The culmination of Halo 3 left our good friend Master Chief in a cryogenic stasis. He would return when it was once again time for him to defend his people. A near cataclysmic event is usually what brings the Chief out of his dormant state, but something is slightly different this time. A covenant fleet is in the area scavenging the remains of his ship, and Cortana is acting quite strange. She soon reveals that her systems are starting to deteriorate, and only her creator could possibly repair her issue.

It’s up to Master Chief to find a way to get back home, and also discover why the covenant has begun attacking them again. Along the way we get to see the relationship between Cortana and Chief explored, as Cortana slowly becomes less dependable due to her ailment. The Chief shows a bit of his human side in this game, as he’s compelled to save the only companion he’s ever really known. Meanwhile, a new villain steps onto the scene with the dreams of wiping out humanity. It doesn’t take long for the battle of humanity to become the backdrop of a love story. Duty over saving the one you love, what will Master Chief eventually choose?

I can’t say that this was the most gripping narrative piece I have ever been apart of. I’m all about saving Cortana because that’s our girl, but when saving her is blocked by accidentally waking up a sleeping powerhouse… that’s when all bets are off. I know this is the Halo universe and there wouldn’t be a game without something that threatens humanity… but the way it develops is pretty sloppy. Over time I really stopped paying attention to the rest of the story line, and snapped awake at the bits when Cortana had totally gone bananas.

This true evil immediately has it out for the human race, and could give a got damn about the crazy covenant. There is also the stereotypical higher ranking officer that shouts loudly at Master Chief to do what he says or else. Halo 4 is a bastion of tropes, but they are always blatant and obvious and not that interesting outside of an action scene. The most memorable portions of the tale are when Cortana breaks down and becomes more human than anyone else in the game. The remainder is game play fodder that often blends into the background, especially during cooperative game sessions.

The story is told through incredibly detailed in-game sequences. Master Chief is always at the heart of battle, and apparently his armor can survive even the harshest trauma. The world of Halo still looks absolutely gorgeous, and the new character models bring a new level of realism to the series. Small niceties like the gaps in Cortana’s teeth, or the specifics of our illustrious hero’s famous armor. A new depth of beauty shows itself in the war torn landscapes of Halo, with a vibrant new world to pay attention to.

Down where the bullets fly and the explosions are plentiful, the fundamentals look different but have generally stayed the same. This is a treat for those who didn’t know if 343 could follow in the s hoes of Bungie. A few new enemies are even thrown into the mix, with varying combat patterns that players aren’t familiar with. The A.I. in Halo 4 remains distinct, with the most agile and often ruthless enemies in the FPS business. The new weapons don’t really change things up as much as one would hope, and players still can’t dual-wield any of the smaller guns.

In fact, I found that most of the weapons generally felt representative of the other alien weapons. There were minor differences like more bullets, or a faster rate of fire, but there is a bit less of a balance issue for finding weapons you like. Well… besides the pistols of course, they seem to be pretty worthless for the most part. This game introduces a new vehicle as well, which is a gigantic mech that players can pilot in and out of multi-player combat. Anyone in one of these is instantly feared by ground and air troops alike, and it’s quite possibly the best addition in the game.

There are also a few key set pieces littered through the game, like riding a vehicle well deserving of the name “Mammoth”. Players will also escape from a crumbling world, or take to the sky to fly into the enemy base. It’s a good switch up from the classic run and gun of single-player, but not all of these epic moments are created equal. For example, there are quite a few missions that just require taking out 3 items in an area. This usually equates to fighting off waves of enemies, while you destroy a generator. If it sounds formulaic, that’s because it is.

Multi-player is exactly what you would expect for a game of this caliber. Players can create badges, customize their armor, and earn points and ranks to unlock new weapons, armor kits, and load-outs. Familiar modes like Team Slayer, Big Team Slayer, Regicide, Capture the Flag, Oddball, and Dominion are the typical modes expected of the series. The flood mode starts players as one of the flood or a Spartan, each player that’s killed will turn into one of the flood until only one player is left.

SWAT pits players against each other only using rifles. Players are immediately killed if felled by a head shot  or struck two or more times… it’s the most realistic mode in the game if armor generation is too much for you. Multi-player in Halo is incredibly fast paced when compared to previous games; it takes a page straight out of the rule book of Call of Duty. This is a welcome change to the series, since rounds go by faster and there is a sense of urgency to combat. It adds a bit of fire to the seats of players to work together and score faster.

Spartan Ops is the true cooperative story mode of the game. Currently being released in phases, players assume the role of Crimson Squad and take on assignments. It isn’t exactly a campaign, but players are given objectives and fight off droves of enemies racking up points.  If you’re looking for a little fun with friends well after Master Chief’s story is over, Spartan Ops is where the fun is at.

Halo is Halo but when playing cooperatively, this title has many a problem with remaining stable. I went through most of the campaign with other players, and random spurts of lag would weigh down on all of us. On occasion it would take two seconds to allow the cursor to hover over an enemy, and by then the enemy would be well out of my sights. There are also locations that don’t seem to work to well in cooperative play. The on-rail sequences are all about moving as fast as possible avoiding objects, but if you die and are teleported behind the lead character… you’ll be caught in the wake of the next catastrophic event.

Halo 4 is not without its issues, but 343 Industries can’t be denied that this is a Halo game. They’ve done an excellent job at replicating and adding something new to the franchise. However, if you’re like me and aren’t a big time player of Halo games. This one probably won’t offer enough changes to affect that decision at all. However, for those that do love the Halo series… this is truly the next step into the beginning of a new trilogy. You will probably find it difficult to tell that Bungie even left for that other company. Half-Ass Gaming gives Halo 4 a B; Master Chief is no longer locked in stasis… but he’s still warming up.