The highly anticipated Halo 4 hit the market last week with an almighty crack and a boom - even if it didn't reach the lofty Halo 3 sales (over 11 million sold worldwide) it's still on top of all charts.
Whilst holding it in my hands, I was going back in time and found it hard to think of a single FPS game that I've played for more than a day. It's far outside my usual zone of comfort, genre-wise, but I was pleasantly surprised at how Halo 4 quickly surpassed my expectations and dispelled the preconceptions I usually have for FPS games.
The game starts quite appropriately with an impressive and punchy treat to the senses. My first reaction, when I was looking around in space, while falling down after the spaceship I was on got blown to pieces, was whoa, this is beautiful! Every change of environment made me feel excited; the entire game is one giant eye-candy with a multitude of flavours. Even the alien promethean knights had a strange appeal to them, especially when they jump on you to show their inner flaming skull, while trying to bite your head off.
The attention to detail in everything was astonishing - from all the little scratches on the weapons and armours to the imperfections on people's skin, made this game feel believable and real. Voice acting was also spot on - I will have to admit, that I absolutely love Master Chief's voice - made me feel like a true 'badass' whilst playing.
I am not that familiar with the previous Halo games, developed by Bungie, but I do know they had to work hard to prove their worth and then they had to give all that legacy to 343 Industries - a studio with no other games to their name, to pick up all that history and make sure it doesn't burn into ashes - like most people were afraid it could. I can't imagine the amount of pressure that puts on the entire team at 343, but I think they made it work beautifully. Good job guys!
I never thought I'd be the kind of person to care about guns - as long as it did the job and killed the enemy it's all good, right? - I was surprised at how fun it was to explore all the different types of weapons and have fun trying to find which one suits my playstyle the most. For my RPG-led mindset it was like exploring the different skills of a character I've never played before. I really enjoyed the promethean weapons, not only because they did the job splendidly, but they also have these amazing animations when you reload them. The Incineration Cannon was just pure fun, I couldn't stop using it.
Vehicles are suggested to be a 'boy's thing', but I dare say the vehicles in Halo 4 are pure fun - in a metal box shape. The first vehicle in the game is the Warthog. The moment I got on it and started driving it was better than being on a rollercoaster. I'm pretty sure my neighbours could hear me going Whoo, Yeah!
The best part about the vehicles in Halo - they have firearms, and by firearms I mean:
you can be on a massive tank with your fellow soldiers, (the 'Scorpion' they call it) and just shoot at something and watch it explode like a Michael Bay film without a budget limit. It was glorious.
My personal favourite was the Mantis, which is a more flexible vehicle, that looks more like a bigger armor, or robot if you like - it's almost indestructible and shoots missiles.
One of the things I don't expect FPS games to have and the general reason why they're not my first games of choice is the lack of good story.
Usually the point of playing an FPS game is to shoot stuff and try not to get shot while doing it. Even if there is a story, it's something predictable, generic and people generally don't care about it. Halo 4 surprised me the most with the fact that it does have a story and a good one too. It wasn't as much about Master Chief, but rather about him trying to save his AI companion - Cortana. This adds a whole new level of emotion and humanity to everything.
The fact that it's about the female character in the story and it's emotional and dramatic, even though it's an FPS game about a male super-soldier, Halo 4 makes it appealing to women as well as men. This is how marketing to women in games can be done. Lady Geek stamp of approval received.
Overall I really enjoyed playing the game, despite being not my usual choice of genre to indulge in. Mainly that was due to the beautifully executed cutscenes and most masterfully crafted environments - it gives the game this exquisite futuristic feel which hits just the right notes in the sci-fi geek inside me and adds numerous levels of immersion in this particular case. From now on I'm going to think twice before refusing an FPS game.