Halo 4 is a great game. Let’s start there.
343 Industries has taken the torch from Bungie, tweaked the hugely successful formula slightly, and launched Master Chief and Cortana into a new Reclaimer Trilogy with stunningly beautiful and awe-inspiring results that should definitely please fans of the series. It’s a welcome return for the green-armoured Spartan, who hasn’t headlined a new game since 2007 (with Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach and Halo Wars in between) and with its epic scale single player campaign and wealth of multiplayer options, I can’t imagine many Halo fans saying it’s not worth the wait.
But you don’t really need us to tell you that, because there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of reviews available covering the exact same turf. So that’s why GamerPops is taking a different approach and focusing on one aspect of the game that no other review will: should parents let their teens play Halo 4?
Because while Halo 4 is going to be loved by a lot of mature gamers, it’s also going to be a must-play for a lot of teens and tweens. And eventually some story will overheat the media which will inevitably lead to some overheated media stories about the innocence of children being corrupted by the evil-doers at Microsoft and 343.
The most important way to prevent that is for parents to be informed and engaged in their child’s activities. We’re happy to provide our insights and suggestions, but it’s up to each parent to make the right call for their families.
With that in mind, it’s our recommendation that within the world of M-rated shooters, Halo 4 is perhaps the most acceptable choice for parents to make for their teens, based on a combination of content and quality. It’s still a fairly violent shooter, but relatively speaking, it’s the best of the lot. I would suggest a mature 14 is maybe the cut off point, but certainly parents of 11-13 year-olds are going to be seeing Halo 4 show up on Christmas lists, which to me still feels too young.
Compared to more realistic shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield, or more gritty sci-fi outings like the Gears of War series, Halo feels lighter in a sense. It’s still offering very dynamic shooting gameplay consisting almost exclusively of gunfights, but the tone is different. It’s brighter and more colourful, the action feels somewhat less violent and bloodless (save for the stealth kills), and the atmosphere is one of sci-fi wonder, not the depressing grimness of other titles.
Then there’s Master Chief. While still coming across as more of a tool of war than a human being, he’s still undeniably a noble hero. No shades of grey, no moral ambiguities, Master Chief seems to invariably do the right thing to save the galaxy, while still staying on the right side of the ledger. Compared to other shooter heroes that get their hands dirtier or revel in the violence, that’s a positive.
One of the main components of Halo 4 is the multiplayer, which features both cooperative and competitive modes. But while Halo’s online multiplayer has long been considered amongst the best, period, it’s also been equally known as a place where racism, sexism, and homophobia thrive. While that’s clearly an over-exaggeration, parents should still be sure to monitor their children’s online interactions, especially considering the number of adult gamers they would potentially be interacting with.
And since we’re talking purely from a parental perspective, it’s also worth mentioning that the Doritos and Mountain Dew launch promotion tie-in to the game encourages gamers to put two of the least nutritional “foods” known to man into their body for in-game benefit. With childhood obesity a growing problem, clearly teens don’t need even more incentive to chow down on junk food.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Once again, the “Best Game available for the Xbox” is arguably a Halo game. Despite the switch from franchise creator Bungie to the relative newcomer 343 Studios, Halo 4 hasn’t lost a step, and has arguably gained a few. For mature shooter fans, Halo 4 is a must own. For parents of teens who want to play the game, this is as reasonable as it gets for an M-rated shooter. If you’re going to allow your teens to play any of the big name shooters, make it Halo 4.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
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ESRB Rating Summary
Content descriptors: Blood, Violence
Other: Includes online features that may expose players to unrated user-generated content
Rating summary: This is a first-person shooter in which players control futuristic super-soldiers who engage in military campaigns against alien forces. Players use pistols, scoped rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, and futuristic weaponry to kill enemies in ranged combat; battles are highlighted by cries of pain, realistic gunfire, and large explosions. Stealth moves (i.e., “assassinations”) can also be used to attack enemies from behind (e.g., snapping their necks or stabbing/impaling them with bladed weapons). During one cutscene, a human character cries out as her body disintegrates, exposing layers of muscle tissue. Large blood-splatter effects occur when humans are shot; some sequences depict bloodstained environments.