June 7, 2012 by Vinnie Leduc
Microsoft kicked off E3 earlier this week with a dazzling display of Halo 4‘s campaign gameplay that reminded us why we made Master Chief’s next sci-fi adventure one of our most anticipated games of the year. Today, we got a behind-closed-doors look at 343 Industries’ vision of Halo 4‘s multiplayer, which only got us even more excited. And to top everything off, we broke some world exclusive news that will most likely serve as a bridge to Halo 5.
Inheriting Microsoft’s flagship franchise from developer Bungie undoubtedly means 343 has some huge shoes to fill as the bar has been set high. But it’s a good thing 343 has Frank O’ Connor, the franchise development director, and Josh Holmes, the creative director, behind the scenes. The pair sat down with us to share their bold vision of the direction of the second Halo trilogy over the next decade or so, and damn, does it sound awesome.
Holmes revealed that with Halo 4, a new saga in the Halo universe has been set in motion, and 343’s aspiration is not just to revisit what made Bungie’s original trilogy (plus Reach) so successful, but also to take some chances with new features in both campaign and multiplayer. O’ Connor further explained that to make the new trilogy accessible and specifically Halo 4 the most approachable story in the franchise so far, 343 set forth a deep, rich, and foundational story that essentially does not require gamers to be familiar with prior Halo fiction. However, the overhauled philosophy with the story also rewards hardcore fans by designating Halo 4 as the nexus for all Halo content of the past few years, including the games and Greg Bear’s trilogy of Halo novels (The Forerunner Saga).
“Everything from now on will count,” said O’ Connor. Yes, everything. Holmes elaborated that “everything” also includes multiplayer. Halo 4 will be a little trilogy itself, for Holmes described the game as three major experiences.
The first is the campaign, which picks up where the extra scenes after the credits of the legendary difficulty ending of Halo 3 left off, the Forerunner planet Requiem. Obviously O’ Connor and Holmes weren’t going to give away the ending to Halo 4 today, but when asked whether Halo 4 would have something special after the credits like Halo 3‘s legendary ending, Holmes exclusively confirmed with us that Halo 4 will in fact have an extra scene (or scenes) after the credits. So make sure to not skip the credits upon completion of the game this November!
The second is War Games, the name of the popular competitive multiplayer component that has traditionally accompanied every Halo FPS. War Games officially ties into the Halo story by serving as simulated training battles for Spartans.
The third part of the Halo 4 experience is entirely new: Spartan Ops. Like a television series mashed with free downloadable content, Spartan Ops will consist of five new cooperative missions, released weekly, that tell the stories of various soldiers and crew of the UNSC Infinity, the starship that crashes onto Requiem in the beginning of Halo 4‘s campaign. Spartan Ops’ episodic gameplay will have a direct impact on the story of the Halo universe and include locales not seen in the campaign. Free to anybody who buys Halo 4, War Games and Spartan Ops together form what’s being called Halo Infinity Multiplayer.
The remainder of our session with 343 was a preview of what one of the Spartan Ops chapters would be like. Before getting treated to a cinematic lead-in, up to four cooperative players can adjust their loadouts accordingly in preparation for the upcoming mission. Similar to multiplayer perks in Call of Duty, players can choose a Support Upgrade (e.g. increased mobility or increased ammo), a Tactical Package (e.g. ability to carry two primary weapons), and an Armor Ability (e.g. hologram). More options are unlocked as players rank up. We watched O’ Connor and Holmes blast through the first weekly release’s fifth mission, which featured the new enemy class (Prometheans), defense units called Watchers, high-jumping quadrupeds called Crawlers, and a Forerunner weapon called the Scattershot, which is like a shotgun that can bank shots.
With fresh new content released weekly that will propel an ongoing experience deeper into the Halo universe, one in which every second of gameplay is relevant to the story, Halo 4‘s Infinity Multiplayer makes the game a must-buy.