Saturday, July 14, 2012

SDCC 2012 : Halo 4 Multiplayer - Hands on Impressions

At Comic Con they had the exhibitors hall where many of the big companies from various industries would show merchandise, marvellous set pieces, give out goodies, as well as providing hands on access to demos. I had the chance on Wednesday to take part in a Halo 4 multiplayer match.

To anyone who knows Halo, the franchise has a certain feel that has defined many Shooters on the console. I won’t go into detail about the basics of how a Halo game works, instead I will talk about the differences between the old games and new things I was able to see.


Before the start of the match, we had access to variety of ways to personalize our Spartan. Like Halo 3 and Reach, we could add on a variety of different aesthetic armor upgrades for shoulders, chest, legs, helmet, etc. The variety present at the demo was pretty nice, some familiar from Reach and Halo 3 and some entirely new.

The most notable thing was the inclusion of loadouts. In Halo Reach you had classes with certain armor abilities with weapons attached. These were default classes with certain weapons though these could be tweaked to have different weapons in custom game modes. But the loadouts in Halo 4 are more akin to Call of Duty. You’re able to select your primary and secondary weapon as well as armor ability. So now you don’t always have to start out with an assault rifle if you don’t want to, you can start with a pistol and a battle rifle. The weapons you are able to select from the load out are limited however, no one will be starting with a sniper rifle or rocket launcher. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the whole list of weapons to choose from.

We started the match with 6 vs 6 players. Once we actually got into the game, I could immediately see the graphics looked really good. I am not certain if they used the Reach engine or not but the graphics looked incredible. It ran at a solid 30 FPS with no hiccups and the visuals from particles to textures all looked fantastic.

Map : Longbow

I played on a map called Longbow, revealed recently at E3. I am not sure if this is the same build as E3 or if they had a build for Comic Con however.  It’s a snowy map, with a lot of trenches and changes in elevation but also with fairly long stretches of open space, perfect for long range and mid range combat. The map was big enough to allow the use of vehicles such as the mongoose and ghost but not big enough for the scorpion or tank.

There were snipers rifles positioned for each team strategically, and a Spartan laser in the middle of the map for the teams to fight over. There were a lot of areas that could go for decently long stretches, making the battle rifle very effective. I found myself in more long range firefights than close range so I made ample use of the range of battle rifle and pistol. There were some coordidors for close quarters fighting but for the most part there weren’t that many. There were no shotguns present so I assume this map really does go for mid to long range battles.


The new Battle Rifle

The weapons themselves felt very responsive. I found myself loving this battle rifle even more. It felt more accurate and could fire a bit more rapidly than in Halo Reach.  I honestly liked the feel of this rifle more than reach even though it was still single shot. I got a chance to use the Spartan Laser once, and doesn’t seem quite as powerful now. I shot a warthog with it and in any other Halo game it would have been a one hit kill hitting any part of the vehicle. Either I have to target a more vital area of the warthog to one hit kill it or it’s power overall is just reduced.

Spartan wielding an Assault Rifle

The pistol felt like a balance between the power of Reach and Halo 1, not being overpowered like Halo 1 but a bit more useful than it was in Halo Reach. Unfortunately I didn’t try the assault rifle for very long, nor any other weapons but the assault rifle seemed more accurate and could be fired in bursts for decent accuracy. More accurate than the games at least, it looked overall more useful. Since the map had so much long range, I opted not to use it though.

I was on a killing spree most of the time so unfortunately I completely forgot about my armor abilities for the most part. The one I had equipped is not present in any other Halo game however. I am not sure what its called but it summoned a energy shield in front of me, much like a riot shield. I was not able to fire but no bullet would penetrate it while I held it up. This could be used in a lot of tactical situations, such as distracting the enemy or providing cover for my teammates. Most of the time I wasn’t next to my teammates so it never got much use.

Final Thoughts

The final score ended with us doubling the enemy teams score. I’m not sure how many kills I got but one of the 343 industries helpers watching me and some other spectators were impressed so I must have done pretty good. Unfortunately I was so into using the new battle rifle that I forgot to be looking for hands on time with other weapons and armor abilities, a mistake on my part but I had fun anyways, it was definitely a blast.

343 industries is doing a great job in the multiplayer portion of Halo 4, it was a fantastic experience, one of the highlights of my day. Hopefully they will do just as great a job in the single player portion as well. If there were any doubts about 343 industries before, they are gone from my mind now. I can’t wait to play Halo 4 when it comes out.

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