marks a new beginning for the Halo
franchise. With development duties being passed to 343 Studios, the new team are hoping to take Master Chief on a journey of their own. Game Informer
managed to get their hands on an exclusive preview of the title, and with this comes the first details on both the campaign and the revamped multiplayer. Here is our summary:Halo 4
is set in the year 2557, exactly four years, seven months and ten days after the events of Halo 3
. The few players who have never touched the Halo
franchise before need not worry though; there will be a detailed prologue that is intended for players such as these. Once that is over, this game will take players through the first part of the Reclaimer trilogy and will be telling a new story.
The Human-Covenant war may now be over but, despite this, there will be familiar foes returning. After all, 343 wants to create a game that is familiar to fans of the franchise. However, new enemies also threaten the galaxy and the new trilogy looks set to explore the mysterious Forerunner race. Abandoned buildings have left traces of this race throughout previous games, but here they take on a whole new emphasis. Franchise development director Frank O’Connor gives readers a bit of an insight:The Forerunners are this ancient, long-vanished civilisation that was responsible for what was effectively the biggest atrocity in the history of the galaxy, which was the wiping out of all sentient life in order to save it. Forerunners had contact with humanity and, in fact, war with humanity more than a hundred thousand years ago. The Forerunners defeated the humans, and then subjugated them by using a process of devolution. Basically, bombing them back into the Stone Age. Some of that will just be backstory, and some of it will have really direct connotations.
Master Chief and Cortana find themselves many miles away from familiar territory. They are in a world of unexplored land. One of the new territories are shield worlds. As O'Connor explains again, "a shield world is an artificial planet that the Forerunners specifically used to try to take refuge from the Flood and other calamities like the Halo activation.” Although details on the shield worlds were not revealed, a similar structure did get a preview. Requiem is a sphere-like structure that is a variation on the real-life Dyson Sphere. This sphere was a hypothetical mega structure that would surround a star and harness all of its energy output. Requiem doesn't encase a star; Requiem surrounds a planet and provides an in-game variation of a shield world. The planet is protected from the harmful effects of Halo weapons.
The cover hides an alien landscape. Forerunner buildings are both ruined and active here, providing new challenges for the player. Strange flora and fauna surround these buildings, but the most notable difference is the lack of sky. As the Requiem covers the planet, it shuts out the sky. Where the sky should be, players will see the inner shell of the Requiem complete with its supporting pillars. One thing that players need to be prepared for are new enemies. 343 are making a set of new enemy types with new weapons and equipment that will be discovered when reaching Requiem.
Meanwhile, how have our two main characters faired? We'll start with Cortana, a "smart" artificial intelligence who will be Master Chief's companion on his journey. She has a new form that she has chosen during her years waiting for Master Chief to wake up. Her very nature means that she can process enormous amounts of data, but this can also be a death sentence. After seven years, artificial intelligences can malfunction by falling into strange patterns of thought and eventually into madness; the end result is death. Halo 4
begins years after Cortana was last seen, so this is set to become a problem. Other factors may affect her deterioration too. The odd circumstances of her creation and her encounters with other strange intelligences, such as Gravemind and Forerunner AIs, may change her destiny. What is certain is that this game will explore the relationship between the pair.
As for Master Chief, there doesn't appear to be a lot of differences. During his years in his cryo-chamber, Cortana has rewritten the suit’s firmware. There is a new HUD for Master Chief with more visual cues. There is also a more subtle parallax movement during athletic actions. Despite this, the fighting sequences still feel like the Halo
games of old. Enemies run about as they did before and the player still gets to act as a one-man killing machine.
The one new gameplay mechanic is that there will now be narrative focused scenes that are meant to offer exciting action outside of combat. Players retain control during these scenes, but they will cover moments such as Master Chief climbing a lift shaft with debris raining down upon him. There is one last thing that I will say about the campaign before moving on. Despite the solitary sounding nature of the campaign so far, players will still be able to play through the campaign in four-player co-op if they so choose.
Before I move on to the multiplayer aspect of the game, I will mention the latest game engine. 343 have redesigned the technology behind Halo: Reach
and this brings a much increased visual clarity. Lighting and shading has improved and there is true 720p presentation. The characters and environments look crisp. As well as the improved engine, new performance and motion-capture means that character movements are more realistic.
The multiplayer aspect of Halo 4
will not be the usual red vs. blue affair. This time, the multiplayer will have links to the storyline campaign. Players assume the role of new breed of UNSC military – the Spartan IV – the old Elites will not be playable in this game. The new Spartans are the result of the continued evolution of the super soldier program and they are drawn from the top ranks of existing special ops soldiers. They are deployed on UNSC Infinity, the largest vessel in human fleet. This vessel will directly cross Master Chief’s path in the campaign. The Spartans train for combat aboard the combat deck on Infinity, which can replicate any environment. The combat deck plays host to all multiplayer combat.
As players rank up they will unlock more armour abilities, weapons and modifications. Spartan Points are awarded and can be used to buy items for a more personalised loadout, which can be constructed around a gamer’s playstyle. There is a choice of primary weapon, secondary weapon, grenade type, armour ability and modifications. Not a lot was said about the modifications, but weapons include assault rifle, battle rifle, DMR, assault carbine, Covenant carbine, shotgun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, magnum, plasma pistol. There are more to be announced, including new weapons. As for the special abilities, these include the familiar Hologram, Jetpack and Active Camo, as well as the new Forerunner Vision; this allows players to see through walls. Sprint is no longer a special ability and is available to use at all times.
Online multiplayer will support up to 16 players. Team Slayer will definitely be returning but there are currently no plans to include a "dedicated Firefight mode". One new game mode was on show though: Regicide. This is a variation on free-for-all. The leading player is labelled the king and the other players are tasked with killing him. The player who manages to kill the king gets the bounty. The king's bounty increases every time he/she kills another player.
There are several new multiplayer gameplay features. First, there is no delay on respawning once the player is dead; tapping X automatically respawns the player. Secondly, weapon drops are a new feature. Powerful weapons show up at random drop spots during the match, but the best weapons will not always spawn at the same points. One spawn point may produce a sniper rifle the first time and then spawn a rocket launcher the next. Meanwhile, the sniper rifle has spawned across the other side of the map. A new post game reward system gives out medals and Spartan points for all kinds of in-game actions, such as assists, revenge kills and even causing a distraction. There are now other ways to rank up than having a high kill count. The final new feature for now is the new matchmaking process that means that players can join matches in progress.
One notable addition is a new co-op mode called Spartan Ops. As creative director Josh Holmes describes the mode, “think of it as away missions from the UNSC Infinity”. All that 'multiplayer training' will come in handy as players use their multiplayer character for this mode. Up to four players work on an “evolving episodic campaign” that is comparable to the single player storyline. Each week players get access to a new CG film sequence that unfolds the story of the latest UNSC mission. The film chronicles the previous struggles of the Spartans in their previous conflicts. With each story component comes five objective-based co-op missions. Three missions will contain new content, such as unseen events, locations and challenges. Holmes describes how this new mode fits into the game:The events that are taking place within that weekly series are then crossing over with missions that are available for you and your friends to engage in as part of this ongoing story-driven co-operative experience online.
The difficulty of these missions can be tweaked to suit the players' experience covering Easy to Legendary difficulty just like the storyline campaign. The missions can also be replayed over and over. Just to clarify though, these missions will not be additional paid DLC content. This content will be part of the on-disc experience and will unfold over several months. The content will not expire either, so late adopters of the game will be able to catch up with the storyline and understand the content easily.
For more information, including a preview of the main campaign and a look at two of the multiplayer maps, I suggest that you read the Game Informer article for yourself.Halo 4
is due to be released this autumn / fall.