Halo 4 has undoubtedly been one of the most anticipated titles of 2012. A new studio took over the franchise, there’s a whole new story to delve into, and, most importantly for this site, the strategy guide duties are going back to Prima Games. Both 343 and Prima Games had a lot of expectations to live up to, to say the least. While the Halo 4 strategy guide isn’t perfect, it’s an exceptional strategy guide that is well presented, well written, and well, uh, strategized.
The Halo 4 strategy guide is put together extremely well, and it’s very obvious that the writing team put together a lot of effort into the book. They even contracted with Major League Gaming to help with constructing the multiplayer portion, and those who purchased the collector’s edition of the guide received separate stock pages of the multiplayer maps, complete with tips directly from MLG on how to dominate the maps. The multiplayer section is jam-packed with tips from four MLG players who have pretty much lived and breathed nothing but Halo multiplayer for several years. Many of the tips I never thought of, and I had a blast employing a few, even in the single-player campaign. The multiplayer portion can’t really be anything but tips, as gameplay constantly changes with the different players in each match, but the tips are invaluable, especially for people like me who don’t spend a lot of time in multiplayer, if ever.
But why do you really buy a strategy guide? It’s for the single-player campaign, correct? The levels in Halo 4 were far more linear than the last couple of Halo games, where I easily found myself lost and walking in circles. As such, I didn’t rely on the strategy guide as often as I have with previous Halo games, but when I did, for the most part, the strategy guide was a life saver. The main walkthrough was broken up into eight chapters for the eight missions, and each mission was basically broken up into “Firefight” sections. At each instance of a major firefight, the guide introduced a new map, a recommended loadout for the firefight, and any pertinent strategies for playing on Legendary difficulty. The maps are marked with spots to pick up specific weapons, which I often needed when I wanted to see where I could refill ammo for a preferred weapon, such as the Binary Rifle or Incineration Cannon. The maps were also marked with numbers, which corresponded to specific locales mentioned in the written walkthrough. When you aren’t following along the strategy guide verbatim, these numbers were fantastic for quickly looking up where I was in the walkthrough.
One complaint I did have with the maps was the lack of marking the locations of the Domain Terminals, the only collectible in the entire game. The Domain Terminals were highlighted in the written walkthrough, but that was the only thing that distinguished them from the rest of the guide. To locate the Domain Terminals on the map, you had to go by the corresponding number from that part of the walkthrough. The strategy guide did contain a separate appendix in the back for help finding any wayward Domain Terminals, but I’d rather have all of this information upfront in the walkthrough the first time. There were numerous instances where I missed a Domain Terminal simply because I wasn’t following the guide verbatim and they weren’t clearly marked on maps.
Another thing I was disappointed that was missing from the mission walkthroughs was tips for completing the task-specific Achievements for missions. All Achievements are listed in their own appendix in the back, but the appendix offers zero tips on how to accomplish them. In the strategy guide for Halo 3,each chapter listed any chapter-specific Achievements available in the beginning, and then the walkthrough pointed out the best place to obtain them. The Halo 4 strategy guide doesn’t offer this at all, and a few Achievements have left me scratching my head as to how to get them. For example, the “Explore the Floor” Achievement is earned after tricking a Hunter to fall to his death in Mission 6. Knowing this at the beginning of the mission would have been welcome knowledge, and it would also be nice to know the best strategy for accomplishing this. Where is the best place? How? I hate battling against Hunters with every fiber of my being, so without some hints on how to do this, I’ll never try for this Achievement.
Other than those two nit-picky complaints, I came away very satisfied with the Halo 4 strategy guide. I wouldn’t have survived some of the nasty firefights as quickly as I did without this strategy guide, and in this end. That’s all I can really ask for–can I please finish the game without wanting to flip my coffee table in rage?