Halo 4 Demo Report
Dispensing with their singleplayer intentions, the 343 team turned to multiplayer. Here, again, their plan is to “redefine.” Players will take control of Spartan IV-class combatants, and take part in multiplayer matches within a story framework that the developers promise will explain “why Red Spartans are fighting Blue Spartans.”
The entire game engine has been entirely reworked and re-written, and 343 showed off two multiplayer maps running in the Halo 4 engine. The first, “Warhouse,” is set in a giant, abandoned military base and organized around a central room in which a giant mech (a Cyclops Mark II, apparently) has been left only half-built. The look was classic Halo — lots of gunmetal grey and intricate sci-fi textures. The devs explained that Warhouse is a symmetrical, arena-type map, designed for Team Slayer.
A few changes were noticeable by observing the new HUD in action: equipped weapons appear in the upper-right corner, and small icons appear in the middle of the screen, calling players’ attention to other nearby firearms. 343 was cagey about describing this feature in more depth, as they were about weapons in general — the Battle Rifle was the only one revealed at the demo.
When players accomplish a particular feat of martial prowess, like a “Headshot Kill,” a large textual message flashes on the screen, confirming it. Consdering the frenzied action endemic to Halo multiplayer, these text pop-ups are likely to prove distracting, and would certainly obscure player’s vision while on the screen.
The second map, “Wraparound,” depicts a Forerunner solar facility, contained within a Forerunner shield world. As such, the architecture was more streamlined than Warhouse’s technological clutter, evoking the cathedral-like aesthetic that Halo fans will recoognize from other Forerunner structures throughout the series.
Action takes place in and around a series of catwalks, dropdowns, and circular corridors. Man-cannons on the map’s external perimeter offer efficient transport. Halo 4 features a brand new lighting engine, which was put to good use. Wraparound, being a solar facility, is drenched in light, and the gentle glow and intricate shadows should provide an interesting backdrop for the carnage it will eventually contain — blood spatter was clearly visible during the action shown.
At the very end of the presentation, 343 dropped their biggest bomb: Halo 4 multiplayer will feature customizable loadouts. Though familiar to fans of other online shooters, Halo has so far stuck to pre-made character templates and a general commitment to scrupulous Multiplayer balance. When asked about the risk of power gamers establishing an insuperable advantage through unlockable equipment, Wolfkill wasn’t worried: “A good balance has been a hallmark of Halo multiplayer from the beginning, and there are different ways to look at that balance…allowing players to be succesful by allowing them to play the way they’re best suited for is another way of looking at balance. People have different playstyles – how do we support that?”
Halo 4 is set for a Holiday 2012 release date, and 343 was sure to point out that more information about multiplayer is soon to be forthcoming. Until then, franchise fans will content themselves with digesting a full day’s worth of exciting news.