Sometime early this past summer I pre-ordered Halo 4 from Amazon.com. I’ve enjoyed the Halo series since the first game. As was common for many original Xbox owners, Halo was one of the first games I purchased for the Xbox. It was also the game that I played the most.

All four games have been, in my opinion, excellent games. Granted, the graphics were not always cutting edge but the games in general were very enjoyable to play. I never subscribed to Xbox Live with the original Xbox so all of the multiplayer games I joined in Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 occurred locally on the same Xbox or via System Link (local network play). Later in the life of the Xbox I even played some rounds via the Internet using a Windows program that could tunnel Xbox System Link connections.

Later, with Halo 3, I put in a lot of time playing multiplayer over Xbox Live on the Xbox 360. Sometimes I just played deathmatch games but I also spent several hours playing co-op campaigns with friends.

Each version of the game changed some aspects of gameplay, usually in ways that were relatively minor though there were some more significant changes as well.

Now, I haven’t been a fan of all Halo games. I thought Halo ODST was good but a bit odd in several respects. Halo Reach was alright but I never enjoyed it enough to play the entire campaign more than once.

I have two copies of Halo: Combat Evolved. One is the original version that I purchased and downloaded from Xbox Live. The other is Halo: Anniversary.

When Halo 4 was announced I wasn’t completely surprised. The ending of Halo 3 was open-ended. I was somewhat shocked that Halo 4 was released for the Xbox 360. I figured it would be held back for the release of the next Xbox console.

I anticipated the arrival of Halo 4 but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Finally, my pre-ordered copy arrived on its release date.

So far I’ve finished one complete play-through on normal mode and I’m pleased to report that it was a positive experience. Halo 4 is good and true to the series. I have yet to play multiplayer (except for some co-op in the campaign) but I suspect it will be good.

Halo 4 is different but not in ways that I thought hurt the game. The story is deeper, the graphics are significantly improved over those of Halo 3 (both in-game and cut-scenes), and the weapons are just plain better in every way. I even enjoyed using the Plasma Pistol from time-to-time.

When I reached the end it felt short, but that’s been the case with every Halo game. They’re not short but the desire to know more of the story makes it feel that way. Replaying the campaigns makes it obvious that none of the games are short.

I don’t want to get into spoilers so I’m going to skip over many things about the game. I will mention that there is a point when many questions are answered and I was left thinking “Huh? WFT?” and I’ll probably need to review that particular cut-scene to really understand what all of it meant and whether or not it borrows sci-fi cliches a bit too heavily.

Almost everything has been changed in some way but it leaves me with a sense of feeling that the Halo franchise has matured. For example, the score has a much wider variety but it’s still clear that I’m playing a Halo game.

Overall, this is a very good game. Whether or not it will prove to have a lot of replay value remains to be seen but I don’t think I’m finished exploring Halo 4. I also haven’t decided if purchasing the $100 limited edition (instead of just the standard $60 edition) was worth the additional $40 for the extra materials and DLC that came with it.

I think most fans of the Halo franchise will feel like they got their $60 worth from the game itself.

Updated 11/18/2012: As much as I really like the Halo series I’m not going to claim that the overall plot is especially original. In fact, major revelations in Halo 4 nearly had me rolling my eyes. But it’s fun and though some of it may not be very original the overall experience is enjoyable and they have done a great job of building upon existing sci-fi themes.

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Console Gaming, Xbox 360
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