So the story isn't all that relevant—what about the guns? What about the Warthogs, the Banshees, and the jet packs? For most, that's what's really important, and fortunately the gameplay is where Halo 4 positively shines.

Every new Halo game is a grab bag of the equipment, items and mechanics that came before, and Halo 4 possesses a nice mix of the old while injecting more new than any past game in the series has dared to. 343's need to make its mark on the series is blatant, but the game hasn't suffered from that. Far from it, in fact.

With the new Promethean enemies comes an entire arsenal of new Forerunner weaponry, from the shotgun-like Scattershot to the Boltshot pistol, the long-range Light Rifle and Binary Rifle, the rapid-fire Suppressor, and the devastatingly powerful Incineration Cannon. Each shot from that last one emits several smaller, arcing projectiles, each enough by itself to disintegrate most foes into clouds of dissipating orange particles.

On the human side, the SAW provides a light machine gun with impressive power, the Rail Gun is a less-potent Spartan Laser with splash damage, and the Sticky Detonator, a more reliable Plasma Launcher, is an instant classic. Even the fan-favorite shotgun has been revamped for the better. Unlike in past games, where throwaways like the SMG and Brute Spiker added little of value to the mix, the new weapons all feel useful, with few exceptions (the entirely useless new Promethean grenades being the most glaring).

On the vehicle side, the bipedal Mantis mech, with a missile launcher on its left arm and a powerful chain gun on its right, has particularly high durability to make up for its lack of mobility. And the enormous, single-player exclusive Pelican—a series staple fully drivable for the first time (besides a short cameo in Halo: Reach)—is a welcome addition. Likewise for the fighter jet/space ship combo called the Broadsword used in one Star Wars Death Star-style bombing run late in the game. One campaign level even tasks you with protecting and riding on an enormous "Mammoth," a mobile base many times the size of Halo 3's Elephant.

Armor abilities return from Halo: Reach, though the divisive Armor Lock has been replaced by a less show-stopping Hardlight Shield. Other new additions, like the Auto Sentry—a floating turret that fires distracting projectiles—and the Thruster—for quick lunges—are useful in both single- and multiplayer. Most importantly, all players are now equipped with the ability to sprint at all times, speeding up the sometimes slow-paced Halo gameplay.

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