Halo 4 Forge preview: building traits

Halo 4 brings back a fan-favorite mode: Forge. This time around, the mode will feature three exclusive maps, each offering some much-need variety. Ravine is a lush green environment, similar in appearance to Halo 3's Valhalla. Erosion is a cavernous area located within a desert terrain, and Impact is set in an abandoned area in deep space filled with asteroids, craters, and UNSC facilities.

Dynamic lighting is a new addition to Forge that helps create a greater sense of immersion. Objects that are placed in outdoor areas will create realistic shadow effects. Shadows will appear in real-time through the map's natural light sources and also from the various artificial light pieces available.

But visuals aren't the only thing improved in Halo 4. Fans will be happy to know that developer Certain Affinity has aimed for a greater sense of user-friendliness this time around. Individual pieces can now be highlighted, making it easier to keep track of what's being moved around. Different pieces can now be locked together seamlessly with the new magnet feature, which will see pieces lock together like a jigsaw puzzle. Those looking to create a sequence of pieces can use the duplicate feature to quickly create identical structures to place together. Perhaps the most appealing new feature is “lock,” which permanently keeps a piece on the field until the setting is removed. For those like me, who are prone to accidentally deleting objects, this feature will prove to be a godsend.

The most intriguing new Forge feature is the "trait zone." Players can set trait zones atop different portions of the map and customize different attributes for those areas. Among the traits that can be toggled are damage resistance, shield recharge rates, and even headshot or assassination immunity. Customizable attributes can also be stacked atop one another, which should lead to creative possibilities.

Trait zones do, however, come with limits. They can only extend as far as roughly 1,000 feet, the same limit placed on other multiplayer goal areas. Also, only a certain number of trait zones can be placed, depending on the map selected. On average, players will be able to use four unique trait zone types and place up to 16 in total.

One important detail to note about trait zones is that they're invisible while in player mode. In the heat of battle, a sniper may be trying to pick off a target, only to find that they're standing inside a headshot immunity zone. There may be an unreachable platform in the distance or high above, but an unseen gravity-disabled trait zone could give players the boost they need. Since there is currently no plan to make the trait zones visible, the only way to distinguish one in mid-game is if the map designer manually places structure pieces around the area.

Halo 4 is available now. For more on the rest of the game, check out our review.