Halo 4 marks the last dying breath for popular first-person shooters without progression/leveling-up systems. From Battlefield 3 to Mass Effect 3, you can't really step into a multiplayer shooter without expecting to work for your weaponry. Halo Reach was one of the holdouts, pushing all of its leveling-up and progression into cosmetic upgrades that let you play dress up without compromising a level playing field. I'll be honest, I might be a bit bitter about 343's decision to go mainstream in one of the few ways that Halo bucked the trend.
It doesn't help that unlocking everything in Halo 4 isn't even very fun. There aren't enough things to unlock, so when progression starts to get grindy you can go a few levels without any new toys. The longer it took to unlock things, the more it occurred to me that Halo 4's unlockable options weren't particularly varied. There are really only two types of starting weapons, and some choices like the ability to start with a ton of plasma grenades, feel a bit unbalanced. Call of Duty gets away with this system because you get so many toys and because, in the best versions of the series, it allowed you to spec out some truly varied warriors. Halo 4 misses the mark in that respect.
The point is, leveling up in Halo 4 and unlocking all the weaponry and abilities should be treated like band-aid removal. Let's make it as quick as possible! Here are five tips that will get you there.
Play Spartan Ops Matchmaking
If you're okay with shooting some Covenant and Prometheans for a bit, Spartan Ops Matchmaking dishes out the most XP per match of any mode by far. Sure, the chapters may take a little longer than your typical CTF match, but not so much longer that the benefit is lost. Bring four friends and you can party up and start matchmaking even though you already have a full crew. Then the extra XP is yours without the need to wade into the unpredictable Halo community. My advice? Play until you complete the Spartan Ops challenges currently available and then hop back into War Games if you're bored. Speaking of challenges…
Do Daily/Weekly/Monthly Challenges
Get into the habit of starting each Halo 4 session with a quick check of the challenges available. There are new challenges in War Games every single day, weekly challenges in all modes, and a monthly challenge in War Games as well. Focus your sessions around completing these. You can even use the challenges as an opportunity to play Campaign, although the overall benefits of doing this aren't so great. What you decide to focus on should depend on how often you play. If you're an everyday Halo 4 player then you should play War Games and focus on your dailies. If you're more of a weekend warrior then Spartan Ops is probably still the best place to start.
Ugh…Buy Some Doritos or Mountain Dew
If you absolutely, positively need cheap and easy XP, there is one dark solution. A combined assault on your wallet and health through the purchase of marked bottles of Mountain Dew and bags of Doritos will net you double XP codes for online matches. The system is a bit convoluted, but you buy your horrible snack foods, grab the codes, and apply them through www.DewXP.com. You typically get 3 matches of double XP per code and 280 calories per bottle of Mountain Dew. I'll warn you though, in my experience with the dark side of Halo 4 cross promotion I've been gypped double XP matches at least once, so the process isn't without troubles. Note that this promotion ends on January 31st and all double XP codes must be used by March 31st.
Plug in Some Weird Codes into Halo Waypoint
Okay, this one is a bit strange, but you can get some crazy XP benefits. Basically, in order to justify Halo Waypoint's existence and continue the Halo series' cryptic aspects, 343 has hidden secret codes that unlock new armor and XP jackpots. Some clever fans have already deciphered a bunch of them, too! All you have to do is match some prerequisites and enter the codes within the Waypoint app on your 360.
The various codes can be found all over the web by searching for "Halo Waypoint Codes," but I found the page at halo4arg.wix.com to be the most comprehensive.
Play With a Variety of Weapons & Modes
This tip should be obvious to any veteran of Call of Duty or other progression systems, but it's still worth a reminder. To squeeze out every last bit of quick XP bonuses, you should check out the Commendations section in Halo 4's menu. Available are several bonuses for particular weapons, modes, and enemies. For scooping up some quick XP you'll want to bounce between different weapons, play different modes, and kill different enemies. Use a new starter gun for a bit, capture some flags, kill some Jackals, and you'll be on your way to the first levels of each commendation. Stick with one weapon and you can grab even higher reward tiers, it'll just take more effort to get there.
With a little perseverance these tips should get you to level 50 pretty quick. Good luck!
Joe Donato still feels bad about buying all those Mountain Dews and Doritos. Console him @JoeDonuts on Twitter.