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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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Halo 4:' singleplayer review

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Still legendary 

There's a line in 'Halo 4's' campaign that immediately got my attention. When Cortana is dealing with the effects of her rampancy (which is basically an AI's version of multiple personality syndrome, and all of the personalities are crazy), she bemoans her fate to the Master Chief. In an emotional state, she predicts that they'll pair the Chief with another version of her, 'but it won't be me' is her resigned, saddened conclusion.

Bungie, the original creators of the 'Halo' series, passed the torch to 343 Industries after 2010's 'Halo: Reach.' It was going to be the universe we loved, the characters we'd bonded with, but it wasn't going to be the same developer. There were many assumptions and murmurs that 343i wouldn't be able to pull off the 'Halo' universe with the same aplomb that Bungie did. So did they do it? Or is the first story installment from 343i doomed to fail?

The first couple of hours, I wasn't really sure. 'Halo 4' starts off at a slow, steady plod. While the reveals of plot-lines were fantastically done in the in-engine cutscenes, the early levels left a lot to be desired in terms of excitement.

Right around the third mission or so, though, things suddenly start to click.

Suddenly, you're riding around in the biggest land vehicle the UNSC can muster up, sniping targets and basically causing chaos. Suddenly, you're back in the driver's seat of a Warthog with two marines riding shotgun and tearing up Covenant and Promethean troops with fully-automatic .50 caliber machine gun. Suddenly, you're reversing a gravity lift to carry you into the belly of a Covenant ship to destroy it from the inside out.

Suddenly, you're playing 'Halo' again.

Has most of it been done before? Oh, by all means, yes. You have all of the staple 'Halo' situations: assaults with full squads of marines, the desperate escape from destructive landscapes, and the impossible, you-gonna-die-fool, skin of your teeth battles. But does that detract at all from the scale and quality of it all? Not even in the slightest. You'll have a white-knuckle grip on your controller, whether it be from the excitement of the large battles you'll find yourself in, or from the occasionally-rollercoaster-esque difficulty curve. Regardless of its flaws, this is one fight I desperately wanted to finish.

After you finish the campaign, you can drop into the boots of a Spartan-IV and continue the story through the Spartan Ops missions. Set a few months after the campaign's conclusion, this mode replaces Firefight, and does a fairly decent job of it. You'll constantly be faced with overwhelming odds, but an infinite amount of lives dulls any difficulty you may face. Your Spartan from War Games carries over to this mode, as does your loadouts from multiplayer. With 343 constantly updating and adding new episodes, this is a mode to watch in the future, and one most definitely best experienced with your friends.

On the technical side of things, 'Halo 4' is absolutely gorgeous. Not only are the graphics the best the Xbox 360 has seen at this point, but on top of that, they manage to pack even more enemies into each and every engagement. With all this graphical black magic, they've still managed to keep the legendary (pun mostly intended) AI intact, especially when faced with the new Promethean enemies. With a symbiotic foe like this, you're going to be kept on your toes and rewarded for proper threat assessment and prioritizing your kill order to keep them from overwhelming you.

A few more quibbles and praises: Steve Downes does a brilliant job as the much-more-talkative Chief, actually betraying emotion at key points and interacting perfectly with Jen Taylor's Cortana. However, while Cortana's quieter moments are flawless, her battle dictation and overwraught directions and superbly hammy angry moments grated me at points. Adding to the star power, Jennifer Hale (whom the gaming world knows as the female version of 'Mass Effect's' Commander Shepard) voices Sarah Palmer, the leader of the newest iteration of the Spartan program. While delivered with her usual grace and quiet someone-took-the-last-cup-of-coffee pissed attitude, Hale could have been scripted much better instead of becoming a grouchy mid-to-senior officer stereotype.

'Halo's' had a long run. Ten years in fact. Many franchises have come and gone in that amount of time. It's as if they have their own version of rampancy, never finding a way to halt the aging process and nail down the original personality that made them great. 343i has avoided this curse and breathed new life into Bungie's brainchild, giving me hope for the next two installments of this revered FPS.

Wake up, John. It's okay to stop dreaming of a future for 'Halo' and start living it. 

Aaron Waite's grandmother owned the first copy of 'Super Mario Bros. 3' he ever played. It's probably her fault you're reading this.

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