The Halo franchise has been the cornerstone of the Xbox library of games since it launched with the original console over a decade ago. The solid story and strong multiplayer made it a must-have title, and although its top spot on Xbox Live has been replaced by the Call of Duty series, it remains a popular online title. Throughout that time, Bungie has been at the helm, but Halo 4 marks the first time that the series has been left to a different studio. The campaign looked solid at E3, but at a press event at Comic-Con 2012, we were able to check out the multiplayer portion.
For those wondering whether another studio is able to pull off the multiplayer feel of Halo, worry no more. The weapon layout and behavior remain the same. Classic tactics, such as charging in with a spray of bullets followed by a quick melee attack, work exactly like they did before. The two-weapon and two-grenade layout remains unchanged, and the same goes for the controls. As in Halo: Reach, you have a few different weapon layouts that can be customized between matches. Beyond your standard melee, you also have special abilities and assassination attacks. For the most part, this is the same multiplayer base you've been running around with for the last decade or so.
There are a few changes to multiplayer that will be immediately noticeable to longtime franchise players. Unlike Reach, there aren't different classes with immutable abilities. Everyone has the sprint move from the previous game's recon class; it's needed since the developers have reduced the Spartans' walking speed. It's slow enough that you feel like you're walking around in lumbering armor. Despite the speed change, the overall mobility is still there, and fans should feel at home in less than one match.
Then there's the idea of extra ordnance. Produce enough kills for your team, and you'll have the chance to order some ordnance on demand, which ranges from weaponry to temporary stat boosts. Though that sounds like it would be a way to stage a comeback or maintain your team's lead, the advantages aren't monumental. It feels balanced so that lots of skill and just a little bit of luck will determine winners and losers in matches.
The team spent time on ensuring that the spirit of Halo remained the same, but it is also making some improvements to the multiplayer aspect and throwing in a few new toys. Some new power-ups include an active thermal scanner to see through walls and other visual aids for locating enemies. In the weapons department, we encountered a handheld bomb launcher complete with remote detonator and a forerunner shotgun with bullets that bounced on walls. We were told that there was going to be more weaponry in store for these fights, but from what we saw, it looked like the team was going for some inventive takes on classic weaponry.
Halo 4 has a release date of Nov. 6, so we're hoping to hear more about the multiplayer, especially the ever-popular Forge creation system. In the meantime, the series seems to be in good hands.
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