Hands-on With Halo 4’s Multiplayer

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360

On October 23rd, Matt Prestwich and I got a chance to try out Halo 4’s multiplayer suite at the Thomson Hotel in downtown Toronto. Held in the majestic 1812 Lounge, the event was set up as a multiplayer tournament, with various teams of four players pitted against each other in a knockout-style competition. The matches were each set up as 4v4 on the Infinity Slayer mode, with the Halo series’ classic Red vs. Blue gameplay. Matches lasted 10 minutes each and had a 600 point limit, which was just enough time to learn about your opponents and (hopefully) blow them away.

The first thing that both Matt and I noticed about the game was the incredible looking visuals, with a particular note made for the excellent texture resolution on plants and walls, something which a lot of first-person shooters are unfortunately lacking.  What added to the realism of this game was that everything was carefully detailed down to the most mundane objects; due to a remarkable job on lighting and reflection effects, everywhere you looked in-game objects and environments were incredibly realistic and stood out sharply.

The details on the weapons were rather impressive, with authentic looking LED ammo counts on the back of guns, and some rather amazing visual effects, such as the ‘binding’ of some of the alien weaponry. Essentially, the guns are made up of a series of different parts that are held together by energy, and these parts float away and then back together whenever the gun is initially selected or reloaded.  It makes no real difference to gameplay, but looked incredibly cool each and every time we saw it. Additionally, all weapons (old and new) are visually distinct, both in appearance and the way in which they fire, so that only after a few minutes of gameplay we could quickly identify the type of weaponry our opponents were carrying.

The map that we played on was titled “Solace,” and was seemingly set in an abandoned Forerunner structure that had become partially overgrown. Whilst the map didn’t offer a whole lot of horizontal space, ramps and platforms were all over the place, making for some intense multi-level combat. Although we didn’t get a chance to try out any of the other maps, they continue the series’ theme of the title not really reflecting the content, with names such as Exile, Longbow and Ragnarok. One map that did look particularly cool, however, was entitled Adrift, and was apparently set aboard a UNSC mining vessel.

While I had a brief chance to try out Halo 4’s multiplayer at Toronto’s FanExpo earlier this year, I hadn’t had the opportunity to fiddle around with some of the pre-game menus that allow you to customise your loadouts and such. Thankfully this event gave me a chance to – though I had nowhere near enough time before each game to uncover everything, with the sheer amount of choice presented to each player. From a selection of over 300 Spartan Armour items, to over 175 Spartan ID components, combined with an expanded range of weapons, accessories, and unlockables, Halo 4 should have more than enough customization to keep all but the most finicky of players happy.

In terms of loadouts, players can select Support Upgrades ranging from extra ammo, to dexterity sensors, to Promethean vision (which resembles Predator’s heat vision and allows players to see through walls), Tactical Packages (which work similarly to Call of Duty’s weapon drops), Primary and Secondary Weapons, and Grenades, amongst other things. Fans of the series will be pleased to hear that most, if not all, of the series’ weaponry has returned, including Covenant Weaponry (we saw the Needler and the Energy Sword as two particular examples), and the arsenal has been boosted by a selection of Promethean Weaponry.

As well as the weapons that you bring to the battle with you, each map contains a selection of in-field weaponry, which are usually more powerful than the standard loadout weapons, that can be picked up and used by anyone, and are highlighted on the radar. Halo 4’s radar seems a lot more comprehensive than I’m used to from the previous titles, with players not within range highlighted by arrows around the radar’s radius, and height indicators pointing out whether foes are above or below you. Though this didn’t help me that much in terms of not getting killed, for those who spend time with it, this iteration of the radar will be a lot more informative than earlier builds.

Although Matt and I unfortunately didn’t make it out of the first round of the tournament, we spent enough time both playing and observing the game to come to the understanding that Halo 4 may very well be the definitive Halo multiplayer experience to date.  While there haven’t been a whole host of changes since various incarnations, a good deal of subtle alterations have been made, such as grenade throw distance, which alter the formula in ways players might not expect. What really impressed me most was the sheer number of customisation options available to players, which means it will be pretty rare to see the same two Spartans on the battlefield. Halo 4 comes out on November 6, 2012 and it seems that 343 Industries has done an adept job of taking the Halo mantle from Bungie.

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October 27, 2012 - 7:45 am