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Hands-on with Halo 4

Alex Rubens | Sept. 24, 2012
After the announcement of Halo 4 at E3 2012, fans everywhere have been pining for more information and a deeper look at the upcoming sequel to the hugely popular Halo trilogy. Last week I was invited for some hands-on time with 343 Industries' first attempt at a true Halo game, and walked away more impressed than I had thought possible.

As they're beginning to explore the planet, new technology is all around them. At this point it's not quite clear how this technology works, but it isn't anything they've seen before, and neither are the enemies. The Prometheans aren't your typical videogame enemies, either; they're not just cannon fodder for you to kill as you make your way through the game. Well, they might be if you're a very skilled player, but at least they're a bit more challenging to kill than the Covenant have become over the course of the Halo series.

The Promethean design is wonderfully disturbing, too; their menacingly big body parts float, but don't connect, as if they have their own tiny gravitational field holding them together. The enemy types vary, so you have to find a different way to kill each one and it isn't just headshot after headshot. Promethean Watchers are probably the most interesting of the new enemies: they hover above the battle, deflecting grenades back at you and resurrecting fallen Promethean Knights.

The Promethean weapons carry the same style and visual flair as the new race, and they have the coolest reload animations of any game in recent memory. I could sit there getting shot all day, as long as I could see the way that the Promethean weapons break apart and form back together when reloading. My favorite of these new weapons was the Boltshot, essentially the Promethean pistol. Using it effectively required a charge period similar to the Spartan Laser; it took some getting used to during our demo, but I ended up loving it. Finally, our demo ended with a killer ghost chase sequence that really reminded me of the Warthog escape during the finale of Halo: Combat Evolved.

But that wasn't the end of our hands-on demo. I also got some time with Spartan Ops, the afore-mentioned weekly episodic cooperative mission series. So far they're guaranteed ten weeks of content, which is more than forty free missions and a free CGI movie. The best part? They are actually fun to play.

I jumped into Spartan Ops with three cooperative partners and started the first mission, Land Grab. This mission involved the four of us riding through a sandy level with a variety of vehicles taking out Covenant command posts. It was simple enough that it didn't require much stress on our parts, but once we bumped it up to Legendary, the difficulty quickly shot up. We had to communicate with each other to really plan things out in order to succeed. This is exactly what I've been wanting out of a Halo game for the longest time: a strong challenge that relied on teamwork to succeed, rather than figuring out a way to cheat the system.


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