“Spartans never die, a statement confirmed by Dr Halsey in an opening and stunningly realised cinematic….thank goodness for that.”
Its been a good while since the Master Chief wrapped up the original trilogy, as with all good franchises he has been defrosted for another tour, but I don’t see anybody complaining.When catastrophe strikes the ship the Chief is sleeping on Cortana takes the decision to wake up our fondest green suited protagonist and it is not long before this event turns into some classic Halo tutorial combat as you work your way out of the ship’s predicament. Ending the level falling headlong into this new adventure on planet Requiem, a strange and dangerous place.From the outset the this game is dripping with Halo, purists may turn their noses up and the new musical score, or the Chief’s strangely out of place voice talent. Other than that it feels, looks and could quite possibly smell like Halo. Visually stunning 343 have done an admirable job of turning in some of the most spectacular backdrops this generation. They had a lot to prove having taken the mantle from Bungie and it is fair to say that this new trilogy has kicked off in a terrific fashion.
The narrative is centred around the relationship between the chief and Cortana, the feisty, blue and sentient hologram is suffering from rampancy, an AI affecting condition that will fragment her beyond an AI death, it also seems to have added a few curves. Having been hand in hand throughout our experiences with Master Chief they are something of an inseparable double act and the threat of real danger to that relationship adds some emotional value and weight to the storyline. The mission is set as the Chief doggedly sets out to find a way home to help out his ever present friend and Cortana pops out regularly to remind us that she is suffering.
Requiem is a hostile environment and while the Covenant are not the focus of this game they are present in droves, familiar enemy do their things and the Chief continues to wade through like the goliath he is. That said, there are always sticky situations that may need a retry on Heroic or Legendary, it is also interesting to see the activity of the Covenant. Given the time of year there are plenty of FPS titles on offer and I struggle to think of one where the enemy AI behaves with such character. The rest of the enemy are an interesting bunch, not overly inspired, but different enough to keep you interested, the story reveals them as minions to an unspeakable evil that you just know will have to butt heads with the Chief at some point.
That sets the stage for a great ride, add into the mix the usual Halo fare of vehicles, hapless npc UNSC Marines, some stunning set pieces and even the most die hard Halo fan will melt into happiness.
Gameplay wise, the traditional Halo pace takes some getting re-used to, although the Chief has learnt how to sprint while he was asleep, the armour abilities seen in halo Reach have returned and do add some valuable support, the floating turret being a particular favourite. halo will never be a twitchy shooter like a Call of Duty, it takes patience and timing to find your way through some of the more hostile encounters.
Away from the campaign 343 have developed a solid multiplayer aspect, historically Halo online has never really hit the mark for me, but after a few hours of levelling up the game is starting to offer something other than a run of the mill online experience. it does however seem to take a while connecting to a lobby and getting into a match, but once you are on a roll the hours slide by, Halo offers persistent character development similar to other games and with the options I can see way off in the distance there is plenty to aim for. It is also a more forgiving online experience than most, once the first few games are out of the way and you have worked out why you keep getting gravity hammered you will appreciate that most confrontations will offer you the chance to fight out a win. Unlike games where the second player to pull the trigger dies.
There is also a regular downloadable and episodic Spartan-Ops co-op experience, something of a commitment by the developers, but an interesting take, plus it adds extra value to some of the active challenges that can assist with your levelling up.
Overall a solid package and in the cold light of day whether you have been with the series since the beginning or just jumped onboard, Microsoft’s poster boy is back and he’s opened a can of ‘whup ass’.