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To all the Halo fanboys out there - don't worry, you can breathe again. Halo 4 is as good as you were hoping for.
For: Xbox 360
From: 343 Industries, Microsoft Studios
Five stars (out of five)
Halo, the franchise that every game company in the world would love to have, and that every gamer recognises as one of the daddies of the gaming world, has had a few rough patches in recent years and some of the previous games have not lived up to expectations, but now it's got a new team behind it, and Master Chief is back.
343 Industries, the people behind the excellent Halo: Anniversary, have taken over the franchise and have promised the most epic sci-fi saga we've ever seen.
Halo 4 is the first in what 343 are calling "The Reclaimer Saga", a series of Halo games featuring Master Chief.
What does, is that this doesn't just need to be a great game, it needs to be a great Halo game.
Halo fans are some of the most loyal in the gaming world - people are still playing the original Xbox game online - but they are also some of the most picky. They complained when Master Chief's helmet didn't look right in the Anniversary previews, forcing 343 to change it. For Halo fans it's as much about the universe as it is about the game.
In the media pack that came with the game were, as usual, various bits of paper - one, however, was a bit different. It had a long list of things which I was asked not to mention in the review; various characters and plot lines that 343 Industries would like players to discover for themselves. The fact that these are probably all over the internet by now is not an issue, what's important is that the guys at 343 are really concerned with the Halo story, not just banging a few levels together on the back of a rehashed multiplayer game.
Don't get me wrong, the multiplayer is as important, and Halo 4's is the best I've ever seen (despite the fact I've spent a week getting my butt kicked by the 343 team). The options are endless; everything you could ever want in an online shooter, from a proper online career to designing your own levels with the help of the forge tools, is right there. It also features Spartan Ops, which combines single and multiplayer in a series of weekly "episodes" bringing both an additional campaign-type experience as well as expanding the Halo story.
I could go on for ages telling you how good it is, but I won't.
Go buy it and see for yourself.