Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Halo 4 Multiplayer Gameplay Preview

This weekend, I was lucky enough to go to RTX, an internet and gaming convention in Austin, TX put together by the comedy final bosses at Rooster Teeth.  Aside from great panels, a plethora of laughs, and a high-profile expo room, a large draw of this event was the chance for the public to play Halo 4 for the first time. I braved the line, shrugged off the delicious nacho smell, and pushed the madness of boredom from my mind long enough to get a brief demo of Slayer. Was my inspiring journey worth the payoff, or would I have been better off drinking liquid cheese and enjoying Red vs. Blue?

Immediately, I was struck with the overhauled multiplayer start screen (you can see a little of it above). Similar to Call of Duty, you wait in a lobby for the game to begin and in that time you can customize your loadout. From primary and secondary weapons to abilities and drops, the level of customization is high enough to tweak it to be personal, but low enough that you won’t spend an extra 2 minutes in the lobby waiting for “that guy” in your party to finish customizing his scope. The interface is smooth and simple, allowing for ease of access and feels far less daunting to pick up the game for the first time. Classic weapons like the assault rifle, magnum, and sniper rifle are all back along with brand new Forerunner weapons that look incredible. The graphics have also been updated and it really shows in the firing, assassination, and vehicle animations. Even driving a ghost looks much smoother and damage looks more impressive. There’s quite a bit of detail that may get missed, but will be appreciated by those who care. If you get the chance to play it before release, do yourself a favor and look up—the sky is gorgeous.

I haven’t played a Halo game actively since Halo 3 and getting back on Slayer felt familiar. All of the physics felt the same, though my familiarity with the button layout was rusty. Call of Duty, Uncharted, and others have tainted my muscle memory, making me have to recall how to properly bash someone from behind, and let me tell you it’s great. Though this has been a feature before, you can perform a small instant kill by bashing your opponent from behind. When you do so, you’re treated with a short clip of you brutally murdering your foe, ala Gear of War. It’s generally rare, but feels damn good when you can pull it off. The HUD is also something to note since it’s not very present. All too often is my vision obscured with overly large minimaps, stats, and icons. What’s the point of building a gorgeous game if you only let me see a little of it? Halo does a great job of giving you the vital information and nothing further, making the interface more functional than frustrating. Video was not supposed to be taken, but some have captured the RTX live stream and uploaded it to YouTube. You can see a slayer match here:

Beyond a big overhaul in graphics and layout, there’s not too much new for the gameplay. It looks, feels, and sounds like a Halo game, but better, and that’s not a bad thing. I don’t think anyone is looking for Halo 4 to revolutionize the FPS genre, but it’s certainly going to please hardcore fans and newcomers alike. Can it hang with the big boys of Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Gears of War? Absolutely. Don’t count Master Chief out yet. Halo 4 is the Gran Torino to Halo’s Clint Eastwood—just when he may have been out for the count, he comes back to remind you who’s boss and why.
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