Halo 4 hands-on preview from E3 2012:
Published: Monday, June 18, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 17:08
It’s one of the biggest franchises in video game history, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide. Its cultural impact has been compared to Star Wars and has spawned a massive following around the world. It is Microsoft's flagship franchise and a great bastion of hope for Xbox 360 exclusivity. And at E3 2012, I got to experience the next major step in the franchise, the continuation of Master Chief's epic saga: Halo 4.
Although creative control has shifted away from series creators Bungie Studios, the newest installment in the Halo not only stays true to the spirit of the franchise, but also takes an incredible step forward creatively in both the single player campaign and the famed multiplayer.
Naturally, with a game as big as Halo 4, expectations are ridiculously high. Fans clamor for what seems like an impossible combination: the same as the game they already love, but far better. I have good news for those fans: Halo 4 delivers.
Right off the bat I must admit something: I have never been a huge fan of the franchise. While I found Halo 3's single-player campaign to be a good time with a couple of friends, I have always thought that the game felt light: weapons didn't carry any weight, players could jump to huge heights and float through the air, and absorb massive amounts of damage without much issue. Since Halo 3, I have found myself unable to get excited for any Halo game. They felt strangely hollow to me. But with the announcement of Halo 4, it felt that Halo was finally taking that step forward to compete with the most creative and forward-thinking games of this generation.
The first thing the developers at 343 Industries showed at their exclusive closed-door presentation was the revamped graphics engine running the single player campaign. Textures look rich and realistic: Master Chief's Armor looks weighted, he moves like the bulking super-human he is. Grass and leaves on trees sway with the breeze, and the dense, lush jungle seems vibrant with life. Within seconds of gameplay, I was floored with how far the visuals have come since Halo 3. The developers at 343 have spent countless man-hours developing a brand new engine specifically designed for the game.
The single-player campaign sees Master Chief awoken from the cryo-sleep he went into at the finale of Halo 3 to find a brand new threat threatening the galaxy. Arriving on the planet's surface, the Chief discovers a long dormant alien AI that poses a completely different, but no less deadly challenge than the covenant from games past. Fans of the covenant need not fear however, as grunts, Elites, and all your favorite Covenant foes return, visually overhauled as well. Along with new enemies, Master Chief will come into contact with all new alien weapons which each offer special abilities and change the game dramatically.
You may be asking, "Yeah, but what about the multiplayer?"
The Halo franchise is legendary for its robust and addictive multiplayer modes after all. I am very happy to report that the multiplayer is better than ever. I got to try out the revamped team slayer mode on a brand new map that featured vehicular combat and long-range combat. Just as in the single player, the gun fighting is far more satisfying than in games past. Every kill is more rewarding, as you feel that you worked for it, firing every shot as precisely as possible to take down the enemy for your team.
The new team slayer has some cool new features to keep players entertained as well. For fans of riding into combat on a warthog, players can now fire weapons from every seat, creating a more deadly car ride every time. In addition to minor gameplay tweaks, team slayer now features ordinance. By logging kills in slayer, players fill an ordinance bar. When the bar is filled, players can call for advanced weapons to be dropped down for them to use in combat. In my demo, I received a weapon that fired remote detonated mines at enemies.
This gameplay enhancement brings up one of the most fascinating and innovative features of Halo 4. The Spartan Ops and the UNSC Infinity. The UNSC Infinity is an all-encompassing hub of sort that connects the single-player campaign, multiplayer, and the all-new Spartan Ops. It is described as a weekly episodic interactive TV show. Every week, 343 will release a new "episode" of Spartan Ops, which are co-op missions, which extend the story of the single-player campaign. Each episode is comprised of five parts, all of which are delivered weekly for free to Xbox Live Gold Members. These episodes will be releases weekly for several months, meaning that the game is almost endless.
Points earned in single-player, multiplayer and Spartan Ops all combine in the Infinity so players can customize their individual Spartans. Customization in Halo 4 extends beyond the physical look of your soldier, ranging from combat upgrades, additional ordinance options and much more.
For fans of the Halo franchise, Halo 4 should arrive as a breath of fresh air, a new take on the classic series that pushes it into the future. For those who had avoided the previous games, I can safely say that Halo 4 is a perfect place to re-enter the fold.
Throughout my demo, I smiled ear to ear with a sense of wonder with what was to come like it was my first time playing a video game. I left the demo feeling impressed with how high 343 had raised the bar on AAA game titles with their new take on Halo. Without a doubt, Halo 4 is set to be one of the premier titles of 2012. Nov. 6 can't come quickly enough.