The Halo franchise was big money by the time the original trilogy of games came to a close in 2007. The initial game had helped to cement sales of the original Xbox, with it being the second best ever selling Xbox game, with 5 million copies sold. The best selling Xbox game was Halo 2, with 8.46 million copies sold, so it’s easy to say that Halo made that console what it was. But the story of Master Chief (Steve Downes) came to an end with Halo 3, and the only games to come out after with Halo in their title were side stories and prequels. But, in 2012, after a five year absence, Master Chief returned with a true sequel in Halo 4.
Set several years after the events of the previous game, where Master Chief had managed to defeat the alien menace The Flood, and save humanity, the game begins with the Chief frozen in suspended animation whilst his AI companion Cortana (Jen Taylor) watches over him in their ship, drifting through space. As their ship drifts towards a strange alien world, they’re boarded by remnants of the Covenant (a faction of several alien species that were enemies in the initial trilogy), and the Chief is awoken to fight them off.
READ MORE: Audrey Rose (1977) – Blu-ray Review
However, the Covenant are far from the main threat in the game. As their ship crashes on the alien world, Master Chief and Cortana learn that the ancient Forerunners, the creators of the massive Halo rings, have survived, and end up unleashing one of their greatest warriors, the Didact (Keith Szarabajka). Seeing humanity as beneath him, the Didact launches a campaign to wipe humanity from the stars, forcing the Master Chief to have to step up to save humanity yet again.
Shortly after the release of Halo 3 the developer Bungie, who created Halo, split away from Microsoft, leading to some speculation amongst fans as to whether or not more Halo games would be developed. Over the coming years, Bungie would produce two more Halo games: Halo 3: ODST which took place during the events of the third game and focused on human soldiers, and Halo: Reach which took players back to events leading directly into the original game, and put you in control of a squad of Spartan super soldiers. Both games were successful for the company, but would be the final Halo games that Bungie would produce.
Whilst Bungie were working on these games, Microsoft created a new division, 343 Industries, whose job it was to come up with a new entry in the Halo franchise. After working on a Halo Bible, bringing together all of the information, stories, and lore for the Halo universe into one cohesive whole, a new story was developed, that was designed from the outset to be one part of a lager whole (something that the previous trilogy did not plan for). Drawing from details in the Halo books, as well as small pieces of background info from the games, a new multi-part story dealing with the ancient Forerunners was devised and planned, with Halo 4 acting as the opening part of this new story.
As well as planning out the new story, the team at 343 Industries sought to introduce new elements to the game, and overhaul certain features. New locations and enemies were designed, with the aim to tie them more closely with the design elements from the Forerunner locations visited in previous games. New weapons were also designed, with the human and Covenant factions both featuring new armaments, as well as new weapons for the Promethean warriors that were introduced to the game. Whilst some weapons were looked upon less favourably than others, fans enjoyed a lot of the new additions to the series, and some of the new items added in Halo 4 would go on to become series mainstays.
Upon its release Halo 4 received a lot of attention and fanfare. It’s estimated that more than 10,000 retail stores across 40 countries operated midnight launches for the game, making it one of the biggest midnight launches ever, and a 50 foot Didact glyph was flown through the air above London via helicopter on the night of release. The game grossed more $220 million in sale on its first day alone, and $300 million across its opening week; it was also recorded that more than a million people played the game on Xbox Live within the first day of the release.
Fan and critic reaction to the game was extremely positive, and it looked like the gamble of bringing the series back for a new story was a success. Ending on an unresolved note, the game almost guaranteed that people would return for another instalment, and Halo 5: Guardians was released three years later. A third game in the Reclaimer Saga, Halo Infinite came out in 2021. Halo was already a huge success, but Halo 4 managed to bring it back from what many thought would be its end to create a whole new saga, and even more success for the series.
Halo 4 was released in the UK on 6th November 2012.