SDCC 2012: Red? Blue? I’m the Guy with the Magnum

You may recall that last week hosted a small gathering of funny book enthusiasts in San Diego’s downtown convention center. Among the artists, writers, celebrities, and steampunk Batmans, a few game developers saw fit to present a few demos to the heaving masses. One of these games was a little known title tucked away at the Hard Rock Hotel’s second floor lounge in Microsoft’s game room. If you can’t guess by now that this is a terrible attempt to build up some kind of satire and the fact of that’s a Spartan MK 4 image above this very paragraph, and… uh, something…  anyway…  WHATSTHATOHMYGODHALO4!!!111!

Really, I would keep this more mysterious but if you’re already a fan of the legendary green armored space marine, particularly the multiplayer portion, then you’re not kidding anyone by playing coy. You’re going to pick this up in Autumn and you’re going to love every minute of it. Whelp, demo impressions for Halo 4 multiplayer done. It’s Halo but more. Fine, for those that need a bit more convincing read on for my experience at San Diego.

I only got about half an hour or so with the multiplayer portion but I can say for certain that 343 is doing a bang up job of recapturing Halo while building on a few of the changes presented in Reach. Also, the demo only had one level for few a people to roll around in and I only played team slayer so take that for it is; otherwise, there was enough present to form a decent idea of how the full product might turn out.

Right from the get-go you’re able to customize your spartan in the same fashion many modern shooters do. There aren’t specific classes per se, but you can select from a host of weaponry such as the burst fire battle rifle or assault rifle if you’re more of the ’lead curtain’ style of warfare. To much cheering, the classic magnum is back retaining much of it’s power and the 2x scope you all know and love. You can also equip a secondary armor feature à la Reach but there’s no jetpack from what I could tell. There was a pretty useful X-ray visor ability that revealed enemies through walls- perfect for anyone with a shotty or energy sword hiding just around the corner for a quick but maybe cheap (hey not judging, it’s strategic) kill. Additionally, everyone has a sprint function so no more slogging through the level, or having to choose between running or a cool armor ability. It’s a relatively minor addition but it’s nice to keep up the pace especially when we see larger levels.

The biggest add-ons are these COD-style perks that give you fast charging shields or let you scavenge grenades from fallen foes. Borrowing another point from Activision’s titan are something akin to kill streaks rewards. I wasn’t entirely sure how they were earned but I seemed to be able to acquire them after a death so I’m pretty sure it’s a point based system. Now, before you roll your warthog in agony keep your UNSC-issue underoos on; you won’t exactly be calling down an orbital strike or a team of feral attack Grunts (though that would be pretty rad). Basically, instead of just finding  heavy weapons strewn about the level, you’ll be able to select from three random options from direct weapon upgrades like a needler or rocket launcher, to support improvements such as faster non-sprinting walking or overshields. Just be careful when you call them down as they don;t just magically appear in your hands, instead the drop in the level where anyone quick enough can and will grab. These weren’t exactly brain-busting improvements but they were well received by most players attending the show. It added just enough flair to change the battlefield from the traditional sprint-to-the-sniper-rifle gameplay of the other entries.

Purists may find these additions leaning a bit too far into other shooter’s territory; but given the multitude of options Halo games traditionally grant players, I’m sure there will be a classic slayer playlist or something along those lines. Overall, the additional perks and new armor abilities didn’t add anything that killed the balance. The multiplayer demo played as slick as Master Chief’s other adventures. Graphically, there were plenty of pretty particle effects and bright explosions to look at although with only the one level I it felt a it was little too clean for my tastes. The spartans get a bump in detail and seem more realistic than before. As 343’s first real chance to take over the series, I felt they made pretty good choices by trimming elements that didn’t really pan out from the last game while putting a fresher spin on the long-running franchise.

Halo 4 drops on the Xbox 360 this November stay tuned for my news.

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