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Halo 4 preview

by John Keefer, Jun 06, 2012 8:00am PDT

QUICKTAKE: Although the Halo franchise may be in new hands, 343 Industries is taking great care to surprise fans by expanding the lore of the universe they love. Launching with the game on November 6, the incredibly ambitious Spartan Ops mode will offer a new piece of fiction each week, with five new co-op missions with each release. In fact, 343 is planning to offer months worth of regular content to expand the world--free for fans.

THE DEMO: Frank O'Connor, the franchise development director at 343, and Kiki Wolfkill, the executive producer on Halo 4, focused the entire demo on the new Spartan Ops mode. Up to four players can take part in the cooperative missions, but O'Connor said they can be completed alone. Frank and Kiki took control of two Spartans going up against Covenant enemies on a planet where an archaeological dig was under way, presumably unearthing Forerunner technology.

After dispatching the Covenant in a series of flanking maneuvers and run-and-gun action, the Spartans activated a piece of the dig that alerted more forces. Again, another battle showing off the cooperative nature of the mission ensued. O'Connor activated something called Forerunner Vision, allowing the Spartans to see heat signatures and the location of enemies through solid objects. A beacon alerted new enemies: the Promethians, Halo 4's new villains.

Several Promethian types were revealed in the demo. The first were Crawlers, small dog-like creatures that were fairly easily dispatched when approached alone, but much more dangerous in groups. O'Connor said the easiest way to dispatch them were through headshots or a rifle butt to the head. Next came Watchers, flying units that could generate reinforcements and offer shielding to any of its allies within range. They also have a nasty habit of phasing in and out of sight. The final enemy was a Promethian Knight, a heavy duty attack unit that hits incredibly hard and forced O'Connor to retreat to gather a Forerunner weapon similar to a shotgun but with much more kick.

DETAILS: 343 Industries made a philosophical shift in its thinking that Halo 4 forward was going to have a fiction that meant something, O'Connor said. It started with novels, with many hints in the books carrying forward into the game. The game takes place five years after the events of Halo 3, with Master Chief being revived from cryosleep at the beginning of the game. Where Halo 4 multiplayer departs from previous games is that now the franchise's fiction becomes a wrapper for both Spartan Ops and War Games modes.

The spaceship Infinity, which is seen crashing into the planet in the E3 trailer, will be the hub for all multiplayer activity, including customization and loadouts. War Games mode, which has been the traditional MP mode, is now treated as a training mode for the Spartan Ops mode. the latter will offer episodic fiction each week, with five new gameplay missions associated with that fiction. O'Connor said the missions are more than just "blow up a generator," but involve actual people you have met on the Infinity and the missions and story affect those characters and how the story play out. 343 has planned months worth of episodes with each advancing the story, with the episodes continuing the campaign story arc roughly six months after the campaign ends.

O'Connor said that one season of episodes will come free with the purchase of the game, with the episodes being built with new seasons in mind. Three maps packs will also be available after the game launches, but purchasing the $100 Limited Edition of the game will get you the maps as part of the package.

Halo 4 is scheduled for release on November 6.





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