Halo 4: What to know about Halo’s gameplay, story and how it could affect the election

November 5, 2012

It’s been five years since the last major version of Halo hit store shelves, and as election volunteers prep for their big day, game stores are gearing up for midnight releases of the Xbox’s biggest series.

The gaming site IGN decided to have a little fun with the timing and took an informal, decidedly unscientific survey two weeks ago.

According to IGN results released Monday, nearly one-quarter of the participants who claimed to be registered voters said they are considering skipping the vote to play the game instead, with the percentages rising to 35 in Florida and 28 in Ohio.

Microsoft has said it is certainly not its intention to have gamers stay home on Election Day, and has some tie-ins to encourage voting. The company gave free armor to players who watched three of the four presidential/vice-presidential debates and even set up a a campaign to have game protagonist Master Chief ask Halo fans to vote, as Polygon’s Brian Crescente reported last month.

Of course, gamers can always vote, then play. Or get the midnight release, play, vote and go back to playing. And if you voted early, then you can feel extra smug.

Once you’ve fulfilled your civic duty, though, here’s a little more about the game:

There is life after Bungie. This is the first Halo title that hasn’t been made with involvement from the studio that created the series in 2001 — Bungie. Once a Microsoft property, Bungie announced it would strike out on its own after Halo 3, leaving the series in the hands of the Microsoft’s in-house developers, 343 Industries.

So how did 343 do flying solo? Reviewers say, that Halo 4 is just as good if not better than the original Halo trilogy.

“If you were curious about 343’s ability to pull this off, to make Halo 4 as good as Bungie’s games, here’s your answer,” wrote Penny Arcade’s Sophie Frell. “Halo 4 is not as good as Reach or Halo 3. It’s better.”

Gameplay is fun, smooth and largely lives up to the hype: IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey had high praise — 9.8 out of 10 — for the new title, saying that it has made him fall back in love with the franchise.

McCaffrey said that the campaign is paced better than most first-person shooters, and he found the artificial intelligence up to scratch. Halo’s wide-ranging arsenal of weapons is still in place, he said, and each gun “has a purpose, and every situation a fitting firing solution.”

Single-player and multiplayer have both seen significant changes, Frell wrote, largely for the better. Halo 4 has eight missions, but Frell said the game doesn’t seem that short and offers up plenty of new equipment and interesting elements for players to try. As for the multiplayer, Frell said it is more “cohesive” and plays like a developer’s appreciation gift for their players.

The Wall Street Journal’s Adam Najberg said that the multiplayer has been retooled and based off a storyline started in the single-player campaign. He added that collaborative play and the vehicles in the game made the game’s multiplayer stand out.

It’s all about Cortana. Microsoft hinted in its E3 presentation that the game would explore more about Cortana, who has been your AI aid throughout the series as she starts to break down. Reviewers were careful not to give spoilers, but said that Cortana’s struggle with her humanity is a core part of the game’s story. Across the board, reviewers pointed to this conflict as proof that 343 has taken Halo in a new and interesting direction.

It looks — and sounds — completely different. Halo 4 won’t disappoint you with its looks. Najberg sums it up this way: “I’m not sure how 343 goosed such stellar animations, lighting, shadows and smooth movement from the engine, but kudos for giving a 2012 experience in 2012 when so many other games have under-delivered.”

The sound and soundtrack, which are an integral part of the Halo franchise, are also also said to be stunning — though Najberg did say the music got a bit too “schmaltzy” at times.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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