Halo 4 – E3 Preview
by Adam R
At the close of Halo 3, we saw our hero Master Chief finally lay down to rest after years of fighting against human extinction. This November, 343 Industries is waking the Chief from his space-nap to bring down the Covenant once again, but also introduce a brand new evil known as the Prometheans – a huge change from the Covenant. While each member of the alien collective filled a specific role, we never saw them work in tandem in any real way, but these new enemy types will change the face of the Halo campaign battle field, and a prime example of this are the new leader units called Knights, which spawn a small flying unit to aid them in battle.
While the flying enemy poses little threat on its own, it does have several abilities which make the battle against the Knight much more difficult. The Knight can gain a shield from his spawned compatriot, and the flying enemy can also catch and deflect the players’ thrown grenades, so these new enemy combinations bring a whole to new depth to the campaign. New enemies also bring along new weapons to mix up the campaign formula even more – our presentation showed off an energy shotgun based on the technology of the ancient Forerunners; the main difference between this model and the standard shotgun was that its shots could ricochet around corners, leading to all kinds fun and inventive uses. Add to this a new infrared visor mode for spotting enemies in environments of variable visibility, and Master Chief is packing his most extensive arsenal yet.
The meat of my experience, and most likely where I’ll be spending a huge chunk of time, was with the multiplayer experience that 343 is cooking up. The latest Halo developers are taking a swing a multiplayer that I’ve never seen done before by giving it its very own story. Set six months after the closing moments of the main campaign, the multiplayer focuses on your own story as a Spartan-IV on board the UNSC Infinity. A highly advanced vessel, Infinity houses its very own training facility in which all the competitive game modes take place.
This does not mean that all the games will be taking place in single environment modeled after the interior the ship, however, as the Infinity is equipped with a state of the art holographic interface which, not unlike the X-Men’s Danger Room, simulates any environment found between a lush forest to a frozen wasteland. It’s within this space that players can blast each other to pieces to their hearts content. The second focus of the multiplayer (and the place where the story actually comes into play) is with the co-op game modes. After the game’s release, and continuing for an indefinite amount of time, 343 plans to release weekly cinematic episodes moving the story of the Infinity forward along with five new co-op missions. All of this will come free of charge to the player, so long as they are a Gold Xbox Live member.
While these features are all very nice, they wouldn’t mean all that much if the game didn’t perform. After some hands-on time with a new competitive mode called “Infinity Slayer”, I can honestly say that this game’s multiplayer is shaping up to be just as solid and entertaining as any that Bungie have produced in the past. The map we played was built for close-to-medium-range encounters which lead to a hectic 4-on-4 clash. Almost anywhere I looked, there was some kind of conflict going down with bullets being fired off in all directions and grenades being lobbed liberally. Essentially, it was the Halo experience that we have come to expect after more than a decade with the iconic franchise. The twist that came from this particular game mode was that, after a set number of kills, players could call in their very own supply drops which would include weapons, power-ups, or new armor abilities. This object would appear on the map and, should the player fall before being able to collect their prize, is left open for any player from any team to snatch up and put to use toward their own ends.
The new features extend beyond the game and into the character progression allowing players to build their own custom Spartan. Each game will net a sum of experience points that allow players to level up, granting them new weapons and armor abilities which can be used to create custom load-outs which players can style to fit certain strategies based on personal taste and/or game type. The points can also be put toward new armor components which, unlike previous games, are no longer restricted to simple cosmetic modifications and can now alter character stats like shield strength and melée damage.
More beautiful than ever, while keeping true to the roots of what the series great, 343′s new features have changed Halo 4 from being a game I would simply keep my eye on to one I cannot wait to get my hands on. A stellar showing on the E3 floor left me confident that the team at 343 isn’t taking its treatment of the Halo license lightly. I for one will be watching for this one this November.
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