The Master Chief is back yet again; however he’s in for quite a change. The Halo franchise is in the hands of a new developer and they’re taking the games in some interesting new directions. So how does 343’s efforts stack up with Bungie’s legendary series? Well, I’ve had some time with the games and right off the bat; I can tell you its good news. Let’s talk a little more about why.
So let’s start off with the obvious. You’ve all seen it, the gameplay footage and trailer shown off at E3. I’ve embedded it below for your convenience in case you live under a rock. As you can see, the visuals have received another respectable bump in quality, making for quite the beautiful game. This is the result of a new graphics engine.
Beyond that, there’s some interesting details on the story. The game takes place on a Forerunner shield world. It’s the same one seen at the end of the Legendary ending of Halo 3. Cortana and the Chief are awoken quite rudely by someone boarding their ship. These are the new enemies and apparently inhabitants of this world called Prometheans. The Covenant are of course still present, but as in the previous series, they aren’t your primary concern.
The Prometheans however, add a whole new set of complications to gameplay. As with the covenant, they come in many shapes and sizes. For instance, the first small enemies you see in the gameplay video are known as crawlers. They are small and fast. Mostly effective in groups, they can scale walls to gain the high ground on you. I guess you could say they fill the role of Grunts.
The big scary guy who leaps out at you, is the Knight. These are the commanders of the battlefield and as you can see, they are vicious opponents. This is because beyond simple armed combat, they have varied special abilities. For instance, you immediately see him deploy a defense drone, know as a Watcher. Some also have the ability to teleport quickly around the field, closing with you quickly and making them a real danger.
Now, the Watcher is quite formidable in its own right. It can shield the Knight in hard light. It can throw your grenades back at you, and it can even revive downed enemies. It also doesn’t die once you’ve taken out the Knight, so it’s perfectly capable of being a nuisance on its own. It should definitely be a priority target.
New enemies of course means new weapons- We got to see and use a few. For instance, the Forerunner Light Rifle and Forerunner Scattershot. The Rifle is basically a Battle Riffle, 3 shots from the hip and one from the scope, with a different look. However, the Scattershot is an interesting and fun weapon. It works much like a shotgun, but has better range. Not only that, but its bullets ricochet and can be used to hit enemies around walls.
Now, if you’re the kind of person who’s more focused on Halo for the multi, and we know there are a ton of you, then there’s plenty here for you too. There are quite a few changes that have already been mentioned. For instance, loadouts are now in, allowing you to choose your starting weapons and armor abilities, as well as a passive ability called an armor mod that could potentially boost your health/ammo capacity/damage/etc. These are all earned throughout multiplayer, and everything you do across multi earns you the points you need to get them.
In game you’re also rewarded individually, as earning enough points allows you call reward drops containing ordinance. Power ups are also back, which means Overshield, along with Speed Boost and Damage Boost. Speed Boost actually gives you an unlimited sprint, which can be very useful as the default sprint is stamina limited. You can now also respawn at any time you choose by pressing X, letting you jump right back into the action, or take the time to tweak your loadout and setting if need be.
Beyond the expected game types there are some new ones, and entirely new components. For instance we were allowed to play a new gametype called Regicide- Which is a lot like Juggernaught. It’s every man for himself, but the King is the key target. Every kill gets you points, and whoever has the most at the time is the King, and has a bounty on his head. Take him out to score big, and take him out in a cool way and get even more. He’s easy enough to find as he’s marked at all times.
We played for quite some time and I got to use one of the new armor abilities and the new Forerunner weapons. It was an enjoyable and refreshing experience. For one, Sprint is now built in, so feel free to run at any time now. The Hard Light shield is more like the Jackal shield than armor lock and is great to have in a pinch. Block, close in, melee, block and repeat. Or use a gun! And the scattershot is blast, shredding enemies quite effectively.
Beyond that, they’ve gone to significant effort to work story into the multiplayer now. The UNSC Infinity is a training ship for Spartan IV’s, over three and a half miles long used to test various scenarios for the Spartans to train with. They are competing in what is called Wargames.
Aside from the vs. there are also cooperative missions. However, these are episodic in nature- Every week a new episode is released that includes 5 new co-op missions for you and your friends to play through. This contributes to your multiplayer warchest and includes story, to further flesh out the Halo universe. These are called Spartan Ops and it is its own campaign. The best part is that all the new content will be free for Gold subscribers.
So as you can see, Halo 4 definitely has quite a bit going for it this time around. Some of the changes in multi will be interesting to see on a grander scale after release to see how they affect balance. However, based on my playtime, I can definitely say the game lives up to the Halo name. Not only that, but it’s a positive leap in the right direction. Halo fans rejoice, the Chief is alive and good hands.