Halo 4 campaign preview: wake up, Chief

Although I only played two full campaign missions, 343 has convinced me that not only can they match the bar set by Bungie, but transcend it as well.

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"Wake up, Chief," a distressed Cortana says as she stands in front of the cryogenically frozen Master Chief. "I need you." It's an oddly emotional moment, made possible by Halo 4's incredibly impressive facial animation system. And with Halo 3 having finished the fight, it's refreshing to see how new developer 343 Industries is taking a more personal approach to the narrative. That's not to say that Halo 4 doesn't start with a bang, because it literally does. The drifting Forward Unto Dawn has been boarded by the Covenant and things quickly escalate. This introductory level reminds us of what made the original trilogy so great, by throwing nearly every Covenant enemy and weapon your way. The variety certainly makes it easy to see the strength of Halo's "sandbox" gameplay; and because Halo 4's guns lack ammo, the game encourages you to constantly discard and pick up new weapons along the way. Reassuringly, this first level feels like a Halo game. For fans that haven't been following the news, it will seem as if series creator Bungie never left the helm. Grunts are still comical, Elites are still foreboding, the Needler is still fun to play with, and the beam rifle is still awesome. Fans that want a Halo game are certainly getting exactly that. And then, 343 does something new. With the first level proving 343 has the chops to do Halo the way mom and pop used to make it, the developer adds its own flourishes. For example, the first level adds a Metroid-esque escape sequence that has you rushing through panicking Covenant. You must escape through a shaft, and in Uncharted fashion, you begin climbing. You must dodge the falling debris as you make your way up, and it's all done in first-person. There's no QTEs here; this is gameplay, and it's unlike anything I've seen in Halo before. It's also absolutely thrilling.

Halo 4's facial animation system brings Cortana to life

That's just a hint of what's to come. Eventually, you meet the Prometheans--and they change everything. This new class of enemy forces players to rethink their strategies. For example, the floating drone-like Watcher can revive other Promethean enemies, making them an incredibly important target to aim for. Knights are aggressive, moreso than Knights, and even tougher to fight. Finally, Crawlers move all around the walls, making it necessary to keep track of your surroundings at all times. Seeing how these enemies work together in their efforts to take you down is incredibly satisfying. Knights, for example, can teleport, making them even more deadly than Elites. Watchers are especially tricky, as not only do they fly away when low on health, but they curl up into a smaller form, making them even harder to hit. (ProTip: I found the drone armor ability to be especially useful against Watchers.)

Promethean weaponry is incredibly fun to use

The Prometheans disintegrate into a dazzling spectacle of particle effects when killed, and it's so satisfying that I became disinterested by fighting regular Covenant enemies. Later in the game, you'll see the Prometheans fighting the Covenant, and while it's possible to try to sneak through the battlefield undetected, you'll probably end up fighting both at the same time. Killing a Grunt and seeing his body lie on the ground without exploding into a hundred orange particles is oddly boring after encountering the Prometheans. While it's already exciting having to battle a brand new enemy class, what really makes Halo 4 feel different are the weapons. Each weapon has two firing modes, like the light rifle which acts like a standard rifle--but turns into a sniper rifle when scoped. It was definitely my favorite new weapon (and I was saddened at how quickly I went through its ammo). The new grenade is also interesting, as it creates a time-delayed vortex that damages anything within its radius. Halo 4 offers more of what fans have come to expect from a Halo game, like satisfying vehicular combat and harrowing enemy encounters in wide open spaces. But, 343 has done an incredible job of adding so many new elements that it still feels fresh. It's also a beaut; the new art style is especially eye-catching, and the enhanced engine somehow manages to make Reach feel outdated. Although I only played two full campaign missions, 343 has convinced me that not only can they match the bar set by Bungie, but transcend it as well.

The art style is absolutely gorgeous

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 21, 2012 12:01 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Halo 4 campaign preview: wake up, Chief.

    Although I only played two full campaign missions, 343 has convinced me that not only can they match the bar set by Bungie, but transcend it as well.

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      September 21, 2012 12:47 AM

      Well I may just have to plug back in my x360

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      September 21, 2012 12:56 AM

      Really looking forward to this. Also, Cortanas face looks bizarre.

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      September 21, 2012 1:03 AM

      Wake up Chief, before the day's through!

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        September 21, 2012 1:18 AM

        As an Australian parent, you have now ruined that slogan for me. I will not be able disassociate that line from the melody of Wake up Jeff.

        >:-(

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      September 21, 2012 6:33 AM

      Impressive screens, its crazy what they can still do with the 360. Really looking forward to it.

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        September 21, 2012 7:11 AM

        Yeah, I am still sometimes impressed at some of the stuff coming out of the 360. It's pretty amazing the kind of performance they can squeeze out of that, now ancient, hardware!

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          September 21, 2012 7:41 AM

          Can you imagine the games on the Xbox2 [mind blown] as long as they do a jump that is the same as the jump from the Xbox to Xbox 360 the next Xbox should be insane, I hope so.

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            September 21, 2012 7:53 AM

            I would hope so, considering there was only 4 years between the Xbox and 360 and it has now been 7 years since then. I don't think either MS or Sony will be going as balls out on the specs as last time, but hopefully its still a big enough jump in power.

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            September 21, 2012 11:33 AM

            I'm sure there will be a pretty big jump in quality. Although I wouldn't be surprised if we were a little bit underwhelmed at first? Developers are going to go from squeezing the most performance out a box they've known for YEARS to squeezing whatever they can out of brand new hardware they are seeing for the first time. I'm sure we will see cool stuff though. I have a feeling that PhysX kind of physics, post-production style after effects, detailed lighting and improved AI are the big advances we are going to see in next generation consoles.

            I'm starting to get to the point where I just can't wait to see it. Next E3 is going to be INSANE! I should just take that whole week off from work.

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              September 21, 2012 12:50 PM

              Yeah I hope they do the Physx stuff it be cool if it where in every game, yup the AI should be a big one I have heard that that is a focus point for sure, both are.

              Man tell me about if there was a E3 to go to the next one is the one to go, I will be there for sure for multiple reasons I can not wait.

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        September 21, 2012 7:33 AM

        Probably bullshotted a bit, though. But they do look nice.

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          September 21, 2012 7:43 AM

          I thought this as well they look too good, but then again all the SP vids looked really good(even first E3) so it may actually be this good I hope so that be crazy.

          • gmd legacy 10 years mercury mega
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            September 21, 2012 8:52 AM

            every preview says it actually is running 720p not upscaled and looks amazing

            • gmd legacy 10 years mercury mega
              reply
              September 21, 2012 8:52 AM

              basically maxing out the 360, pretty good for 7 year old hardware

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      September 21, 2012 7:44 AM

      Great to hear. Very excited.

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      September 21, 2012 8:50 AM

      No ammo? Not sure I like the sound of that.

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        September 21, 2012 9:11 AM

        Yeah, ammo is pretty scarce throughout the campaign. It was an interesting challenge, because you're constantly looking for new weapons to pick up.

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          September 21, 2012 11:13 AM

          I....actually don't mind this. Could make it pretty interesting. I am quite excited about this game. Thanks for the write-up!

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          September 21, 2012 2:36 PM

          Oh I didn't read that right. There is ammo just not any pickups. I thought you meant unlimited ammo. Makes sense in a way that there not be stuff lying around at the start since chief just landed.

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          September 21, 2012 3:20 PM

          But I'm addicted to the DMR. Or BR. Whichever one is in this.

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      September 21, 2012 10:59 AM

      :D

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      September 21, 2012 11:30 AM

      Wish they would release 3 on PC. I really like their universe.

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      September 21, 2012 10:21 PM

      WANT!!!

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