I know all the secrets of Halo 4. Rather than scouring the Internet for leaks and rumors about this upcoming Xbox360 exclusive, I got my information straight from the source: my barber, whose wife has a cousin who casually dated a guy who worked at 343 Industries as a contractor. I use “worked” in the past tense because after the temp spilled the beans Microsoft had him killed. He should have read the nondisclosure agreement more closely, especially the section about enforcing confidentiality with teams of deadly ninja assassins. Luckily, his carelessness is your gain. I plan to share with you every detail I learned from my barber’s wife’s cousin’s booty call. You can trust what I have to say because in addition to having an unimpeachable fourth-hand source I also have extensive experience with the Halo series. I have every achievement from every game in the franchise, including Halo: ODST and Halo: Dance Moves of the 80s. If that’s not enough to make you believe me, be aware that I wrote a similar article about the secrets of Halo 3, and every one of my predictions was exactly right. If you want to be surprised when Halo 4 comes out, stop reading now because I’m about to spoil the entire game.
The biggest innovation in Halo 4 is the matchmaking system, which relies heavily on the voice sensing features of Kinect. If you’re like me, playing Halo: Reach over Xbox Live results in dying over and over again in what can only be interpreted as a vain attempt to give peace a chance. I dream of the day I live long enough to return fire. Halo 4 fixes all of that. The Kinect monitors your language for key words and phrases. If you say something like “Hold on, I have to change the baby’s diaper” or “I think the kids just lit the guinea pig on fire,” the matchmaking algorithms working behind the scenes automatically shift you to the adult hopper. There you play exclusively against other individuals whose reflexes have been slowed by old age and ill-advised procreation. This grouping promises inept game play and stimulating conversations about mortgage rates and male pattern baldness. On the other hand, if you use the word “noob” or say anything in a high-pitched voice about anal relations with a farm animal, you are secretly designated to play solely against other poorly supervised 12-year-olds. The game play is fast and brutal, and the headset chatter kills more brain cells than huffing paint thinner.
|According to every adolescent I’ve ever talked to on XBL, poor aim is a leading indicator of homosexuality and having an unattractive mother.|
The Kinect voice monitoring system doesn’t affect the playlist you choose; it just changes who you get matched against in that playlist. The result is a two-tiered Halo experience with an adult section that closely resembles a polite country club and a kid section that is indistinguishable from one of the seven circles of hell, although even Satan would eventually grow tired of their whiny voices and poor syntax. The only flaw in the system is the voice pitch monitoring automatically classifies most women as children. This isn’t a major issue since the majority of women are too busy cooking and cleaning to play video games, but for those few who do there’s an easy workaround: testosterone replacement therapy. A deep voice and a sexy mustache are a small price to pay to never compete against angst-filled preteens again.
Integration with Kinect also resolves an important teamwork issue. It’s frustrating when a teammate drives a fully-loaded warthog off a cliff, but it’s even worse when he or she accidentally takes the vehicle into a barrel roll when traveling at moderate speeds over level ground. In Halo 4, anytime your driving is terrible enough to defy human understanding, you are forced to complete a Kinect challenge before you can respawn. The test makes you walk in a straight line and then recite the alphabet backwards while standing on one leg and touching your nose. If you pass, congratulations on being slightly below the legal limit to drive. Go ahead and have another drink. If you fail, you get banished to the hopper with the 12-year-olds.
|It takes a lot of beers to roll a Mammoth. Challenge accepted.|
Halo 4 features several new vehicles in which to try out your drunk driving skills, the most promising of which is the 1986 Buick LeSabre. It has terrible acceleration and even worse gas mileage, but it can survive multiple direct hits from a tank without suffering so much as a paint scratch. GM builds its full-size sedans with more steel than the Pillar of Autumn, which is why the company almost went bankrupt. Other drivable vehicles this time around include the pelican, the yellow banshee, and Sugar Hoof, a two-year-old filly with a fiery disposition and a heart of gold. Just don’t try to ride her. Horse spines can’t support 1,000 lbs. of Spartan armor, and the last thing we need is to clog up the floor of Blood Gulch with a bunch of crippled thoroughbreds.
These vehicles will make Halo 4 overwhelmingly fun, but science has shown too much enjoyment is hazardous to your health. That’s why 343 Industries decided to dial back the merriment by reintroducing the Flood. Like a spouse who keeps coming back to an abusive household, the Halo franchise just can’t seem to break the cycle on this unhealthy relationship. Covenant combat tactics are complex and dynamic, offering hours of intense, interesting experiences. The Flood mostly just run at you in a straight line. Shotgun them in the chest, reload, and repeat for five hours. Bungie, the original studio behind the Halo franchise, tried to stray from this formula only once. Halo: ODST didn’t feature the Flood, and the game sold exactly six copies at retail. Microsoft learned its lesson. There isn’t any in-game explanation for why the Flood show up in Halo 4. About halfway through the game, the screen fades to black and the following message appears: “Remember how you wiped out the Flood in Halo 3? We don’t. Have fun getting blown up by carrier forms for the next six levels.”
|It’s a mystery why the super advanced Forerunner race never developed the technology to pain their walls a color other than gray.|
The Flood aren’t the only part of the game that’s recycled. At some point in Halo 4, you have to blow up the reactor on a downed spaceship to destroy whatever landmass you happen to be standing on at that moment. The game ends when you save the universe, except for the cliff hanger after the credits that shows you really just created a bigger problem that has to be resolved two years and one $60 purchase later. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the plot is copied almost verbatim from a video game you might have heart of called Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. I always knew Elmo couldn’t be trusted. Copyright issues aside, the best recurring feature of this Halo installment is it once again has a release date seven days before the next Call of Duty game. After a mere week, the bulk of the hardcore gamers will move on to the next big thing, leaving us boring old timers to play Halo 4 in peace while trading stock tips and complaining about how much the weather makes our joints hurt.