Easily one of the most anticipated games of 2012, Halo 4 is the first real test for Microsoft’s 343 Industries (343i). Tasked with taking over the Halo franchise after Bungie’s exit from Microsoft, 343i certainly had big shoes to fill. With the release of Halo 2, Bungie set the benchmark in online multiplayer console gaming, setting the bar higher with every major Halo title since. Now, just shy of a month after Halo 4′s debut, it’s time to examine how 343i is shaking things up.
Halo 4′s multiplayer (non-campaign) mode is referred to as Infinity multiplayer. From the Infinity menu, gamers have the option of choosing between the competitive War Games or the co-operative Spartan Ops. Forge and Theater also return. Firefight, from Halo: Reach, is no longer an option.
Spartan Ops essentially replaces the firefight mode introduced in Halo: Reach. It’s an episodic, mission-based co-operative play mode new to the Halo series. Spartan Ops will last five seasons, consisting of 10 episodes per season. Each mission is accompanied by a CG cutscene episode that advances a story-line taking place six months after the events of the main campaign.
Ranking System and Loadouts
Like Reach before it, Halo 4 carries over the ranking system in which gamers earn experience for playing through War Games matches and Spartan Ops missions. Unlike Reach, the experience earned can be used towards upgrades beyond the look of your armor and insignia. Players are now able to customize their loadouts by spending Spartan Points (SP) earned by leveling up. The loadouts include a primary weapon, secondary weapon, grenades, armor abilities, tactical packages, and support upgrades. This new system allows for a high level of customization and requires the player to make more strategic choices–do you want your grenades to explode with more force, or would you rather start off with twice as much ammo?
The introduction of an entirely new race to the Halo universe ensured a much more robust weapon list than we’ve seen in the series to date. The Promethean weapons aren’t the only new weapons on the block, as both the UNSC and Covenant have their fair share of shiny new toys. The Halo 4 ordinance system also levels the playing field for gamers who are late to the multiplayer party. Instead of numerous weapon and shield spawns scattered through the map, the ordinance system allows for weapon and power up drops for each player, once they’ve earned them via killing enemy players.
One thing Halo vets may notice is the return of the Battle Rifle alongside the DMR. In addition to the familiar UNSC and Covenant armaments, Halo 4 introduces a bevy of new hardware to the arsenal:
Railgun (UNSC) – Heavy weapon that charges up to fire a powerful explosive round.
SAW (UNSC) – Squad Automatic Weapon, a fully automatic weapon more powerful than the standard assualt rifle.
Sticky Detonator (UNSC) – Fires remotely deonated grenades that can stick to the ground or the enemy.
Storm Rifle (Covenant) – Fully automatic weapon and successor to the Plasma Rifle.
Concussion Rifle (Covenant) – Fires powerful, superheated bolts of plasma.
Lightrifle (Promethean) – Semi-automatic rifle that fires bolts of light. Equivalent to DMR or Covenant Carbine.
Boltshot (Promethean) – Semi-automatic pistol that can also be charged to shoot a more powerful burst, something between the Magnum and Plasma Pistol.
Pulse Grenade (Promethean) – Grenade that generates a field that slows vehicles and damages shields and health of enemies.
Scattershot (Promethean) – Powerful, close range weapon that fires multiple energy beams that can be bounced off the floors and walls. Similar in practical application to the UNSC shotgun.
Suppressor (Promethean) – Fully automatic hard light rifle. Equivalent to Assault Rifle or Storm Rifle.
Binary Rifle (Promethean) – Forerunner sniper rifle.
Incineration Cannon (Promethean) – Heavy weapon that fires several streams of explosive particles that detonate on impact. Somewhat of a hybrid of the Rocket Launcher and the Concussion Rifle.
343 Industries updated Halo 4′s multiplayer component in a way that stays true to Bungie’s vision while moving the franchise forward. Even with all of the changes, Infinity multiplayer feels very familiar, if even nostalgic. Alas, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what Halo 4 has to offer. Next week we’ll take a closer look at Halo 4′s new multiplayer maps and their advantages and disadvantages in combat.