Tag Archives: Master Chief

Halo 4 Review: You’ve Left an Impression of Sorts on Me

Once upon a time, or more like ten years ago, this female gamer decided to buy her very first Xbox because she played Halo at a friend’s house and fell in love.  Ever since then, a passionate love affair has existed between her and subsequent Halo games, so of course you could expect her to highly anticipate Halo 4.

But as with most love affairs, there are ups and downs, sacrifices to be made, and compromises to be had.  Halo 4 is like a compromise, but one that’s growing into a hopeful up.  After playing through the entire campaign, all of the Spartan Ops, as well as many hours of multiplayer, here are my initial thoughts and reactions to the game.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.  DO NOT READ IF YOU’RE A HALO 4 VIRGIN.*

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CAMPAIGN/SPARTAN OPS

Story – The plot surrounding Master Chief and Cortana’s survival and of course the continuing salvation of the human race has little issues and runs very fluidly from one level to the next (and oh, man, is Cortana’s rampancy excruciating to watch).  Many fans were wary of how the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana would play out considering the fact that neither is actually romantically tied to the other, but 343 Industries stayed true to that status, keeping the couple’s relationship based 100% on mutual trust, dedication, and shared experiences.  How this will play out in future games, though, will be interesting not only because of the apparent loss of Cortana, but also because Master Chief suddenly has to deal with the fact that he has emotions that she slowly pulled out of him, and that he is more human than he’d like to believe.

My only concern with the campaign was that outside of the immediate Chief/Cortana storyline, there are threads of stories that tie in to theirs that are never truly explained or satisfied.  For example, Halo 4 starts 4 years after Chief disappeared, and suddenly humans are fighting the Covenant again, a fact which is never explained.  The game also starts with an officer questioning Dr. Halsey about her involvement with Cortana and Master Chief; the only valuable information we get out of this is that the leaders-that-be consider Chief to be dead and they want to replace him.

However, after finishing the first five Spartan Ops, my husband and I watched the video that was released to us for completion, which clarified one of my concerns about the story.  I must say that if 343 Industries planned to leave these threads in the campaign unanswered simply to be filled in by the Spartan Ops videos and other supplementary material, all I can say is that they made a genius marketing decision.  I’ll want to make sure I can download every single video to get the entire story, and I’m sure many other players will be hooked on this method of storytelling, too.

Gameplay – A blast.  I only experienced one glitch total, and the rest of the time gameplay was tight, fast-paced, and purposeful (there never seemed to be a ridiculous  number of enemy waves or useless confrontations of any sort).  Many new weapons are introduced and though I could get into the benefits and drawbacks of all of them, I think in general that the Promethean/Forerunner weapons are not impressive and tend to be lesser versions of both human and Covenant alternatives (this is especially true in multiplayer).  Personally, though, I am glad to see the beam rifle back, which was my favorite sniper weapon for quite a while (yes, even above the human sniper) even though I’m not that good at sniping.  However, the binary rifle is quickly becoming my top favorite because of its smooth, quiet functioning.

The new Promethean enemies were fun to figure out considering they are purely digital constructs, a concept that may be hard to grasp at first for some Halo players because we’ve never fought enemies of this sort before.  Specifically, I love that the Knights are able to teleport closer to you and swipe their swords right across your face.  The experience was different from previous games, which made it a challenge and forced me to stay alert and interested in the game the first time through.

Music – I have to throw this in here because I simply fawn over all the previous Halo soundtracks, even ODST.  At the initial load screen of Halo 4, a haunting, single female voice starts chanting in the style of ancient Celts or even Egyptians, reminiscent of the original Halo theme of a monk-like, a capella chorus.  I was excited to hear the rest of the score as I continued play.

However, there were several instances throughout the campaign where I felt that something was amiss, and I finally pinpointed the issue ¾ of the way through the game: the composers brought in too many horns for my taste.  The horns overpower the strings on a fairly regular basis, which is frustrating because Halo music became famous because of its ability to combine what normally doesn’t get put together (strings, guitar riffs, drums, and chorus) in an epic, powerful wave of sound.

On the credits list, I couldn’t find either Martin O’Donnell or Michael Salvatori, composers for all previous Halo games, which would explain why the score for Halo 4 sounded different.  The new composers seemed to be going for the traditional heroic sound with triumphant horn crescendos, but I prefer the old-school Halo strings and monk singers any day.

MULTIPLAYER

Gameplay – In general, 343 Industries has some work to do on multiplayer.  Almost every game that I played (that loads properly) had some sort of glitch or situation where, even if I wasn’t doing that well, should have turned out a bit more in my favor.  Then again, I’m sure many players right now feel this way.

Multiplayer feels like a throwback to Halo 3, where reactions seem slightly lagging and less tight than what Halo: Reach achieved this last year.  I know many disagree with me, but this is what I have experienced thus far.  Melee has a split-second pause from when you pummel to when the enemy dies, or vice versa.  Sometimes the Spartan abilities don’t load at all, which makes sense then that you can’t always call in ordnance properly, either.  Grenades are pretty bouncy and may or may not go off where you’d like them to, and let’s not even get started on how unbalanced the weapons are.

Weapons/Vehicles – No, actually, let’s talk about that.  As I mentioned earlier in the Campaign section, I felt that the Forerunner weapons were crappy versions of human and Covenant weapons.  The bolt shot, for example, is a less powerful version of a human pistol, and the suppressor is good for what its name implies, but little else.

The only two Forerunner guns I prefer are the rail gun and binary rifle; otherwise, I avoid all else in favor of traditional Covenant and human weapons.  This could be because I am used to these, but I truly feel that the Forerunner weapons have good uses in the campaign, but are hard to work with in multiplayer.

In regards to vehicles, I think that the Mantis, though a great new addition as a vehicle, is overpowered and will probably have its damage infliction reduced in future updates.  It’s a bit much to have a Warthog, Mantis, AND Banshee coming at you in some of the maps, and nearly impossible for the team not in control of these machines to have a balanced and fair game.  Fortunately, though, the Banshee and Warthog have all remained in similar states to what they were in the past, and haven’t received any game-altering updates.

Maps – We need some diversity.  Right now, most maps are medium-sized spaces that really don’t allow for proper one-on-one combat nor long-range options.  There’s no such thing as a massive Sidewinder version nor lots of compact maps like Blood Gulch.

My other problem with the Halo 4 maps is that they involve lots of little environment details that unfortunately only hang you up as a player.  My husband and I have had several instances already where we get caught on a branch while we’re backing up, or where the Warthog wouldn’t drive over a rock.  That seems really inconsistent when you’re a freaking Spartan warrior and can supposedly flip over a Warthog all on your own; I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be able to crack a branch under your foot.

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So there you have it.  As a Halo fan since the original game, I am disappointed in the multiplayer experience this week, and yes, I do realize that 343 Industries is most likely receiving constant feedback and planning to implement patches on a regular basis.  However, since 343 kept their promise to stay mostly true to the Halo universe in regards to the Campaign and Spartan Ops missions, this is why I am calling Halo 4 a compromise in my love affair with the entire franchise, a compromise that will hopefully grow into a more positive experience over time.

‘Halo 4’ Trailer: It’ll Pump You Up

For fans of the Halo universe, these past few weeks have been nothing less than a conglomeration of anticipation and teasing. The Forward Unto Dawn series released its first full-length episode instead of the short vignettes we’d received before, and NewEgg.com ran an incredible sale of $15 off the pre-order (if you missed out, sucks to be you).

Now the live-action trailer for Halo 4 is out, and like the previous live-action trailers before, it does not fail to grip the viewer with its intensity even in such a short amount of time.  The trailer, entitled “Scanned,” features a captured Master Chief being tortured in some way by the new enemy gamers will face in Halo 4:

The trailer was produced by David Fincher, that guy who made those awesome films like Fight ClubSe7en, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Tim Miller directed the trailer, pairing with Fincher as he had previously worked on special effects for Fincher’s Tattoo.  The two delivered Halo fans an impressive piece of artistry here that again only makes us more anxious for the game’s release.

Though we love these live-action trailers, the question amongst gamers still remains; will this new “ancient enemy” be a worthy foe like the Covenant have been for the past 10 years, or will they just be something to roll our eyes at?  The enemy leader in this trailer appears to be quite threatening (anyone who can capture Master Chief definitely shouldn’t be underrated).  Hopefully, the game creators have integrated the race deftly into the timeline, canon, and framework of preceding Halo lore.

Live-action Halo 4 trailer shot of creepy villain
Creepy, dude.

We’ll find out how everything is presented in only two weeks.  If you haven’t already, make sure to ask off work for November 6, when the regular and limited editions of Halo 4 will be released so you can game the day away.

What Modern Marriages Could Learn from Master Chief and Cortana

Once upon a time, a man and woman met and started dating.  It was nothing less than bliss.  After feeling their hearts jump in glee at the sight of each other for several months, they decided to take the next step and a few more months down the road they were married.  But now it’s been a year and they don’t feel bliss or hearts jumping anymore.  Now this person they’re married to has faults and issues, and they want out.

Master Chief and Cortana by MikkeSWE
Courtesy of MikkeSWE on deviantART

This probably sounds very familiar, as divorce is rampant in our society.  There are many psychological and sociological reasons behind this phenomenon, such as how modern entertainment, media, and the consumer market create products that continually push the limits on human focus and create in us shorter and shorter attention spans.  However, I’m not here to explain the factors leading to divorce.  I’m here to explain how one of the most-loved video games of all time could benefit the one you most love.

When Bungie created the Halo universe, they obviously paid close attention to developing the relationship between Master Chief and the AI Cortana.  Their relationship is so close that gamers have speculated as to its true nature; are Master Chief and Cortana somehow in love, or are they just an incredible team? Fans have even made art of, well, a sexual nature between the Spartan and AI.  Despite that impossibility, the relationship of these two characters exudes beneficial principles that we regular humans would do well to apply to our own real-life marriages.

First of all, I’d dare anyone to challenge the trust between Master Chief and Cortana.  She gives him directions on where to go and what needs to get done, and he rarely questions her.  When he does question her, it’s usually because he is not able to comprehend everything her computer brain has access to and can process, like when she told him to go stop Captain Keyes in Halo: Combat Evolved.

Ultimately, though when Lord Hood questions if Master Chief trusts in Cortana in Halo 3, Chief responds definitively, “Sir. Yes, sir.”  No hesitation whatsoever.  Trust is a difficult feature to develop in a relationship, but the only thing that ever helps it is more trust, never doubts.  I can only recall one instance of doubt between Chief and Cortana, and that’s where she expresses her surprise at him coming back to save her from the tortures of the Gravemind.

Speaking of Cortana’s torture, this situation presented a more particular angle of the duo’s relationship that we could apply to our marriages today, and that is the virtues of dedication and loyalty.  Master Chief could have left Cortana behind entirely, letting her rot away her final years as a digital being at the whims of the Gravemind.  However, he explicitly made a promise to her that he would find her, and he followed through on that promise:

Remember those wedding vows you took?  Now think about seriously holding to them like Master Chief did when he kept his promise to Cortana, risking his life to save her.

Finally, notice that Cortana warns of her brokenness after being tortured by the Gravemind.  She says, “So much of me is wrong – out of place.  It may be too late.”  Her mental issues (or broken coding?) don’t put off Master Chief in the slightest.  Instead, he says, “You know me.”  He again demonstrates his willingness to stay by her side and help her no matter what state of mind and body she is in.  How many divorces in this world could be diverted if we were just as willing to overlook the faults of our spouses, or aid them in getting past these faults as much as possible to become better people, and ultimately, a better couple?  All of us are broken in some way or another, and if we stopped expecting perfection, maybe we’d see more of the support shown by Master Chief to Cortana in our marriages, as well.

I’m sure that you could pull more positive examples from this Spartan and his AI the more you dig into their interactions.  Despite their relationship in the video games being on a more platonic level than a marriage calls for, this does not mean they do not give us a wonderful example to follow in the areas they succeed in, such as trust, loyalty, and support.  Maybe if we followed Master Chief and Cortana’s principles, we’d see a lot more couples stay together for far longer than Halo games have been in existence.

Cortana in Master Chief's hand

CCI 2012: Halo 4 – Forward Unto Dawn Live-Action Trailer Plus Multiplayer Reactions!

As if Comic-Con wasn’t exciting enough, Microsoft and 343 Industries released the official trailer yesterday for their upcoming digital web series, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. It. Is. Epic.

Based on the beloved Halo universe, the series will premiere on October 5, 2012, on machinima.com’s new premiere channel, Machinima Prime, and on Halo Waypoint on Xbox Live. Five episodes are planned for promotional purposes leading up to the release of Halo 4 on November 6. The official Xbox Halo Waypoint site says, “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn brings a brand new Halo story to life on a scale never before seen in the Halo Universe.” (Xbox.com: Halo Waypoint)

The story goes something like this:

Set against the backdrop of a United Nations Space Command (UNSC) military academy, a group of highborn cadets are training to be the next generation of soldiers in the UNSC’s ongoing war with insurrectionists in the outer colonial planets. Among these cadets, Thomas Lasky struggles with his doubts about this war, and with the burden of expectations he may not be able to carry. As Lasky comes to terms with his potential as a military leader, the terrifying alien alliance known as the Covenant arrives and turns his world upside down. Inspired by the Master Chief, he must decide what it means to be a hero. Halo fans who experience Lasky’s thrilling origin story in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn will be rewarded with special insights into the story of Halo 4 and the “Halo Infinity Multiplayer” experience. (finance.yahoo.com)

Written by Todd and Aaron Helbing of Smallville and Spartacus, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn also boasts director Stewart Hendler of Sorority Row. The up-and-coming cast is riddled with smaller names that have made appearances in big-title films. For example, Master Chief will be played by Daniel Cudmore, who has been in X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and The Twilight Saga. Tom Green (Dance Academy) will play Thomas Lasky, the character whose story drives the web series. More stars and their respective characters include Anna Popplewell (The Chronicles of Narnia) as Chyler Silva, Ayelet Zurer (Angels & Demons, Munich) as Mehaffey, Mike Dopud (Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol) as General Black, Enisha Brewster (Footloose) as April Orenski, Masam Holden (Grey’s Anatomy, Elizabethtown) as Michael “Sully” Sullivan, Osric Chau (2012) as JJ Chen, Iain Belcher (Supernatural) as Vickers, and Kat De Lieva as Dimah. (finance.yahoo.com)

Do I think this web series will be incredible? I think that was just a rhetorical question. Of course it will be. When video games started coming out with live-action trailers before the official release dates, all I could think of was, “That’s genius! What a way to get people more interested in the story than the gameplay. Video games are becoming real and relatable now.” Then when I saw the “Remember Reach” trailer which came out for Halo: Reach‘s promotion, I thought, “HO-LY SHIT. What did I just see?! My mind cannot contain or comprehend the glories that just scrolled in front of my eyes.”

If I was that stoked about the Reach trailer, you can very well expect this Halo fan of over 10 years to be more than ecstatic for another live-action viewing opportunity. For those of you wondering about the actual Halo 4 gameplay that is currently available at Comic-Con, all I can report is that our very own C Tan claims that the “multiplayer is awesome.” Take our word for it. (EDITOR’S NOTE: It was pretty sweet. Reminds me more of Halo 2 multi versus Halo 3, which is good. What was bad was I sucked at playing Halo so I got my ass kicked. Regardless, enjoyable and just feels a bit more balanced but that might have to deal with the fact no one else played it and didn’t have a great feel off the bat.)

For some additional eye candy on this series, you should check out this video by IGN: IGN First Look: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Behind-the-Scenes. They were able to attend the set in Vancouver, B.C., and get some incredible behind-the-scenes footage. You can then add this to your list of total Halo achievements completed.

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