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'Halo 4' resurrects Chief, franchise

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Entertainment,Greg Prince

Master Chief must have really needed that nap.

After a four-year cryosleep, the Chief comes out firing on all cylinders. After a two-game vacation, Microsoft's fabled supersoldier and his new shepherds at 343 Industries have truly reinvigorated the franchise.

The new campaign finds Master Chief on the Forerunner planet Requiem -- the one seen at the end of "Halo 3." He faces not only rogue Covenant soldiers and a new enemy -- the Prometheans -- but has to handle a personal crisis that further complicates the fight. The Prometheans are a worthy successor to the Flood. These hulking knights and their minions have a much-improved artificial intelligence, and they attack in ways that pose a great challenge.

"Halo 4" tweaks the "Halo" formula and makes some greatly needed improvements. These changes, though, stick to the "Halo" tradition and don't feel out of place in the slightest. Chief feels stronger and faster, and he can finally sprint. The levels feel more engaging and are a feast for the eyes. And to top it off, the sounds of all the weapons have been reworked to give them more weight, and the iconic soundtrack gets rebooted with an electronic edge by composer Neil Davidge.

'Halo 4'

» System: Xbox 360
» Price: $59.99
» Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

After finishing the Chief's latest mission, head over to the UNSC Infinity to tackle the multiplayer modes.

The standard multiplayer modes take place in War Games, part of a training simulation for the new Spartans IVs. Slayer and Capture the Flag are back, along with a few new modes. Matches are point-based, and everything you do -- not just kills -- earns points for your team. Sadly, the rating system is not up and running yet, but it is expected to come online in early 2013. Spartan Ops replaces Firefight from "Halo: Reach." It seems to steal a bit from the Special Ops mode in "Call of Duty." However, there are a number of improvements: a plot and the ability for up to four people to play.

Multiplayer will be a bit tough for newcomers, as the customization system gives a very slight edge to gamers who have unlocked more upgrades, but it's not enough to actually call it unbalanced. Once new players earn a few upgrades, everything becomes much more even.

"Halo 4" is a return to greatness. It is by far the best in the franchise, and sets a new bar for AAA shooters.

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