Halo is one of my favourite game franchises. Unlike many I was never a multiplayer fan, but I loved the deceptively simple but deep gameplay which provided a gateway into a fantastic science fiction world of surprising richness. After ODST and Reach however I find it dissapointing that we return to the Master Chief and Cortana. Perhaps it was inevitable. In my opinion those games set a high bar for the single-player Halo experience so Halo4 has a lot to live up to in that respect.

WARNING: Minor spoilers within.

Having received my pre-ordered limited edition on launch day, I managed to get about halfway through Mission 3 on Normal difficulty before I had to call it a night.

My thoughts from that first play session:

  1. It feels much faster than the previous games. I suspect that this is because we’ve just upgraded our TV from a 6 year old 42inch standard def plasma to a new 55inch 1080p LED LCD model. Everything still feels strange on this TV to me, so that might be it.

  2. The visuals in the game are amazing but has moved away from the brightly coloured, slightly cartoony feel of the previous games. This makes the environments look stunning and the enemies look amazing too when you get close. However at the range that you are normally at they are less distinct. There is a middle-ground between HD realism and cartoon, I wish Halo4 was there rather than trying to be at the realism end.

  3. There were a couple of points in the first two missions where Cortana had scripted dialog which triggered at the wrong times. Very jarring. Especially noticable in the Cartographer Room.

  4. There have also been a couple of continuity issues. After the cut scene in the Cartographer Room, it just loaded into a new room near the start of the bridge. My weapon loadout had also changed. It seemed like I had skipped over a bit. Possibly another instance of something being accidentally triggered at the wrong time.

  5. The Covenant fights in these first missions did seem very easy, too easy to be honest especially in mission one. And then when you first encounter the new enemies, the Knights and Watchers, they seem much too hard.

  6. Some of the weapon audio seems off to me. The pistol sounds weak.

  7. Some of the weapons seem to lack a sense of doing anything. This first occured to me with the Storm Rifle. Possibly the “hit animations” of the enemies are just too subtle at range. This might be why the Knights felt so tough.

  8. The enemies seemed to lack character. The previous games had a sense of humour with the Covenant. The “wort wort wort” laugh of the Elites, and the “Run away!” screams of the grunts made them feel like real characters you were fighting. The seemed to emotionally respond. These ones feel like actors playing a part. I can handle the Crawlers and Watchers being character-less but it is more of a problem with the Knights. They seem like they should do something more.

All those things said, I am enjoying it for the most part. Dispite some disappointment with the single player experience it is fun to be back in Halo with a new game, learning the new weapons, enemies and environments.

But it’s early, I don’t know where the story is really going at this point, so we’ll see.