For those of you smart enough to go straight to Xbox LIVE upon purchasing Halo 4 and never looking back, congratulations! You made the right choice. My experience with the campaign was such that I had trouble focusing attention on it, because every time something happened I spent the next 20 minutes being angry at it. I’ll try and explain everything that happened to you so you don’t make the same mistake I did and you can just play co-op with some friends and rotate out who moves the Chief forward and teleports everyone else while the rest of you go get snacks or make out with your girlfriends or smoke drugs or whatever you damn kids are doing these days. If you didn’t guess from that last paragraph where I tell you I’m going to explain everything, note that spoilers will be rampant in this article. Like, if you’ve played zero of the campaign, it’s going to be entirely spoilers. And also jokes. But mostly spoilers.
From the start, Halo 4 tries to convince you that it is a movie, complete with realistic looking cutscenes. The graphics are pretty incredible in these; I can’t lie. They seem to have fixed the “dead, unfeeling eyes” problem that has plagued so many Robert Zemeckis movies (Polar Express, left), but have replaced that issue with an entirely new one: weird cheeks whilst speaking. Most characters look like they’re trying to hide pieces of food in their mouths while talking to you, which is a bunch of crap because dammit, the Chief needs to eat sometimes, too. He’s a big fella.
The game opens with a scene of a woman named Dr. Halsey being interrogated because shut up, science. The whole scene essentially proclaims that all Spartans are sociopaths and might as well be serial killers if there’s no giant crazy war going on, but Halsey determinedly says that the good ol’ Master Chief is going to save humanity. Probably by using a lot of different guns and light vehicles.
Boy, was she on to something! As soon as you actually get to inhabit the Chief upon waking, you have to break free of the ship you were stranded on in Halo 3 because blah blah blah the Covenant and blah blah blah let’s get the game moving. Provided that you aren’t distracted by how Cortana is no longer see through and has apparently forgotten to wear her invisible AI bra, you run through the ship and fight a whole, like, seven Covenant, including Grunts who no longer squeal in cowardice when they see you but instead make weird bug noises, which TAKES OUT ALL THE FUN OF MURDERING THEM, 343 INDUSTRIES. Then Cortana sits you down for a little chat. Apparently, the shelf life of highly advanced AIs with a dearth of likely classified information stored on their curvy frames is about 7 or 8 years and she’s one beyond that. The Chief proclaims that they’ll take Cortana to Dr. Halsey, who the AI is apparently based on. Slow down there, big reveals! This little issue of Cortana’s manifests itself in her having massive mood swings for the rest of the game, because we’re going all in on this sexism thing. She’ll be fine most of the time, then massively freak out during cutscenes and flick the lights on and off in a carrier or crash the tiny ship you’re patrolling.
Finally, all this crap is out of the way and you get to kill some baddies. To get to the baddie-killing-place, you have an Indiana Jones 4 moment where you’re able to survive going through the atmosphere of a planet and then crashing on it with nothing to protect you but your usual armor by pulling a Millennium Falcon asteroid-move, but in this case, hiding flush to a ship, remaining in its force field. A human-controlled ship that was presumably out looking for you also crashes on the planet, so you can actually have people with guns at some point, leaving you to run through the jungle, desperately sprinting for the only guns in the game that aren’t frustrating to wield, while Cortana cries about being computer senile. After this goes on for a little while, you find out you’re on a Forerunner planet when you see some Sentinels lasering Covenant and then never interacting with you for the rest of the game. As you try to figure out your way off the planet, you run into some TRON-looking robots/aliens (robaliens?) called Prometheans, who hate you and especially your face. They will try to shoot you in said face for the rest of the game. Oh, and Cortana is now sending you everywhere through portals, because she is apparently now R2D2, gaining useful abilities that would have been great at other points in the series but are only revealed when you could care less.
But in your feeble attempts to get off the Forerunner planet, you inadvertently set loose some crazed bastard, The Didact, who has been in a giant floating ball prison forever. He apparently stopped humans from genociding aliens lo, some who cares years ago but then went crazy afterwards and got a little overzealous on the whole thing, i.e. he started genociding people and making them into AIs for his cronies, the TRON guys. Turns out those soldiers had been taken over by the other Forerunners who didn’t want that jerk to get out and surprise, you’re now the jerk! This is all revealed by The Librarian, who looks exactly like this new guy but minus his snaggletooth. The Librarian gives you an upgrade to protect you from being turned into one of the Didact’s AIs, which you can do because you’re already genetically enhanced and open to new “evolution,” or something ridiculous that will likely be used to give you random dumb abilities for the rest of 343’s series. So this dude is now the focus of the rest of the game, randomly interrupting it at points to spout off some crazed dialogue like Gravemind, to feel like you’re still playing a Bungie game, I guess. He sets a course for Earth (because all the other cool alien villains in sci-fi games are doing it these days) to turn humanity into more of his TRON guys. You go to stop him, but the captain of the human ship you joined up with for their sweet, sweet people guns doesn’t want to give you his precious, precious resources because even though you’re the Master Chief and the savior of all humanity and are thus probably the President by default, he’s a raging @$$#0!% who tries to have you arrested for wanting to risk the ship. You try and intercept the Didact at a research station anyway because you’re the goddamn Master Chief and won’t take no crap from nobody, but fail miserably because Cortana slows you down with all of her crazy. Luckily it doesn’t matter because you just board his ship anyway.
To do this, you literally do a trench run. Like the Death Star. This sequence leaves you wondering why anyone would install giant repeatedly opening and closing doors and moving death lasers in their docking bay and also why you’re playing this and not Rogue Squadron right now. Once you get out in the area where you would think about shooting a proton torpedo, you’re told you need to take out some little cores or something to bring down the force field so your fellow humans can help you. Their plan is to blast a hole in the ship for you to fly into and presumably crash somewhere (SPOILER ALERT: you do), because the Master Chief does not like to leave himself escape routes that aren’t Warthog-related. Now to bring down that force field, you fly in a circle. Seriously, you just do a little lap, shooting through the cores. Or not, you honestly don’t have to. You can actually just run right through them and they’ll fizzle out without you having to do much of anything. Your solution while now on the ship? Nuke it. Yep, it’s the year 2557 in this game and the solution for “unstoppable enemy” is still “nuke the crap out of it.” So you strap a cute little nuke to your back and go through the rest of the game with it being perilously close to being detonated at all times. Apparently the Chief just thinks that no enemies ever attempt to approach him from behind.
Alright, final confrontation time. You’re gonna get a wicked boss fight, right? Haha! Maybe, but only after you go through another set of two rooms repeated a billion times to try and frustrate you to death. Cortana opts to be plugged into the Didact’s ship to overload his computer systems with her crazy parts, but he shows up behind you and apparently uses the force to make you dangle precariously. Cortana, who has constructed a lightbridge out of herself as yet another R2D2 ability, manages to jump far beyond the shark and restrains the guy you thought you were going to have an awesome boss fight with. You are then gently coaxed by the game into gingerly planting a grenade on his chest, which kills him anti-climactically before you detonate the nuke. Cortana appears, having shielded you in her makeshift light bridge, and coming to
sex you crazy touch your shoulder kinda, and tell you that she’s as good as dead, bro. You succeeded in nuking the ship, but at the cost of her little chip that you’d normally put in your face off all exploded somewhere, which begs the question as to why she is even able to shield you at that moment, but whatever. She goes to her sweet goodnight and the Chief floats around in space all sad, presumably because he didn’t get to ramp a Warthog off the Didact’s ship. The humans eventually pick him up and the game ends with another cutscene of you almost seeing the Chief’s face. As infuriating as this game could be, it was still pretty fun to be perfectly honest. There was plenty of savage murder mixed in with all the bad writing, and the multiplayer makes up for it. But it could have been way better, and 343 Industries seems to know this, as they spend an inordinate amount of menu space telling you that they know they’re not Bungie, but DID YOU LIKE IT?! OH PLEASE SAY YOU LIKE US. Only a little, 343. Only a little.