The streets of Austin, Texas were filled to the brim with casual gamers and fanatics alike at this year’s RTX 2012. Despite the incredibly hot and dry weather and 4000+ bodies lined up at the Austin Convention Center, I somehow found myself at the front of the line for one of the two day convention’s highlights: a full playable demo of Halo 4′s multiplayer. However my excitement at being one of the first in the exhibit hall to try this demo, was nothing compared to the collective anticipation of all the people behind me eagerly awaiting a chance to try one of the most talked about games of 2012.
Just as we were about to be let in, a friend of mine and I made it a priority to commandeer the Warthog first; she would see how well it drives and I would see how well it shoots. As the floodgates opened, we were led to our designated controllers and told we would be playing on a level called “Longbow.” At this point, my heart was already jumping out of my chest.
With all the players set for a match, the game started with the distinct and clear Halo multiplayer “BEEP BEEP BEEEEP.” A side menu appeared with a list classes to choose from. I immediately chose a class with the battle rifle, excited to see how much it’s been improved (or nerfed), but not before I jumped into the back of my friend’s Warthog and sped off into the nearest tunnel toward the enemy base. Without hesitation, I zeroed in on enemy blues with the machine gun turret, earning myself a kill and credit points for it.
With that one kill, I was completely lost and immersed myself into the competitive leviathan of the game. Then, all too soon it was over, ending with our team on top.That small amount of playtime did nothing to quench my want for this game. Our only consolation for this much of a tease was, my friend and I left satisfied knowing that Halo 4 is going to be a good game.
For one, everyone could sprint (compared to the ability only being granted by equipment). For another, the battle rifle (BR) looked and felt incredible; unlike Halo 3 where the BR was the weapon of choice in every situation, Halo 4 seems to have balanced out the variety of weapons by making each of them much more situational. For example the DMR, which has made its return from Halo Reach, works best in at a medium to long range whereas the BR now requires a strict medium range in order to hit properly.
Further fuling my excitement were the many new abilities featured in class systems, such as Prometheus vision — allowing the player to see shapes and detect movement even through objects and terrain. I was also lucky enough to be able to try out the light shield along side the battle rifle as the two were part of my class’ loadout. Similar to armor lock from Halo Reach, the light shield is a mobile riot shield. When activated, it materializes in front of the player, allowing isolated combatants a chance to regroup in the face of an overwhelming number of enemies. Like Reach, each ability has its limitations and wears out after a set of time.Lastly was the most surprising feature of the demo, the introduction of a new scoring system that ended the game at a point cap, instead of a frag limit. What seemed most unique about this system is that it let the player know how much a kill, an assist or a multi-kill is worth. If you hardcore Halo fans are cringing because this is beginning to sound like a Call of Duty knock-off, you would be both right and wrong to do so. Frank O’Connor (Franchise Development Director) was even bold enough to state during the panel that the previous 50 kill loadouts of the Halo franchise “sucks” and that this [new point system] would be a better format for players both in time and flow. Incidentally I have to agree: the point system may be a bit new, but it did not change the overall feel and flow of the game. To me, it was still Halo.I must admit, with some of the multiplayer footage that was being featured around the internet, I had doubts that 343 Industries, developers of Halo 4, were going to lose the heart and soul of making Halo games by creating something much more realistic: but one gamer I overheard in discussion put it best when he said that “it feels and looks like a Halo game, but it also feels new enough to make you feel that it’s a brand new game.” Adding to that, the developers at the 343 panel stated that the multiplayer is more akin to the style of Gradius, a Konami 1985 side-scrolling release that allowed players to upgrade weapons as well as mobility.
The amount of hype that 343 has poured into Halo 4, in my opinion, was and is well deserved: the work on game balance and graphics is fantastic and well worth the wait.
Look for awesome multiplayer mayhem and the continuation of Master Chief’s story in Halo 4 this November, Mashers.