Halo 4 is very “Halo”-y. After a decade, this series still looks, feels and plays like it always has. So if you want more of the same — a solid and familiar solo campaign and online battles — here you go.
I have two minds about “Halo 4.” Subjectively, I burned out on “Halo” years ago. But objectively, this sequel is very, very good. And I still dig on the multiplayer, in particular.
The solo campaign asks us to once again portray Master Chief, a military space warrior who shoots many hundreds of sci-fi warriors to save humans from death.
The plot begins in 2557, four years after “Halo 3.” There is a peace between humans and their rival species, The Covenant.
But skirmishes break out on a Covenant “forerunner planet.” Master Chief reemerges after a long slumber and stumbles back into war.
The game play goes like this: I run across sterling-clean terrain — forest, desert, space stations and blue-steel warehouses — shooting old Covenant-type guys while trying to reach end points.
As an experiment, I switched to the “easy” mode for a while, and I didn’t have to kill many bad guys. Instead, I just ran past them.
The most striking new thing is the relationship between Master Chief and his computer hologram helper, Cortana, whose “brain” has sadly twisted with age.
She comes across as a sort of crazy Tinker Bell. Their interactions truly touched me. Their sweet story finely explores unavailable love, robotic humanity, and military sociopathology.
My big complaint: My swollen thumb hurts, because I’m constantly pressing the left thumb stick to make Master Chief sprint. I can’t believe “Halo” makers still haven’t moved the default sprint button.
Anyway, “Halo’s” online multiplayer is usually where many players live for months. And it is nearly a dead ringer to previous “Halos.”
It does come with new battlefield maps, but it also includes old “Halo” maps. I was, like, “Oh my God, I played this map to death a zillion years ago.”
If you’re new to “Halo” online, you may get your lunch eaten by “Halo” fanatics.
Years ago, “Halo” redefined online multiplayers. But since then, other games re-re-invented online battles. Now many of us prefer “Battlefield” and “Call of Duty” to “Halo.”
That’s mostly because in “Halo” online, gamers constantly jump — using “Halo’s” big anti-gravity jumps — to avoid being shot. When I watch a “Halo” match, I’m reminded of Mexican jumping beans. Also, at times though rarely, I get spawned in front of a rival’s bullet. That makes me angry.
But it’s a superior multiplayer. Advice: Avoid using crappy machine guns. They are terrible. Level-up your guns, and learn to use the trickery, such as employing hologram body doubles.
Again, I would like to stress that my reservations (jumping beans, etc.) are personal in nature, because I’m a person. But this is a very good game — smooth, intuitive, interesting and expertly designed.
“Halo 4” by Microsoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 — Plays fun. Looks very good. Challenging. Rated “M” for blood and violence. Four out of four stars.
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at http://www.lvrj.com/columnists/ Doug_Elfman.html. Twitter at VegasAnonymous.