This week, the launch of Halo 4 on Xbox 360 marks the return of the blockbuster series—and the iconic green-armored space soldier known as Master Chief.
By the end of Halo 3, our hero went into cryogenic sleep, telling his faithful artificial intelligence counterpart to wake him when trouble was afoot. Five year later, Halo 4 touts new aliens (and classic ones, too, don't worry) but the real enemy has been the juggernaut Call of Duty series. Can Black Ops 2 (releasing next week) be topped? Is Halo 4 the game to do it? We'd still bet on Duty to bring in the bigger bucks, but our fragging hearts are racing to return to the Halo universe.
Here are our five reasons why Halo 4 means more than just another Call of Duty update:
1. The YouTube live-action Forward Unto Dawn series: This got us psyched about Halo all over again with an engaging story. Starring a cast that includes Chronicles of Narnia's Anna Popplewell and Supernatural‘s Osric Chau, the story takes place years before the original Halo. It follows a group of young cadets whose training facility is overrun by the Covenant, the main baddies in the series. There's a gunmetal grey you-are-there feel to each 15-minute short. Very much in the mood of Battlestar Galactica. We wish this series would continue past the five parts produced so far. Are you listening, Syfy Network?
2. It's never looked better: After waiting half a decade, the return of the Master Chief means a lot. Plus, he looks great. Unlike yet another Duty, whose yearly installments look so much the same, Halo 4 is gorgeous. And we don't just mean Cortana's new shapely hologram. The tiny fragment of particles that float across the screen, the stark lightning all immerse you like never before.
3. Best since the original: The single player campaign is the finest since the first Halo. The reviews are in with G4 giving it 4.5/5 and IGN a whopping 9.8. We've played for many, many hours, as well. Every blaster shot feels so right. The gameplay is intuitive. The Duty games have been about skirmishes strung together with barely a story. In Halo 4, the focus is also on killing things real good, but the heart is Cortana. At the opening of we learn that artificial construct's like her have a life span of seven years. This is year eight. Rampancy is slowly killing her. And that's the one digital being the Chief can't live without.
4. It doesn't stop with the disc: Downloadable content adds life to today's big games, and Halo 4 has 10 weeks of free content that will last you past Black Ops II (admittedly, still awesome) zombie mode. Free coop missions and classic slayer deathmatches (still highly addictive) are a huge incentive to keep the game long after the story of the Master Chief ends. (Until Halo 5!)
5. This game ain't on rails: Call of Duty's scripted moments are a highlight, but there aren't a lot (read: any) player options. You just keep moving forward. (If you try and take the road less traveled that's big no no.) Halo 4 ‘s giant-sized levels encourage exploration. If that Covenant baddie or the even more fiendish new enemies the Prometheans are too tough for a frontal assault, try a different approach.
Are you a fan of the Master Chief? Or are Duty's zombie's mode all you really want this holiday season? Sound off in the comments!