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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.

The second mission, Sniper Alley, was essentially the same task, but located inside a narrow linear space that was lined with snipers. This showed the variety of the locales and objectives that 343 would present each week.

Finally, I got some time with War Games, which is the new name for Halo 4's competitive multiplayer. This was the thing that I wanted to get some time with the most, mainly because I didn't enjoy the multiplayer of Halo Reach as much as I was hoping. I didn't enjoy Reach because I think it didn't fit with the tone of the series and the loadouts felt like a poor, rushed reaction to Call of Duty's online success. Thankfully that's all been addressed in War Games, as they opt for weapon loadouts with Armor Mods and Support Upgrades, allowing you to reload faster and sprint for a longer period of time.

These are unlocked through the level progression system and provide players with different ways to customize their character based on the situation at hand. That means that you can have a loadout specifically for long range combat or one that is filled with mods that help your vehicle skills, perfect for Spartan Ops missions that have extensive vehicle sequences. This customization extends to your character's look as well, just as it has in previous Halo titles, though it feels slightly deeper and more fleshed out.

War Games mode is new too, though it's very similar to the domination-style mode in every other modern shooter, tasking players to fight over control of three bases on the map. That isn't meant to be a knock against it; War Games works extremely well with the style of play that Halo systems afford. There's a constant timer running in each base once captured that fortifies the base to further protect it from enemy takeover; the longer that you stay inside the base, the stronger it gets (to a certain degree.)

The constant back and forth works extremely well in Dominion and shows their effort to improve the multiplayer game-types, rather than just sticking with what has worked in the past. Capture the Flag has also changed around a bit, and while it's not much different from previous iterations, the addition of a second flag makes it feel like an entirely new mode. There isn't anymore fighting over a singular flag, but you're switching between protecting your flag carrier and watching out for the enemy's. It ends up working really well and makes enemy players feel like an objective when they get the flag, they become important and demand a shift in gameplay tactics.

I was somewhat skeptical at first about the need for another game in the franchise, but hands-on time with Halo 4's campaign as well as the Spartan Ops and War Games multiplayer modes reminded me just how great Halo can be when it's done right. I think Halo 4 is in the right hands at 343 Industries based on the solid gameplay and innovation, which reminds me why I love Halo in the first place. I think the team at 343 are all a bunch of huge Halo fans, and that comes through in every aspect of Halo 4.


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