Just a warning my review of Halo 4 will include plot spoilers.
I wrote down my thoughts on Reach a short time ago in post Legendary play through in preparation of playing Halo 4, little more to say this time on Halo 4.
After the terrific overall story of Reach (perhaps aided that the framework was already established) despite some of its faults, I was hopeful for a strong campaign in Halo 4, if not mentally willing it to be strong. What I feel I got was essentially an awkward introduction akin to when meeting a stranger who's heard a few too many story's from shared friends and starts acting like your best buds, on the plus side he does have a few cool gadgets though.
The overall consistency of the story, standing alone, is a resounding mess, creating more questions than it answers. Just from the advertising it only takes a half cynical mind to think the story's soul aim is to manufacture a new situation for a trilogy lasting conflict with a new enemy. I appreciate if the franchise is to continue new developments have to occur, but overall I feel the story was Halo 3.5, the game play of Reach with a few new enemies, gadgets, weapons, maps and balance tweaks.
The kind of inconsistencies in the story I'm talking about are for instance I don't believe in the core story it's even explained why the infinity turns up at requiem. Why if this splinter cell of covenant wish to join/worship the forerunners/Prometheans why do they instantly turn up and start fighting them? Why having claimed this machine that allows the main big bad to turn his enemy's into new troops, rather than taking out some border planets and building himself into an unstoppable force, does he proceed to attack probably the most heavily defended planet in the galaxy?
Master Chief's Hero status is taken to entire new levels. It's not enough for him to be one of the few (if not last) of the Elite Spartan II's and the best of them as well as well as the Avatar of the human race's military might. He now has to be superhuman to a whole new level (demi-god maybe?) the librarian evolving him somehow to make him more "powerful", I understand this was part of the plot so he could be immune to the enemy's weapon, but still, really? If apparently the Chief is part of some great manifest destiny for humanity and millennia in planning, why not just say his advancements already make him immune? You know, like bungie already did with the flood? It would made sense in fact if so much planning had gone into his perfection.
Chiefs Lone Wolf tactic is also taken to whole new levels, he literally saves everyone, everything by himself, there's now an entire regiment of Spartans, the human race has reached whole new levels of technology, but they play next to no role what so ever other than to give multiplayer structure. I know he's pretty much done it all by himself before, but the entire rest of the galaxy at least played a supporting role in previous games, with the help of a little insubordination he steals a space ship and that's about all the help he gets.
The new ark of the Chief-Cortana relationship is obviously intended to try and humanise the chief as well as at the same time question his humanity being that he is a killing machine. This was a genuinely unexpected and an interesting stance. However it's incredibly hard to sympathize with the humanity of a charter who is dismayed at the troubles of his AI no doubt a sentient life of sorts, but still artificial, when after an entire space stations occupants are turned to dust he doesn't bat an eyelid, or take a moment to take in the situation. How can anyone with a sane mind relate with a charter who lacks the compassion to appreciate the gravity of 1000's of people being turned to dust, but is genuinely wounded when his super smart siri starts playing up. It did allow for some interesting attempts in charter development. Supporting charters did at least show signs of realistic emotion, something that would of perfected reach's story.
The new enemies bring new elements to the game play, challenging and frustrating the player, in a positive way, the watchers are obviously a development of the engineers in previous games, but still again add a new challenge being relatively weak alone but providing a real challenge when supporting other troops. Knights and crawlers also create their own unique challenges, all are good enemy types. Some of the new weapons are genuinely worthwhile, while some are clearly copies of human weapons (the scatter gun, weaker power shot gun with a faster rate of fire and bright colours) and some are entirely useless in 95% of situations (boltshot pistol).
Overall the single player is very, very, weak compared to previous games, it has the core game play satisfaction of previous titles but it never really even reaches a true peak of difficulty, there's no real boss battles and nothing truly original (even solely in halo games) the spaceship battle feels like it was thrown in there because people liked the one Reach and its frankly not as good. The pelican mission was fun but felt like the falcon flying in Reach on steroids.
I'm not a fan of the campaign, 343 have genuinely come up with some interesting enemy's and weapons, but anyone who's a fan of sci fi could come up with a better introduction story and when the story is so basic, it's not hard to keep it consistent. The final missions lack all of the escalation of the previous games, if you played the final mission with no speech or sub-titles you would be hard pressed to know the mission was of significance until the cut scenes and the game play alters from normal into a kind of quick time event.
I am very hopeful for the next titles story but no doubt that will likely be on the next Xbox, now that introductions are out of the way hopefully a more rounded and thought out story line can be created, with time taken to use that solid core game play and create interesting vehicle missions, that aren't just ticking boxes and incorporate true escalation to the missions other than simply stating slowly and clearly to the player that although this situation is identical to pretty much what you did 4 missions ago, this time it's allot more important, most missions were simply repetition of the same thing, the amount of times I was told there are " 3 buttons", "4 buttons" to deactivate or activate a certain device were UNREAL!.
I hope they take the good points and run with them I truly do. The story is a shambles and it is being carried on its laurels and core game play, but its still allot better that most arcade shooters that are released and so it should be, it's just disappointing as it should have been more, I know it's a new studio, but lets no fool ourselves, there are allot of ex-bungie employees at 343, for the single player experience it's a significant drop in standards, its worth playing if a fan of halo and want to see the story progress but you would be a fool to pay RRP.