Tactical Packages that boost ammunition and shields and Support Upgrades to improve awareness, sensors and other abilities.
Halo 4 contains the usual variety of match types from Infinity Team Slayer and King of the Hill to new ones like Regicide (players earn points by killing the first-place opponent, or "king"). However, gameplay has been tweaked slightly. An ordnance system lets players call in perks after setting certain benchmarks within a match. They range from armor abilities to weapons, and are available until the player is killed. Maps also highlight where key assets are, such as a precious Sniper Rifle or other item, making it easier to find gear.
The game also adds the robust Spartan Ops, a series of separate cooperative missions players can tackle with friends online. Along with a handful of missions available on disc, players will be treated to a series of episodic downloads available over the course of several months.
Halo 4 represents a triumphant return for Master Chief, and a stellar debut for 343 Industries as the franchise's primary developers. The package of campaign and online components leaves no question that it's one of this year top video games, and arguably the best Halo game ever released.
Developer: 343 Industries
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: Nov. 6
Score: 4 stars (out of 4)