While the Halo games have had a significant single-player campaign, the multiplayer component has kept the Halo series on the minds of gamers. With an integrated web platform and the ability to play online or with others next to you, it struck a chord with console players. Now Halo 4 is coming later this year, and 343 Studios is out to prove that they have what it takes to create great multiplayer experiences.
We first tried out the competitive multiplayer. Set on the UNSC Infinity, these are called War Games. We played some Team Deathmatch, and it contained all of the trademarks of Halo. You are able to customize the color and helmet of your Spartan figure, and other options are available as well. Unfortunately we weren’t able to check everything out before the game started.
Five different loadouts were available, some with Spartan weaponry and others with Covenant. They included a specific primary and secondary weapon, and they weren’t customizable. It’s not known if it will be customizable later, but the loadouts felt right in the way they catered to specific roles. You had your melee/close range loadout, the sniper loadout, the heavy artillery loadout, and a couple of others. Your choice of loadout is important, but if you choose one you discover isn’t good for the match. You can always pick up weapons dropped by others and you can change it before you respawn onto the map.
The map we played had several strategies to it. It had a few small hallways that could become major choke points if you got trapped there amongst a gang of competing Spartans. Wide open spaces made it important to look up for enemy snipers looking down on you. No matter where you were or what your strategy was, you definitely needed to keep on your toes.
While the Team Deathmatch was still a lot of fun to play, the highlight of our evening was playing through Spartan Ops. Spartan Ops is a set of cooperative missions that is its own side-story, separate from the single-player campaign, complete with cutscenes to help continue the series forward. It will be released episodically, and follow a new set of Spartans, the Majestic Squad. While these missions can be played single-player, they are meant to be enjoyed with a group. Spartan Ops will help you discover more about the Forerunners and how they have become the enemies, and plans are to release one of them every week.
The mission we played had the four of us land on a planet and scope out some Covenant troops. After fighting our way through, we noticed that the Covenant were giving up a bit too easily. Suspecting that they were trying to protect something, we moved forward and encountered several Covenant at what appeared to be a launch pad. Unfortunately for us and the Covenant, the Forerunners knew this too and several of them joined in the fight. While at first their presence on the battlefield was a bit daunting- for instance small flying units that caught our plasma grenades and chucked them right back at us- it also lent the opportunity to pick up their own weapons and use them against them. Of particular note was the Scatter Shot, a Forerunner equivalent of a shotgun that tore through the enemy with a satisfyingly visceral boom. Once the mess was cleaned up and everyone was accounted for, we flipped a switch and discovered some kind of chest. A drop ship was sent for us, and that ended the mission.
During both the competitive and cooperative multiplayer sessions, experience points were gained throughout the time. While we suspect that this will unlock more weapons and customization options, we weren’t able to get complete confirmation on what it will be used for.
When we left we all wanted to have more time with the Halo 4 multiplayer. We suspect that we just scratched the tip of the iceberg with all the modes and features that will eventually be available when it is released on November 6, 2012. If the 343 Studios can keep up the episodic content, especially at the price of nothing, then I can see Spartans fighting this war for many months to come after its release.