Now that I’m out of the house and away from Halo, I’ll give some first impressions. In a word: Halo. The game plays essentially the same as every game before it. They’ve removed health and health pack that’s to be expected as it was a deliberate callback on Reach’s part. I’ve played the first half of the campaign, a level of Spartan Ops, a couple games of Slayer and a game of Flood.
The campaign is great so far. It’s given me a proper taste of the Forerunner weapons, and they all feel like natural additions to the game. The Suppressor is probably the best rapid-fire gun now. The Scattershot is a nice analogue to the Shotgun and it has quite a nice bit of range on it. The Boltshot is just you’re standard semi-powerful non-headshot-capable handgun, so there’s not much to say. The Lightshot (or whatever it’s called) is now my favourite mid-long range weapon; it is a burst-fire weapon while you aren’t zoomed in but when you zoom in it fires one shot that’s formed out of three. It’s handy to know when looking at the ammo counter. The Binary Rifle is probably my least favourite Forerunner weapon, and one of my least favourite weapons in general. It’s got good power, I’ll say that. It also has only two shots per reload, but that’s fair play to it. What I dislike is it’s refusal to have the standard centre reticule without zooming in. When you zoom in, it’s fine. Otherwise, you get a huge box on the screen that makes it quite difficult to actually hit anything without being zoomed in, or being quite comfortable with the lack of reticule due to extreme exposure to Mythic difficulty. There are also the new grenades, Pulse Grenades, which, as far as I can tell, functin about the same as the Power Drain from Halo 3; it extends a small glowing field that drains shield away quickly before exploding. I’m not sure how much damage the explosion does but, needless to say, you probably deserve the damage you get from it if you hang about. There’s at least one other Forerunner weapon, but I’ve not yet got my hands on any. When I do, I’ll tell.
Now for Covvie Weaponry. In general, the armoury for our lovable alien scum is relatively the same. As far as I can tell, there are no major changes to the returning weapons. The biggest change, as far as I can tell, is that the Covvie Carbine has returned as has had it’s power upped. If I remember rightly, the weapon was a POS in Halo 3. It also has absolutely no bloom, which is amazing. The Beam Rifle may have had a power drop as well, but it’s probably got more to do with the fact that I missed all but two shots with it when I had the chance. If I remember properly, the Storm Rifle is the only new Covvie weapon and it replaces the Pulse Rifle. And it’s pretty damn good. It looks somewhat like the Carbine, looking like a proper Covvie Assault Rifle. It’s got a good fire rate and good bit of damage going for it. It really feels like a proper analogue to the Assault Rifle, which is something the Pulse Rifle never did for me.
UNSC Weapons have the most interesting additions. They’ve brought the Battle Rifle back from 3, and they’ve carried the DMR on from Reach. As far as I can tell, it takes about the same amount of trigger squeezes to down a guy, so I’m guessing the only reason you’d want to choose between the two is down to how many shots you want to fire. The DMR has had an ammo count drop from 15 to 14 as well.
Now, for the changes in appearance between 4 and the preceding games. I like the changes. Honestly, the worst part about the changes is that Elites tend to not have gloves in this game, and that’s really, really minor. The new armour, for Covvies and Spartans, looks good to me. Like Reach and 3 before it, there are some armour choices that don’t appeal to me (such as the ever-present EVA helmet). To give a bit more to the Covvie stuff, I feel that there’s a much needed addition that’s been added to our Jackal friends: helmets. It’s something that I’ve just wondered about for ages, especially considering that those are the guys where you’re going straight for the head if they’re rocking a Beam Rifle.
The Master Chief’s new look is okay. As far as I can tell, it’s supposed to retroactively change his look (i.e. He’s always looked like this, the old game covers have lied to you) and I’m fine with that. The new helmet looks close enough to the old one that I’ve no strong opinion on it, and the same goes for essentially every other part of his armour. The biggest changes are probably on his shoulders, changing them from that sort of “inadequate pyramid” (I don’t know my 3D shapes very well, shush) to a nice, rounded panelly plate thing. I enjoy his new look as, honestly, I felt he looked a bit dull in Halo 3 but his new design adds detail and gives his an armour a more interesting shape without it looking impractical.
The Prometheans have been something of a sore point for a lot of people, at least as far as looks go. Not for me. I love them. Their look complements their actions perfectly andf, when in motion, they feel like they belong. The Crawlers present a new challenge with their speed and ability to climb walls and ceilings The Watchers fulfill a support duty that hadn’t yet been fulfilled. The Knights, while in the same role that the Elites fill for the Covenant, present a new challenge with the new weapons and their ability to teleport over short distances, making fights with them slightly manic at times. The huge bulging back they have isn’t simply some kind of design choice, it also harbours Watchers that the Knights can release.
The Campaign, at least what I’ve played, is quite good as well. The first few levels are full of some nice callbacks, with the first level being somewhat reminscent of the first level of Combat Evolved and the second containing a Forerunner structure much like the last level of 3. It sets up the big calamatous threat for this game/trilogy rather well. Possibly my favourite thing about the campaign so far is that, after all this time, I really FEEL for Cortana and Chief. They are handled brilliantly and feel more like characters rather than idols of baddassitude.
Overall, I’m loving everything so far. Halo 4 really was worth the £70 I paid for it’s Limited Edition, even if I was miffed at it being £10 higher than I expected. As far as I care now, though, that extra tenner went miles further than I thought it would and definitely got me more invested in Halo 4 for the story than the previous trilogy did.