A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Halo 4 is a sci-fi-themed first-person shooter in which players take on the role of an enhanced super-soldier to kill hundreds of alien enemies in story mode and potentially thousands of human avatars in online matches. Unlike many other first-person shooters, there's no foul language or gore, but there is plenty of blood -- aliens bleed yellow and blue, humans bleed red -- plus new cinematic animations that make hand-to-hand combat kills appear more dramatic. This version of Halo ups the ante in terms of violence as players can now watch Master Chief violently beating his opponents to death. Parents should be aware, too, that this game supports open online communication with strangers.
What's it about?
HALO 4, the Master Chief's first new adventure in five years, picks up right where its predecessor left off, with a broken UNSC ship floating dead in space. The Chief rests inside in cryosleep, the artificial intelligence Cortana holding watch. It's not long, however, before the vessel falls under attack by Covenant forces, and the Chief soon finds himself crashing onto the surface of a strange alien world. The story that follows reveals new details about the Forerunners (the ancient aliens who designed the series' titular halos), exposes a new threat to humanity, and delves into the Chief's close friendship with Cortana, who is suffering a kind of digital mental breakdown. In addition to the six hour campaign, which shows off new weapons and vehicles (including alien rifles and a towering UNSC mech), players can look forward to more of Halo's trademark multiplayer action, including a serialized cooperative campaign composed of new episodes releasing on a weekly basis.
Is it any good?
The Master Chief's long-awaited return manages to live up to the series' daunting reputation, delivering an experience that feels very much like a classic Halo game while adding a few new elements to the formula. Missions are fast-paced and often spectacular, new enemies are smart and challenging, and online play is extremely habit-forming. Plus, players finally get to peer a little more deeply into the Master Chief's soul thanks to a narrative that sees him fighting through hordes of deadly enemies to save his ailing digital friend Cortana. (Turns out he's a bit of a softie when it comes to his long-time A.I. companion.)
One wishes the campaign lasted a little longer, and that the co-op missions had more shape and a deeper narrative, but these are minor criticisms. Halo 4 is the sort of game that many players will keep in their consoles for weeks on end, making it a great value for the grownup gamers it's intended to entertain.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in media. Do you feel differently fighting fantastical aliens instead of realistic human enemies?
Families can also discuss online safety. What precautions do you observe in games with open voice communication? What do you do when you encounter strangers engaging in inappropriate behavior?
- Platforms: Xbox 360
- Skills: Collaboration: cooperation, meeting challenges together, teamwork
Creativity: making new creations, producing new content
Thinking & Reasoning: strategy
- Price: $59.99
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Microsoft Studios
- Release date: November 6, 2012
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Violence
For kids who love adventure and action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.