It’s natural to be wary when a franchise changes development teams. When Team Silent disbanded and Konami began outsourcing Silent Hill titles to other developers, it wasn’t something that went over well with the fans. However, in the case of Halo 4, it is no stretch of the imagination to say that the franchise is in safe hands with 343 Industries.
While the campaign mode is clearly shaping up to be something special, the most impressive aspect of the game so far is the new multiplayer component. 343 has been hard at work trying to improve upon the already stellar multiplayer from Halo: Reach and their dedication clearly shows through.
Entitled “Infinity”, the multiplayer component of Halo 4 is possibly the most expansive multiplayer mode in the Halo series, complete with its own storyline. Set six months after the main campaign and detailing the ongoing story of the starship Infinity, the new mode is split between the cooperative “Spartan Ops” mode and the competitive “War Games” mode.
343 is working to redefine the Halo multiplayer experience and seems intent on giving players a memorable and engaging cooperative experience in addition to the addictive competitive gameplay of the series’ past entries. With Spartan Ops, 343 plans to release free weekly episodes that continue the story aboard the Infinity, along with five new cooperative missions to keep Halo fans busy long after release.
Possibly the most impressive aspect of Infinity is the level of customization players have access too. Unlike before, where customization was limited to cosmetic appearance changes, Infinity gives players control over their weapons, armor enhancements, and even new armor modifications with its new weapon loadout system. Instead of choosing from predefined weapon loadouts like in Reach, players can customize their own set of loadouts.
While the initial amount of weapons and armor enhancement will be limited, players can unlock new weapons and enhancements to choose from via the new player progression system. By playing War Games and Spartan Ops missions, players gain experience points to purchase new toys.
After getting the opportunity to get some hands-on time with the War Games aspect of Infinty, I have to say that I was quite impressed with what’s in store. I got to play Infinity Slayer, Halo 4‘s new enhanced version of the classic Team Slayer, and the new perks of the game were quite a treat.
First off, the new scoring system does change things up a bit, switching from a standard kill count to a points system. In addition, as the player gains points by earning kills for their team, a meter linked to the game’s new “Ordinance” system fills up. Once full, the player can receive item drops from the Infinity, which includes grenades, weapons, and even power-ups. New powerups include the Damage Boost and Speed Boost joining the standard Overshield from prior games.
Switching things up from Halo: Reach, Halo 4 has its own designated Sprint button, no longer attached to the armor enhancement button. While it may not seem like much, players no longer have to choose between fun armor enhancements and the ability to run, which will definitely shake things up for any Objective gametypes.
Some of the old armor enhancement’s from Halo: Reach make a return such as my personal favorite, the Hologram, along with a couple of new ones. One such enhancement, a deployable Hardlight Shield, definitely helps mix things up. Unlike the standard Dome Shield of past games, the new shield isn’t stationary but functions much like a riot shield, allowing the player to move while shielded. The drawback, of course, is that it isn’t permanent, running on an energy meter that drains faster when taking fire. Additionally, the shield only covers the player from the front and leaves the player unable to fire back, adding a bit of strategy in knowing when to use it.
Two other armor enhancements will feature in the game: Promethean Vision, shown in the recent campaign footage, and the Thruster Pack. The Thruster Pack is an interesting enhancement, as it allows the player to teleport a few feet forward or behind, allowing for all sorts of surprise attacks or hasty retreats.
Lastly, a new gametype announced (unfortunately not playable on the first day of E3) is Regicide, an all new free-for-all mode in which the lead player is crowned king. Being king does have some drawbacks, however, as everyone will be gunning for the king’s head to claim the bounty. Worse, the king’s location is known to everyone, leaving the king with nowhere to hide from an enemy assault, so the crown might not stay on that head too long.
With a cache of new weapons, enhancements, and gameplay elements, Halo 4‘s Infinity Multiplayer is definitely something to be excited for. Coupled with a stellar looking Campaign, Halo 4 is shaping up to be a triumphant return to the Halo universe.
Halo 4 is scheduled for release on November 6, 2012.