Well, I finally snagged Halo 4 and managed to get some play time in. First impressions? It's clearly the best title in the series, and manages to both evolve Halo 4 and still "feel" like a Halo game at the same time...but in a good way. I've replayed all of the Halo games over the last few months, so I've got the general experience fresh in my mind. Halo 4 feels like a genuine sequel with real improvements, both in look, style and lots of subtle bits that might not be all that evident to a casual fan of the series but which really do make a difference.
When people are talking about how Call of Duty is getting long in the tooth and it's engine sort of stale and old...Halo 4 is a good benchmark on exactly how an engine (and series) can get upgraded and feel genuinely better and more innovative while at the same time being true to its roots.
Also, that opening prologue level....holy cow, that was something else. Fantastic level design. I wish Capcom would look at games like this and notice how they have managed to build very, very large levels that bottleneck at a linear pace but do it in such a way you almost never feel railroaded or claustrophobic.
One more thing: the story focus in Halo 4 is very, very well done. It really grabs you right from the start, and I honestly can say 343 Studios is doing a better and more consistently interesting job than Bungee did. As I said, I replayed through all the other Halo titles this year, and while it's true that Halo: Reach was definitely Bungee's crowning achievement, it still fails to narratively grab you like Halo 4 does. Also, 343 Studios is paying more attention to the lore and backstory they've established in the novels (something Reach sort of chewed up a bit). This trailer demonstrates scenes and events practically lifted from the novels:
Oh yeah....the gun designs, from the feel and physics down to the sounds? Extremely well done. The pistol is back, by the way, and is ranking as my favorite weapon right now.
I'm only a couple levels in, so a proper review in a few more days when I (hopefully) finish the campaign! Also looking forward to seeing how the multi-player plays.