'Halo 4' review: Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360 343 Industries game rated 4.5 stars

I had my feet firmly planted in the classic "Halo" camp, happy that developer Bungie had left the fates of Master Chief and Cortana nebulous and uncertain. Then I played "Halo 4" by new developer 343 Industries, and darned if I'm not giddy to re-enter the fight to save humanity after I was ready to leave it for dead at the end of "Halo: Reach."

A new enemy has risen in the wake of Master Chief's four-year cryosleep. He awakens to new dangers and his artificial intelligence companion, Cortana, nearing the end of her shelf life. Multiple story threads pull the adventure in captivating new directions, so playing through the 10-hour campaign is both fun and visually stunning. Just know going in that you'll have to dedicate a massive chunk of your console's hard drive to the mandatory game installation.

343 did an excellent job of keeping the layout and playing experience similar to Halo's predecessors, so there was not a huge logic gap from previous games to this one. Developers also made small but noticeable tweaks to put their stamp on the franchise (gun loadouts, multiplayer modes, etc.) and nothing feels wasted or overdone.

Once in multiplayer, the familiar tropes await. The Forge map creator remains one of the most robust and enjoyable aspects of this series, and the ability to customize just about anything is outstanding. Remember, the gems created by other users offer the real experimental fun.

I dislike game franchises hanging around too long, but "Halo 4" does a fantastic job of giving us what we like while changing just enough to give it new life.

'Halo 4' review: Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360 343 Industries game rated  4.5 stars

Platform: Xbox 360

Genre: Shooter

Publisher: Microsoft

ESRB Rating: M, for Mature

Grade: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

"Medal of Honor: Warfighter" disappoints because this franchise used to steer the wheel of innovation in military shooters, but now it relaxes in the back seat. There's nothing to hate about "Warfighter," but nothing stands out, either, and that is telling.

The classic tropes of first-person shooters are here: Run to cover, pick off evildoers, watch occasionally dramatic cutscenes, partake in a high-speed chase, bomb enemy encampments. These events are par for the course, but while enjoyable, they never raise the bar.

The game's only standout mission features one part stealth and another part driving. I loved the mission's originality, even if it's surrounded by stereotypical missions of crawling through snow or pelting enemy forces from the relative safety of an armored helicopter.

While all the online multiplayer modes are done well, the Fireteam mode is truly outstanding. This two-man-team system requires cooperation and rewards tactical play.

Legions will probably buy this release, but I doubt anyone will deem it wildly compelling.

"Medal of Honor: Warfighter"

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Genre: Shooter

Publisher: EA Games

ESRB Rating: M, for Mature

Grade: 2.5 stars

(Follow Chris Campbell @campbler or email him at game_on_games@mac.com.)

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