Halo 4 Hands On Preview
Don’t worry people, 343 got it right.
I’m sure that many were nervous when they learned that Halo 4 was being helmed by a brand new studio. After an impressive showing at this year’s E3, it’s been becoming more and more apparent that not only does 343 Industries know what they are doing, but they are pushing the series in a fresh, yet familiar direction.
One of the first things I noticed at New York Comic Con this year was the excitement and chatter about Halo 4. The lines were very long, and wrapped around the entire booth. Multiplayer was on display, and every day they would either switch up the map, or change the game type. Slayer made a return as well as the brand new game type Dominion where you capture points similar to Domination in Call of Duty. Most of the players were gravitating toward the new mode Dominion, and many players were eager to try out the new Mantis mech.
Before jumping into the match of course, we got to toggle around with load outs. In Halo Reach, players had some flexibility with load outs, as far as things like armor abilities and primary weapons go, but in Halo 4, every option seems to have been considered. Players can choose a primary weapon, secondary weapon, grenade type, armor ability and even perks known as Tactical Packages and Support Upgrades that you can tailor to your preferred play style.
I was happy to see that I could finally have the option to choose between the DMR from Halo Reach and the traditional Battle Rifle, two guns that I enjoy a lot but never got to use in the same game. New weapons, like the Light Rifle were also available, which is one of the new “Promethean” weapons. When shot off the hip, it fires a three round burst, but when zoomed in, it becomes a strong precision shot which is great at long range.I found the Bolt Shot to be the most interesting of the secondary weapons: This new Promethean weapon fires like any standard pistol, but when charged up deals devastating damage equivalent to that of a shotgun.
The thing that surprised me the most as I customized my load out were the Tactical Package and Support Upgrade offerings. These perks help players tailor their personal play style and made me much more invested in a specific goal while playing the matches. Tactical Packages are more active, with options like the Firepower Pack which allow you to carry two primary guns at the same time. Support Upgrades are a bit more passive. For example, the Awareness mod allows you to retain your motion sensor while scoped, which is prime for snipers and players who opt for long range tactics.
After getting a little bit of time to build a quick load out, it was time to play. The first match was Dominion on the new map, Longbow. Like I said before, Dominion tasked both teams with capturing fortresses on a map and holding them for as long as possible. Holding these areas accumulates points and the first team to reach a certain goal by the end wins. As a catch, when you acquire a fortress, a barrier builds up around the capture area and defenses spawn which help keep the opposing team out. Playing it was insanely fun, and required a lot of team work to be successful. Early on in the match, the opposing team took a massive lead. Though we did ultimately loose, we managed to make a huge comeback once we developed a strategy as a team.
Slayer, which we played on the map known as Ragnarok—a remake of Halo 3’s Vahalla—was pretty standard, but also more fun due to the overall faster pace of the game. The map was also home to the new mechs which were devastatingly powerful, but also reasonably easy to take down.
From what I played, Halo 4 feels like a true successor to the series. From floaty jumps and hilarious deaths to precision shooting and vehicle combat, everything felt just as it should have. That said, the new additions to the formula are more than welcome. Sprint is now universal, and while that may seem minor, this ends up providing a much faster pace to matches, making the game feel just a tad fresher than before. Controversial armor abilities—like Armor Lock— are now gone in favor for abilities that require and encourage more tact.
One of the armor abilities which I opted for was Promethean Vision, which for a short time allowed me to see the outlines of my opponents through cover. This ability came in handy, allowing me to get the drop on my opponents in some cases, or change my route if I saw too many enemies in one area. Of the returning armor abilities, some received upgrades like the Decoy, which overall looks more convincing as it runs to its destination but disappears faster than in Reach.
One area where both Halo 3 and Reach lost me was the progression system. I’ve always felt largely unrewarded when playing the game, especially when reaching a certain level but Halo 4 does a pretty great job with rewarding the player. Everything you do, from defending capture points, to rescuing teammates earns you points that help you level up and unlock new weapons, and armor for customization. The best part about it, is that if you liked Halo before, it won’t make a huge difference since the gameplay is intact, but for players who like a lot more reward for their gameplay they will find a lot to keep them playing.
After playing Halo 4, it easily became one of my most anticipated titles for this holiday. Any worries that I had going into playing this game were gone once I played around in the first match. With this robust multiplayer offering, Halo 4 deserves to be on your radar.