343 Industries took on a heavy load with Halo 4. Bungie’s brainchild was so well-received for a reason, and the new developer is carrying one heck of a legacy with the new trilogy.
At Microsoft’s booth at E3, 343 Industries showed off a live demo of Halo 4‘s campaign, which takes place five years after the end of Halo 3. Master Chief finds himself landing on Requiem, a Forerunner planet, and, in the first mission, goes to recover the UNSC warship Infinity.
Then 343 Industries let us loose to play multiplayer.
Multiplayer is split into two types: the episodic co-op, Spartan Ops, and the competitive modes, War Games.
My group was set up with one of the competitive War Games, Infinity Slayer, which is basically the new term for Team Slayer. Red Spartans and Blue Spartans teams set up at terminals and customized their loadouts.
Standard weapons in a loadout include the battle rifle, DMR, assault rifle and pistol. You can also choose grenades (frag or plasma) and various powers, such as a hard light shield.
Various elements of armor and abilities are also modifiable, but we didn’t have time to get into that kind of depth.
The group I played with was among the first to play on Longbow, a snowy map with hills and small towers, sprinkled with Ghosts and Warthogs.
Players who were doing well could earn themselves ordinances – drops of new weapons or abilities. These included the campaign’s new Promethean weapons like the Scattershot, a shotgun with ammo that bounces off surfaces, and the light rifle.
The controls are slightly different. For example, melee is now on the Xbox 360 controller’s right bumper, and the B button makes Spartans crouch. Players can switch up the controls to their liking, so if you don’t fancy the new control scheme, you can find a different one that you prefer. Halo veterans will have no problem jumping in.
In fact, if no one told me Bungie wasn’t making and improving on their multiplayer, I wouldn’t have guessed another studio made it from scratch. In no time, I found myself splattering enemies with the Ghost, getting up close with the Needler, and dying more often than I’d like to admit to enemy squads driving in Warthogs and carrying battle rifles. The only thing I saw anyone have trouble with was the ordinances, which they hadn’t seen before. No one seemed to mind once some new weapons spawned at their command, though.
You also don’t need an armor power to sprint. On the downside, you have to hold in the left analog stick to make your Spartan run, which can be uncomfortable on your thumbs.
Halo 4 has a new graphics engine that produces gorgeous aesthetics.343 Industries is trying to aesthetically distinguish their Halo from Bungie’s, and their crisp, clear graphics are a pleasure to look at. A lot of this is due to changes in Spartan armor. It appears more utilitarian and is incredibly detailed, down to mesh patterns on the gloves. If there were an armored super soldier program, the new look would be far more useful than Chief’s old outfit. The environments also look spectacular. The new engine gave the weapons and vehicles more detail and polish, and the environments were as nice to look at as they were to play in.
If you play a lot of Halo’s multiplayer, you will be happy to know that Halo 4 is definitely in good hands. It plays well, looks great, and the new additions in weapons, ordinances and customization are definitely welcome.
Another sci-fi shooter? Sure, but it’s shaping up well – easily among the best I saw at E3. And if the single player demo I watched (but didn’t get to play) is any indication, the campaign is looking pretty good, too.