Halo 4 gets what made Halo: Combat Evolved special.
The original Halo wasn’t just about great combat or multiplayer, though it set the standard for those things in shooters for the better part of a decade. There was also a sense of wonder and discovery that Halo’s sequels often struggled to find again. They were bigger, yes, and they had more of everything Halo had, but that was also sort of the problem. They were charting known territory, with pockets of novelty and an emphasis on adding new mechanics or upping the graphical stakes.
Halo 4 does some of those things. It possesses a striking sense of scale. There are new mechanics. It’s a technological achievement that most have assumed was outside of the reach of Microsoft’s now seven-year-old console. But it’s more than that. Halo 4 is a return to the series’ roots of discovery, of wonder and, at times, of awe. It helps that it might be the most consistently great game of the series to boot.