Halo 4 gets what made Halo: Combat Evolved special.
The original Halo wasn’t just about great combat or multiplayer, though it set the standard for those things in shooters for the better part of a decade. There was also a sense of wonder and discovery that Halo’s sequels often struggled to find again. They were bigger, yes, and they had more of everything Halo had, but that was also sort of the problem. They were charting known territory, with pockets of novelty and an emphasis on adding new mechanics or upping the graphical stakes.
Halo 4 does some of those things. It possesses a striking sense of scale. There are new mechanics. It’s a technological achievement that most have assumed was outside of the reach of Microsoft’s now seven-year-old console. But it’s more than that. Halo 4 is a return to the series’ roots of discovery, of wonder and, at times, of awe. It helps that it might be the most consistently great game of the series to boot.
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Assassin’s Creed 3 has the distinction of arriving three years after Ubisoft made the series a yearly institution.
While the sort of Assassin’s-Creed-2-side-stories Brotherhood and Revelations were fantastic and great, respectively, the series is at something of a breaking point. Everything since Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s debut in Assassin’s Creed 2 has felt like a more or less inspired retread of similar ground. Assassin’s Creed 3 is a clear reaction to that.
Leaving the old world behind entirely, Assassin’s Creed 3 sees the series go bigger than it has before in the form of an open-world’ish action adventure set in 18th century America. It deals with some of the same themes as previous games, sure — the nature of power, the influence of one person and their ability to make a difference — but it also explores the nature of revolution, the danger of good intentions, and the slippery slope of dogma.
“Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 easily hits some of those expectations. At times it’s genius, as with the multiplayer’s redesigned class system. But at others, it doesn’t feel like it’s trying very hard.
Occasionally, it’s a complete mess.”