The release of Halo 4 is imminent and when this post comes out 28 days will remain on the clock. To say the game itself has caused somewhat of a stir in the community would be an understatement, with the so-called ‘old-school’ up in arms about the overhaul 343i is giving our beloved franchise. Much of the furore surrounded changes such as the addition of editable loadouts, unlocked armor mods that give the player an advantage in a certain area and weapon drops can be called, nearly all of which are undeniably drawn from other military themed shooters out there that Halo fans love to hate. Now we are ‘old-school’ Halo fans here at TBoD and personally we would like to say to all those other ‘old-school’ fans who are resistant to change – quit your bitching and adapt. Now you know where we stand lets move on to the fun bit where we got play Halo 4 at the EuroGamer Expo. Here are my thoughts.
Having played for a whole day on the thursday and a bit too much on friday to the expense of some other games and I feel comfortable in saying this is most definitely still Halo. Sure the UI is new and sparkly but the influence of the previous games and surrounding mythos is immediately evident. This new game is a very different beast but if I had to compare it one of the previous iterations I would say it feels a lot more like Halo 3 than Reach, which is no bad thing and as eremenko pointed out when we were discussing this post, this makes sense canonically as it is a direct sequel and true successor to the Master Chiefs last outing and so the game play should be accented as such.
Gameplay wise its augmented heart beats more quickly than any other Halo title. I did expect this from what I had read and seen previously in videos etc but I was quite surprised how subtle this increase in tempo was, first game I played it did feel somewhat twitchier to reach but after the first round that twitchiness morphed into a silky fluidity that leaves the previous Halo’s and indeed many other modern FPS titles lacking.
Finally after years of plodding along 343i have made sprint standard issue, no more deliberating whether you want this in your loadout at the expense of another armour ability and more importantly no more running away. When you run into an enemy it pretty much forces hostile engagement, constantly testing who can kill the quickest, if you need to regain health during a firefight this little addition makes you constantly more aware of the cover around you, rather than simply fleeing you have to be a touch more tactical and make sure you drop your foe to ensure you escape with your skin intact. This tiny change makes something like the health regen armour ability more relevant and useful than in other Halo titles, throw this down for a quick boost and turn the tables on that person charging after you.
Not that I did this, in fact I tried out very few armor abilities. I had a quick go on the active camouflage in combo with the sword (noob camper style), used the thruster pack to zoom forward by accident once and used the health regen once, again by accident. I didn’t even try out my go-to jetpack from Reach which apparently has been heavily nerfed *whimper*. No I got all excited about how fuckin awesome the weapons felt and played pretty much the whole time Halo 3 style. Just me and some very very powerful guns!
The weapon sandbox from what I could tell was really well balanced and I think the trick employed here by the guys at 343i to make the playing field so even was to make every gun really bloody powerful. I spent a lot of time with the BR and the DMR and both were efficient at dropping my foes in pretty much equal measure but I would have to edge the DMR purely down to sound effects alone, it makes me feel I am firing mortars rather than bullets into the opposing squads faces. The needler found its way into my hands a few times and ermagherd like four or five needles equals pink mist, enemy sad face and me serving high tea on said enemies corpse, I was so surprised at just how quick suckers fell to that weapon. Like the rest of the arsenal the AR has seen a long overdue power upgrade, I actually found it viable against a BR at mid to close range and killed a couple of guys with it in that type of battle, if you miss a shot with a precision weapon the AR will make you pay the iron price.
Now onto the power weapons that I managed to get my grubby mits on. The sniper rifle is as powerful as ever and oh so satisfying when some poor sap wanders out of cover only to receive a 50 cal ear bud removing all the ear wax and gray matter in one fell swoop. I don’t think the sniper has received a power upgrade gameplay wise but it didn’t really need one, sound fx wise jesus christ, every shot that hurtles out that barrel sounds like a granite cliff face split down the middle because of some turmoil occurring with the earths crust. The immensity of it all is almost unbearable – until a split second later your quarry lies pwned on the other end of the map. The new forerunner weapon the scattershot is a totally different kettle of fish, an uber-close range shotgun style thing that when you hit the sweet spot turns whoever was on the business end into burning shreds of paper caught in a breeze.
I have saved the best until last, for those long time readers you may remember me mentioning in a post a I wrote last May that I was looking forward to using the Railgun in Halo 4. Well now that I have. Ho-ly-Shit. It is unstoppable, I know now whenever I get that as a choice for my ordinance drop I will choose it each and every time. Once that is in your hands killing the other team is inevitable. Works like the trusty spartan-laser but with half the charge time meaning you don’t even really need to track your target, just reticule red and CRACK dead, reticule red and CRACK dead. Wash, rinse and repeat. I was literally jumping out of my seat cheering when I wasted people with this death stick, utterly unaware that there was like a hundred people behind me in line to play probably thinking I was a total dick.
In summary any reservations I had or indeed you have about Halo 4, well forget them because this is shaping up to be the best Halo yet. What’s that? You want to play it and judge for yourself? That’s fine, I know you will agree with me and when you do join me for a game and tell me I was right, I will be patiently waiting, Railgun at the ready…