Original developer Bungie has moved on from all things “Halo,” but 343 Industries has taken over to craft a worthy successor in “Halo 4.”
Though he’s the star of the “Halo” series, Master Chief has been out of action for a long time — both in the series and in the real world. The Chief last appeared in 2007’s “Halo 3,” in which he was central to ending a three-way war between humanity, the fanatical alien Covenant and the all-consuming intelligent plague of the Flood.
He has since spent years in cryogenic hibernation aboard the damaged aft portion of the human warship Forward Unto Dawn, watched over by his AI companion, Cortana.
Awakened to investigate a disturbance on the wreck, the Master Chief finds a new faction of Covenant aboard — and discovers the Forward Unto Dawn and the Covenant ships are all orbiting an enormous construct called Requiem — a Dyson sphere encircling a planet — built by the series’ long-extinct ancient race, the Forerunners.
Well, almost extinct. Survivors of a sort are still kicking on Requiem — combat AIs controlling armored suits armed with powerful energy weaponry. Called Promethean Knights, these robotic soldiers are even deadlier than the Covenant.
The game’s mechanics follow the familiar “Halo” formula — Master Chief can carry two guns (his ability to wield two light weapons at once is gone) and limited ammo, and each weapon is tailored to work best in certain situations, so you’ll constantly be dropping one weapon in favor of another as the flow of combat demands adjustment. A handful of grenade types and a powerful melee attack round out his offensive options.
There are also several pieces of equipment to give the Chief a defensive edge, such as a temporary cloaking device, a boost pack that lets him dash forward quickly, and a Forerunner “hard light” shield that protects against frontal attack.
All these elements are transferred over to the game’s dedicated multiplayer modes, which are split into two modes (the campaign can also be played through with teammates, up to four players total online or with one in the same room).
The first, Infinity, encompasses the competitive arena-style battles that have characterized the series since the beginning, with a variety of free-for-all and team-based games for up to 16 players (the Flood make their sole appearance in “Halo 4” in a deadly online variant of tag).
The second is the new Spartan Ops mode, which puts players in the boots of a new generation of Spartan soldiers undertaking missions against waves of enemies, similar to the past Firefight cooperative game type but a bit more involved. There are new missions coming every week for some time, and story sequences to link them together into something of a multiplayer campaign.
You can also customize your multiplayer character with cosmetic options, weapons and equipment earned as you gain experience through play, and the Forge mode allows you to edit and customize the game’s numerous maps and upload the results for all to enjoy.
Published by Microsoft for Xbox 360
Rated M for Mature (blood, violence)