Halo 4 is coming to the Xbox 360 later this year and it's kicking off a brand new trilogy that focuses back on the iconic hero of the series, Master Chief. Believe it or not, there's a rich and compelling fiction to Halo but you wouldn't know that unless you read the books. Halo 1, 2, and 3 kind of just threw you into the fray without going into the backstory much. With 343 Studios now at the helm the Halo series, though, they're looking to make the story and character development a big part of the experience.
343's Frank O'Connor, Kiki Wolfkill, and Josh Holmes didn't really reveal too many secrets to us but they did tease some details, most surprising of which was that the multiplayer will see you playing as Spartan IV soldiers and is going to have some sort of direct on the story of Halo 4.
Halo 4 (Xbox 360)
Developer: 343 Studios
Release: Holiday 2012
Wait, Spartan IVs? These new Spartans are actually introduced in the Halo: Glasslands novel and are comprised of former special forces soldiers such as Navy Seals, Delta Forces, and so on. It's a sharp contrast to the Spartan IIs which were made up of children kidnapped and forced into the program at the age of six. See, there's a really rich and interesting history here! Anyway, Spartan IVs are advanced augmented soldiers much like Spartan IIs and are who you'll be playing as in multiplayer.
You'll be able to customize all aspects of the Spartan IVs, from cosmetics, gameplay abilities, and your loadout, empowering players with a variety of choices. 343 wouldn't elaborate any further on abilities, but I got the hint that they will be more advanced than Halo: Reach's limited armor abilities. At least I really, really hope so anyway.
The folks at 343 gave us a live gameplay demonstration of one Halo 4 multiplayer map called War House. This map is set in a space station hovering in near orbit and we got to see a Spartan IV running around. The station was partially destroyed, so the Spartan was able to jump in zero-g for a bit and the centerpiece of the map is home to a giant mech. Don't get excited, though -- the mech is just for show.
343 went on to state that multiplayer is set to redefine Halo by evolving and innovating the experience into something new. At the same time, the multiplayer will also keep that recognizable Halo versus feel. While that same vibe was certainly there, it remains to be seen how said experience will be redefined, exactly. I'm especially curious to see how multiplayer will affect single-player.
We also got to see one new weapon during our live demo and it's the glorious return of the three-round burst fire Battle Rifle. It's looking a little different and seems to even have a faster rate of fire. I asked the team if the weapons system will change at all in this day and age of Battlefield and Modern Warfare customization features and was told that they'll be sticking to the same formula. 343 wants to keep the focus on weapon balancing and continue that rock paper scissors mentality. I'm perfectly fine with that and even more excited to tell you we'll have "a lot more choices" when it comes to weapons.
During the presentation, we saw a couple of icons on the player's HUD that show where (what looked to be) power weapons were located on the map at all times. 343 wouldn't exactly elaborate on what the purpose of this HUD element was all about. And on that subject, know that vehicles will still be a part of the experience and Assassinations will be back too, badder than ever.
While the Spartan IV was running around on the map, it was hard not to be impressed by the superb audio design. You could just feel the immense weight of the Spartan with each step. I even got goosebumps when I heard the Battle Rifle fire off a few shots. The visuals have been bumped up too and mark Halo 4 as the first true high-definition Halo game, coming in at 30 frames per second.
The second map shown was called Wraparound, a symmetrical map set in a Forerunner facility on a Forerunner shield world. This demo was a recorded video and we got a nice little fly by tour of the extremely bright and glow-y map set to be a good home to Team Slayer game types.
So that's what there is to talk about multiplayer for now. In regards to the campaign, there's even less to mention. All we know is that the Master Chief will be facing off against a new threat beyond anything he's faced before. The Covenant will play a role in the story as well, but they aren't an opposing force.
A lot of what I touched upon is discussed and shown in detail in the first of many Halo 4 behind-the-scenes videos. One last thing to add to all this is that 343 believes the Halo series has a future with Kinect, but don't expect (or worry) with Halo 4 as there are no plans for Kinect integration.
It's not much to go on, but I'm starting to get really excited for Halo 4. I love the universe and this early look at the game has me pretty pumped.