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Halo 4 – First impressions (This aint your grand daddy’s Halo!)

November 6, 2012

Gamestops across the country were packed and excited.  There was a good 100 guys in line (and a few gals and a bunch of mom will pre-teens in tow).  Good numbers considering there was another Gamestop only a half mile away.

Seth and I both loaded our copies, only to find that we had to install Disc 2.  (???)   Fine for me (I installed both 1 and 2 anyway), but for Seth with his 20GB hard drive, it was annoying as he had to delete some stuff to make room.

Finally, we were ready to Roll!!   Except….   Halo server was down.  MP was down.    We couldn’t even connect to run some Campaign co-op.

So he played some Spartan ops (which he loved – as he could level up his MP character and unlock weapons, etc..), while I gave Campaign a spin.

Campaign:  Loved the opening scenes.   The mood was real.  Like watching a movie.   When I finally got to thaw out / power up MC, I felt like I was him.  As MC talked with Cortana, I had the sense of heaviness, as if I (MC) was getting a little bit older, tired.   I felt we were both now (Cortana and MC) a little bit fragile / brittle.  Everything was not so optimistic.  But, trouble was brewing and there was work to be done.   Lock and load.

I decided for the first time in my Halo history to commit to playing the entire campaign on Heroic (always had played on Normal with a little Heroic mixed in).   The Tension (with the extra difficulty) is palpable. The music / mood / graphics (colors/details/shadows/shading) are spectacular.   Color pallet is darker.  Previous Halo’s were bright and cartoony.  This felt much much more realistic.  p.s.  Love the new heads-up display.

The sound is now something you can feel.  Gunfire.  Chatter of enemies.  Even the crunching of my boots, made me want to slow down, so I wouldn’t be heard.

The music so far is amazing.  Really sets the tone.   First mission:  Haunting, Scary, Lonely.

Gotta say:  This is THE Game where having a big screen tv and surround sound (or headphones) really pays dividends.  Immersive.

Gameplay:  I feel like I’m in MC’s body armor. I loved trying out the new weapons as I progressed. Elites were tough to kill with my AR or Pistol, so when I found a plasma pistol I actually (Used it). Downed his shields, then one burst from my AR, and… Problem solved. Later, when I got a hold of a Needler, Wow!! What a Bad Ass weapon! The needle physics are outstanding. I had to be careful when I was shooting at a shielded jackal because the needles could bounce back at me.

Later, when I finally got a hold of a BR, I was in heaven. It felt heavy, and every bullet was precious (meaning there weren’t as many, but man did they do the job if you got head shots).

Level design.  Typical tight Halo corridors when I was on the spaceship.  This was expected.  The AI is much improved, but still seemed a little dumb (meaning that I could move up, kill a few and fall back).  They didn’t rush me.   If I was them, I’d be beating down my door.

But, when I got “outside”, the battlefield opened up with enemies everywhere.  I had options.   I softened them up from afar, but soon was running low on ammo, so I decided the direct approach (through the middle).   I was eaten up after a furious battle.    Bummed…   I respawned and rethought my options.  I chose a fast moving flanking approach to get to my designation.  It was touch and go, and soon the enemies that I had avoided (in the middle), were now flanking me.  But I was moving fast enough, that they couldn’t close the loop.   Spectacular.  I felt “strategic”.   I now LOVE playing on Heroic, because it is no longer possible to just win a war of attrition.  They are tougher.  I only have so much ammo.  They move/flank smarter than any previous game.

Multiplayer:  (only played one game before hitting the hay).

It was almost 2am and it was time for bed.  I checked the MP status and it was now running.   Sweet!

I played one match of slayer.

It felt different.  More grounded / Call of Duty.   I think I like it, but too early to tell.

First Impression:

I like:

1) The instant respawn, 2) Kill Cam, 3) The new load outs:  Armor abilities  Tactical packages, Support Upgrade.  4) Power weapons now have “beacons” so you can see where they are on the map at all times (sort of like Gears, but you don’t have to push a button to see them.  They are just there).   Probably annoying for some, but great for me as it seems no matter how much MP I play in Halo, I never remember where the power weapons are.

I don’t like:  The Hardlight Shield load out (I haven’t tried it), but I’ve played against it.   Guys can throw up a shield that “sticks to them” and still shoot.   I lost most/all of those head to head battles with a shield guy.

So that’s it for first impression.  What I can say is that I am pretty sure what I will be doing tonight.  Vote. Nap.  Then later either:  A) Playing Halo or B) Watching the Election results.    Oh wait, there is option C)…. Playing Halo and switching to the election from time to time.

Bottom line:  I will vote and see what happens, but there are more important things at work here.  The Universe is in jeopardy, and Master Chief is back on the job!

  1. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    November 6, 2012 10:20 am

    there’s no grifball… my heart broke. I must say I love the new infection with different loadouts, etc. BTB was very fun, uploading a commentary video about it right now. Going to try Forge next.

    So far the game is living up to the hype, and all the little details they added do enhance the experience. I know some of my friends that loved the old Halo are not going to like it.

    but we’ll see how it goes.

  2. November 6, 2012 1:06 pm

    Thank you very much, Kenai. I always enjoy reading your impressions, and then the comments that follow below as others eventually get their time in. Sounds great!

    EDIT: If you didn’t notice it pop up in the RSS feed, Sophie Prell (PAR) has an extensive write up on Certain Affinity’s work on MP and Forge. I think what a lot of people don’t realize (or quickly forget) is that this is the developer constant between the Bungie and 343 Halos.

    They’re the Navy SEALs of game development; they get in, complete their work, and get out, likely to never see the spotlight they deserve.

  3. Blankman permalink
    November 7, 2012 12:17 am

    I really didn’t get to play much of the game due to my laser focus on the election. However, from what I did manage to play, the visuals & Naughty Dog-inspired acting was definitely impressive. The cutscenes were filled with the right kind of emotion. From what I’ve experienced so far, this Halo has more humanity & compassion in it. And that is a good thing. You can sense the emotion of John as he speaks with Cortana about her rampancy. Before you guys get your undies in a bunch & cry spoiler, it’s not. Anyone that’s played the Halo series and/or read a few of the novels know the significance of rampancy on an AI construct. Anyways, you actually feel the genuine concern that John has for Cortana. How Cortana’s subtle facial gestures react to lines of questioning are evidence that this isn’t Bungie’s contrived attempt at drama. This feels more than that, and done appropriately by the new shepherd of the Halo franchise. “Don’t make a girl a promise that you can’t keep.”- Cortana. You better believe that it makes players invested in saving her. I can’t wait to play more to see where the story leads to.

    343’s graphics engine isn’t Bungie’s old ass Halo:CE engine anymore. What a frickin’ relief! The lighting, particle effects, overall graphical fidelity are what current-gen gamers have been waiting for on this franchise. I can see why 343/MS snatched Corrine Yu from Gearbox. That girl has pumped out a great looking engine that will no doubt serve the following games well on the next-gen system.

    The one thing that kind of bugged me was the sound of the Warthog. I know some of you guys might think that I’m nitpicking, but it didn’t sound like a kickass 4×4. Rather it sounded like an over revved scooter. It just sounded off. The other sounds were right on mark. I had my 5.1 SRS on & the weapons, enemies, and ambient noise were a treat.

    As Kenai already stated, the weapons (new & old) are improved & impressive to use. The BR does kick some serious booty. Don’t even get me started on the SAW! Holy crap, that weapon just destroys things! Ha! I also agree that the AI didn’t seem to have changed. If they would have bum rushed me, I would have been slaughtered on many occasions. However, this is a game in the end, and constantly dying from “intelligent” AI would prove frustrating & induce controller throwing fits of rage.

    Can’t wait to fire up the game tomorrow. Hang in there, Cortana, Chief is on his way!

  4. November 7, 2012 1:52 am

    Thanks, Kenny! I love it that you guys are writing up your thoughts because it means infinitely more to me than even my favorite review sites. Our copies are in the mail,and I am hoping that they will be here by next Tuesday, the afternoon of which I plan to take off to recover from the BB tournament this weekend. I will try to keep checking back, but it is possible that I won’t have access where we are going (for three nights and four days).

    P.S. The election is over, and I am very relieved that it didn’t end as a nail-biter, which would have led to dishonesty and accusations all over the map (and perhaps even worse things). Now that it is finished, allow me to suggest a site:

    Check it out. In the end, did you vote for who you actually wanted? I have several friends of various political leanings who have tried it, all have been pleased with (and interested in) the results.

    And then game! Playing Gears of War 3 campaign with the boys was such a never-forget experience success, that we may have to do the same with Halo 4 – two player split-screen every night till we finish it.

  5. November 7, 2012 7:50 am

    Blank and Suns. Always love reading what you write too.

    So in between checking the election status, I was playing Halo MP and Spartan Ops.

    I did the first two missions of Spartan OPs by myself (on Heroic – died about 5 times in each mission). My main reason for doing this is because it levels up your MP character (i.e. gets you unlocks on weapons and abilities), so that when I eventually went into MP, I was already a level 7 (and now had some of the “basics”).

    Spartan OPs is Fun, but without the mood / drama of Campaign (man I got my ass handed to me by Sword Elites several times). Basically like playing Firefight, just a different twist (you have a mission instead of just Tower Defense). Definitely will be fun playing Co-op (Luke wants me to play a bunch of OPs tonight).

    Seth is really really digging the MP. He is at / near the top of the leader board in most H4 games he’s been playing. This is surprising because he really hasn’t been a shooter / mp player. He LOVES Dominion.

    I played Dominion for the first time last night. I Love it Too! Basically, a Halo version of BF3 Conquest (3 bases). I don’t understand all the nuances, but I TOO was kicking ASS in that gametype. What I like about it is that it works for all types of players. You can be aggressive and take bases. You can defend base B (which will be hotly contested the entire match). You can hang back and defend the quieter base A (or C depending on which team you’re on). You can set up turrets (and other stuff i.e. see note above on me not understanding the nuances…) and you can wait for vehicles to spawn to support your team at location B.

    Bottom line: I think Dominion will be THE gametype that defines Halo 4 (and where the Stranded will be spending most of our time.) 343 Industries made their STAMP on the Halo franchise with this gametype.

    Oh and one more to talk about. REGICIDE!!!

    Regicide is Fun!! Basically it is “Kill the King”. A bounty is placed on the head of the leader and you can see his Icon on the map. Everyone flows toward him. The more kills he gets (without dying), the higher his bounty goes. If you kill the King, you get the “cash”. The King can respawn as the King if he still has the highscore after dying. If not, a new King is crowned. I only played one game, but It was FUN!! I didn’t win, but I was the King several times for a good part of the game. Oh Man! talk about Frantic with everyone hunting you down. One time I found a rocket launcher. Whoot!!! All four shots I had, found their homes! What is fun is that you also get points for killing everyone else, but not as many as killing the King, so you are constantly making choices about whether to kill the guy running along side you, or ignore him and keep going after the King. Another “STAMP” by 343!!

    Last in my update for today is – MAPs.

    MAPS! Love them!! So many great spots for Epic battles. Will only describe one today. Exile is huge. It’s green. It’s a great Dominion map and Big Team Battle Map. Lot’s of routes, tunnels, ditches, hidey holes, vehicles. It is the Halo 4 version of BFBC2 – Laguna Presa.

    As of this morning,I am Loving Everything about MP. There may be some imbalance things I notice as time goes on, but today, I am happy.

  6. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    November 7, 2012 10:42 am

    For me the MP has been up and down. I tried all the gametypes. I liked Dominion and Regicide like Kenai. The surprising part was Slayer. I think I found Reach a bit more enjoyable because with the DMR it made you time your shots. On 4, it’s like 3 in the sense that now you have to go back to counting shots, knowing when to bail encounters and basically playing Defensively overall. It’s great teamwork for sure, but it’s less fun for me comparing it to other games that you don’t have to restrain yourself as much and you get a lot more kills like MW3 or even Battlefield.

    If they don’t release Grifball or SWAT (any fast paced gameplay). I might actually abandon it for a bit when Black Ops 2 is released.

    Also I think all the killstreaks and armor abilities are very well done. It doesn’t alter the game too much, and done properly it gives you enough boost to get more kills or survive longer.

    The other issue I am having is maps, they are too few. Reminds me a lot of Gears, that by day 1 there are already a few that people in general seem to avoid and those that are good are being overplayed.

  7. Average permalink*
    November 11, 2012 12:30 pm

    Guess I better leave my take on things, played a few with Kenai so far. Dominion was my first experience after Jimmy said it was awesome. It is quite good, though my only complaint is the powerups that restock promote camping.

    MP is wicked, it is fast and it seems to cater to both hardcore and casual in the same gametypes based on the weapon loadouts, Good Job on that.

    DMR is accurate, you can’t spam it but it’s alot easier than Halo Reach.
    Battlerifle has some recoil but usable by almost anyone.

    I do have a couple complaints, too few maps in each category and they aren’t including the forge made ones, that should be added immediately, even if they aren’t amazing maps. 4-5 maps in Team Slayer is too few.

    Campaign is good, it’s not too long, I rushed through it in 4-5 hours. and I mean rushed.
    But they nail the “halo” moments and Blank will surely be hootin and hollerin in some of the more epic set pieces.

    No rankings in Multiplayer is a huge missing piece, foolish of them to not even make them visible to only the player and not public. Halo is a competitive game, one of the main reasons E-Sports broke into North America, sure Starcraft was huge in Asian but Halo brought it to North America and kicked off MLG. Leaving out ranked is weird.

    • Blankman permalink
      November 11, 2012 4:50 pm

      I finished the campaign last night & I was impressed with 343’s story. They have stood by their plan to make the sequel to this trilogy a darker story. If Bungie were still at the reins of the franchise, I don’t think they would’ve gone down this route. I won’t post any spoilers, so you guys need not worry. I can’t wait until more of you guys finish the story so we can share notes, hypotheses, etc. As Suns has already stated, it is very surprising when a game that wasn’t on our radar winds up to be a bonafide solid & entertaining experience(s). Perhaps “surprising” isn’t the appropriate word to sum up 343’s stewardship of the franchise. “Hopeful & realization” would probably be more accurate. I, for one, am glad that it’s out of Bungie’s hands because the franchise is better off without them. Master Chief is more than a guy in a suit, now we need to know what his human aspect really is. 343 is on the right track.

      Very disappointing to hear that your basketball team didn’t play up to their potential. As teachers, that’s the most frustrating part when kids don’t seize the moment for pride, for their school, and for the experience. 😦 Well, at least you honored your commitment to them and tried your darnedest to influence them in whatever way you could, Mike. Your part of the deal is coming to an end and I can hear the exhaustion in your voice when we hop on XBL.

    • November 13, 2012 8:15 pm

      Thanks, Kenny! 😀

  8. November 11, 2012 4:20 pm

    Well, the tournament has come and gone, leaving us in second place. It was a hard loss, but the other team won it fair and square. They played like their lives depended on it. Our team didn’t go that extra step.

    Thanks for the impressions, guys (and I read about Kenai and Blank’s game in the other thread). It sounds great and 4GN can’t wait till our games arrive. A surprise hit is always welcome, especially when it includes a solid MP VS component. Hopefully the games arrive tomorrow and the boys and I can play when I take the afternoon off.

  9. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    November 12, 2012 10:36 am

  10. November 12, 2012 4:24 pm

    • November 13, 2012 10:52 am

      Hahaha! Man I love Penny Arcade!

  11. November 13, 2012 2:02 pm

    How is Black Ops 2, Guys?

    • November 14, 2012 7:46 am

      I absolutely fackin’ love it. We tried Zombies last night and holy moly was it a blast. The new “story” gametype, TranZit it just crazy. It takes 4 or 5 different levels of Zombies and ties them together. There’s a bus that drives around to each level (with no loading whatsoever btw) and makes ‘stops’ at each level. You then have to find parts and a workbench at that stop to make things like Turrets, Electrical Traps, a Turbine to power those two and open specific doors and among a few others. It’s just amazing.

      The Multiplayer. Jesus if you could have heard Red and Zos yesterday… They were making noises I didn’t even know a man could make. There was so much rage and adrenaline running through each of us. This game is not for the faint of heart. You die in just a few bullets so you have to be on your game with your twitch skills. And there’s no more Killstreaks, rather they are Scorestreaks a la MW3, and it seems as though they’re tougher to get now since you die so easily.

      What’s nice though is that anything you do that grants you points counts towards your next Scorestreak. Get an assist? Depending on the gametype you play it grants you different point values, but we’ll stick with the TDM point standard – you get 25/50 points for assists depending on how much damage you do and 100 per kill. You get a UAV at 350 Points (3 kills and a 50 points assist for example) and you get a 10 Point UAV assist each time someone on the other team is killed while it is active, no matter where on the map or if you shot them. So, that adds to your next Scorestreak, and in my case I would get a Care Package. I throw the smoke nade out to call it in, get a Lightning Strike (Mortar Strike in Black Ops 1) get 5 kills, that’s 500 more points right there which could add to my next Scorestreak. And once you get your last Scorestreak it starts all over again if you’re still alive, like a never ending cycle.

      You keep your Scorestreaks after you die, which is nice. Also, another thing that I LOVE is that say I have a UAV and just unlocked the Lightning Strike – what would happen in past COD games is you would have to call in the most recent streak to get the lesser one, not in this game. I can use the D-Pad to cycle down to the UAV, activate it, and then call in my Lightning Strike for massive damage.

      I may do some streams while I’m playing if anyone is interested. OH, and I was going to make a post about it, but I might as well just put it here. I tested out the Stream capabilities on my Capture Card on twitch while I was playing AC3. You can check out some footage here. I plan on doing a sort of video review for AC3, but Blops2 has taken over now 😉

      EDIT: The quality on the stream isn’t comparable to the capture quality. I uploaded some videos of NHL that show off the HD. You can watch them below. Just as of note, I’m the light blue arrow in the first video, and then the yellow arrow in the second. rEDChief is the purple arrow in both videos.

    • November 14, 2012 3:41 pm

      Thanks for the impressions, Grymmie! Also, great to see you crankin’ up the capture card. Do post some vids of Blops 2.

    • November 15, 2012 6:19 pm

      Scratch that, it sucks. Haven’t been so horrible in a shooter since MW3. Treyarch was ambitious with this game, but there are so many issues with multiplayer I don’t even know where to begin.

    • November 15, 2012 7:22 pm

      LOL Grymmie, that is too bad, though it is comforting to know that you haven’t been taken away by Blops2 before our H4 games even arrive.

    • November 15, 2012 9:28 pm

      Yea Suns, I may be selling the game for Haylow. I’m going to hold off until after the weekend to see if it can win me over. So far, not at all. I’ve played for 11 hours already and am currently at a 0.95 K/D with a little over one thousand kills. I hate to obsess over K/D, but we primarily play TDM. I’ve only gone positive in a few games.

      The frustrations I’m having with this game are like none I’ve had before. Connection is the most important thing in this game because even though I shoot at the enemy first, they still take me out in a few shots.

      The map design is horrendous, as well. It ENCOURAGES camping – camping around corners and prone at a doorway are the two main ones. Some of the cover they made is about nipple height from your perspective, but from someone aiming at that person you can only see the top half of their head, which gives them a HUGE advantage.

      Oh, and also, snipers are a one hit kill anywhere on the body and there are at least 3 of them on every map. I’m calling this game Modern Warfare 4 from now on.

    • FrenkoFrenik permalink
      November 15, 2012 10:38 pm

      Rent Halo first if possible. If you are not getting kills in Black Ops, don’t expect to get kills in Halo, it is even harder and camping may be even more severe. Anything besides Big Team Slayer, is whoever runs and holds an area as a group will be the one to win. The only difference is Big Team Slayer because people tend to run around the map more, but even then camping certain areas is the norm.

      The only big difference is that if you do the same, you die a lot less than in COD.

      Of all the games I have played these past few months, If I were to go back to anything besides Black Ops 2, it would be Medal of Honor. The MP is pretty much BF3 infantry servers. I am just waiting for it to go down in price. Hopefully it’s $30-40 in a few months.

  12. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    November 15, 2012 9:07 pm

    Yeah I would say both Halo 4 and Black Ops 2 have growing pains to say the least. However today we experienced as a group some massive lag, that we probably haven’t experienced since Gears 1. So for now the more stable experience is Halo 4, but there is something to say about Black Ops 2, even though they changed a lot of things, even if I think the Maps aren’t really good at all. I still think about playing the game and conquering it, more so than what I wanted to conquer Halo 4.

    Right now is just up and down in both stability and gameplay overall, but if both ever get to be a consistent experience I would say that Black Ops might be the best game overall. But getting there right now seems light years away.

    I got some hilarious chatter footage I need to edit and make it shareable. Regardless what game is on the tray, the reactions and chatter in general is what matters and makes any bump seem like nothing.

  13. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    November 15, 2012 10:41 pm

    Nuketown is still nuketown

  14. November 15, 2012 10:42 pm

    Ok, thanks for the second impressions Grymmie and Frenik. The good thing about Halo 4 is that it has MP Co-op, and that should provide some solid entertainment for at least two run-throughs (at 8+ hours a piece). Then, if the MP VS is a mess because of hosting problems, there is Borderlands 2 and BF3 waiting nearby.

    NHL 13 is also there for Grymmie and rED, which may be the only hockey they will get this year. Bunch of idiots slitting their own throat. In what era of human history were people paid that well to play sports…and it isn’t enough!? Pfffttt….

    Maybe the players should start a Kickstarter for a new league! LMAO!

    • November 16, 2012 6:10 am

      Kickstarter! Hahah, that’s gold. Funny thing is, is that I’m sure it would work!

  15. November 16, 2012 5:23 am

    Grymm, come over to Halo. I’ve had my best MP experience in a LONG time (on any game). First the first time in years, I’m comfortably over the 1:1 K/D (and trending higher) as my last few days of playing has me (Yes me) at the top of the leader board consistently.

    Main factors: Silky smooth. DMR (This is my weapon, this IS my $%#%^ GUN!).

    The variety of kills is the reason it is so fun for me. I can always rely on the DMR, but I am getting kills a million different ways. Each game feels fresh because of this. One game it’s because I piloting a Banshee, another it’s because I’m a gunner on a Gauss warthog. One game I was gunner on the Gauss, but I had no driver… No matter, I just camped there and destroyed everyone who came my way (Scorpion – check Banshee – check Ghosts – check, check, check, Infantry – check x 10). I was bummed when someone finally drove me into the fray, where we got a few kills before being rocketed to death…

    And the gametypes are also keeping it fresh (Lately been enjoying Capture the Flag ~ which I haven’t really played in any game in years.).

    Suns when are you getting the game?!! Are they swimming it to Japan?!!

    • Average permalink*
      November 16, 2012 5:59 am

      “Suns when are you getting the game?!! Are they swimming it to Japan?!!”
      HAHAHA Thank you made my morning.

    • November 16, 2012 1:30 pm

      Kenai, we are frisking the Postman every morning on his empty-handed arrival. Today, I think I will greet him at the door wearing a rubber glove on my right hand. If he doesn’t produce the game after that, you can bet he will tomorrow!

      Play Asia has only taken this long once or twice before in all of our tens of orders.

  16. November 21, 2012 7:35 am

    While previous Halo releases have iterated on the original’s basic staples of Slayer, Team Slayer, Capture the Flag and Oddball, nothing has felt like a major addition. Even Headhunter, while unique, felt as much like a gimmick as something with staying power. But with Dominion, 343i has pushed Halo 4 in the direction of Battlefield-style objective-based gameplay, and it shines for it.

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