Halo 4 is the best entry in the series since the release of Combat Evolved. No, this doesn't mean I think all of the Halo games released between the two aren't worthy of praise, on the contrary, every one of Bungie's children (even the overly-criticized ODST) forms one of my favourite series, not just in terms of video games but digital entertainment as a whole.
You're welcome to accuse me of having a controversial opening for the sake of it but bear with me, I have a valid reason for such an opinion and that reason is 343 Industries.
I should clarify; being the annoyingly cynical individual that I am, no amount of pre-release hype (and boy, was there a lot of publicity) was enough to convince me that any developer could do such a prestigious series the justice it deserved. It's the same kind of reservation I had when the Transformers feature films were first announced, only the end result here is far removed from the period of mourning I held for Optimus Prime and friends.
The combination of the fantastic legacy that Bungie left behind with the respect, admiration and genuine love 343 have for the franchise has undoubtedly contributed to Halo 4's success upon its release. The first in Master Chief's new trilogy feels entirely different to his previous adventures yet at the same time the Sci-Fi shooter series is still the same I have grown up with.
The balancing act 343 have done in regards to keeping the old, beloved features of the game whilst introducing new features at the same time is quite remarkable and is what I found to be the key in catering to old and new fans alike. The complete re-recording of the games audio and sound effects completely reset the tone of the series and those of you with keen ears undoubtedly caught the snippets of orchestral music from four's predecessors.
Although the Flood have been retired, (for now) the Promethean’s are the spiritual successors and re-introduce the unpredictable and enigmatic aggressor, a feeling that diminished for me after killing countless parasitic spores. Even the contentious issue of including the Covenant without any real explanation of why they are present on the planet Requiem was arguably a decision 343 made to help fans feel a semblance of familiarity on a new, mysterious world. For me at least, I felt like I was getting re-acquainted with old friends, just very aggressive and hostile friends.
The above is exactly why I have chosen to shed my cynicism and instead show some enthusiasm for games such as Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry, now more than ever. Dante's upcoming re-boot may not have been released yet, but from the tantalising gameplay video I can't help but think that the demon hunter is in safe hands.
He may look drastically different but the fundamental elements of the series are clear for the eye to see. The eclectic mix of bizarre weaponry, the wise-ass attitude and re-imagined fan favourite characters are all returning staples of the series and just as 343 have managed to create a new but familiar and relatable experience.
The next time I hear news of a beloved franchise being picked up by a different developer I will be replacing my stubbornness for enthusiastic optimism.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase your ticket now to save $200!