Hands-On With Halo 4’s Multiplayer: Change Can Be A Very Good Thing

I’m not the world’s largest Halo fan. There, I said it. In fact, I haven’t played any of the series since Halo 3, and even then I don’t think I finished the campaign. I completely understand why it commands such a large fan following, but it’s never been able to hook me completely. It’s always been a game for other people to enjoy as far as I was concerned. However, after a brief hands-on with Halo 4, I can honestly say I’m excited for a new Halo game for the first time, well, ever.

The first noticeable change is the new loadout system, and just how big of a factor it plays into the game. As we touched upon from the 343 Industries press conference, the new character loadouts allow players to switch out armor mods and abilities in order to play up their specific skills.

Since calling me an “average” Halo player is optimistic, I spent most of my time with my trusty assault rifle paired up with the shield mod. The shield made up for a lot of my lack of experience, giving me a chance to retreat without taking heavy damage or, more accurately, allow me to live out my inner Rambo as I raced headlong into battles knowing that I had a few precious seconds to assert whatever dominance I could muster.

The general consensus is that the mods add something special to Halo 4, although most people weren’t able to exactly put their finger on what it was. Perhaps it was the heavy reliance on team play and how differently the mods really play from each other. Proper use of your abilities is absolutely critical to your teams success, and being able to communicate and use each other’s unique skills to your full advantage can be the difference between winning and losing.

Even with the new loadouts, it’s important to note that this system shuns away the Battlefield or Call of Duty mentality and allows for something new. 343 Industries compared the loadout system to Gradius, and that certainly felt more accurate.

Deathmatch will seem a bit different this go around with the new emphasis on augments, and that’s sure to anger some of the more hardcore players, however, I could argue that the evolved mechanics are exactly what Halo 4 needs to grow with its fanbase. The limited time I was allotted with Regicide, Halo 4’s new deathmatch mode, certainly felt more cerebral than previous takes on the mode.

In Regicide, the player in the lead has a bounty on his head and is visible on the map for every other player. It felt a bit like Mario Kart since my general strategy was to stay in 2nd place as long as possible in order to keep myself from being hunted, but still be in prime position to squeak out a win at the honor. My one complaint is that the map seemed a bit too claustrophobic and didn’t allow for much strategy outside of “don’t die”.

The most important part of any Halo title has to be the weapons, and 343 Industries did a fantastic job from what I’ve seen so far. The new Sticky Detonator easily could be one of my favorite weapons come November due to its versatility. The Sticky Detonator launches a sticky grenade in an arch and pops open a screen giving you some insight on enemy proximity allowing you to choose the best time to set it off. I’ve already been scheming ways to use it to make cut down on people sneaking up behind me.

The thing that wow’d me the most, however, has to be the overall aesthetics in play. Beyond the striking visuals, the sound design being implemented creates an atmosphere I simply can’t recall from any of the previous titles. Everything has weight to it, and it’s an absolute joy to feel completely immersed in the warzone.

Halo 4 is going to come with mixed reviews when it releases November 6th. Many longtime fans will feel ostracized from the numerous changes while many more will find a fantastic reboot of the franchise waiting for them.

What are your thoughts? Is this Halo moving in a brave new direction, or has 343 Industries gutted your favorite franchise? Let us know in the comments.