Halo 4 Preview
Nothing like 343 Industries has ever happened before. No other publisher has ever head-hunted over 200 of the most talented, most experienced people in game development, stuck them together in a big building and said, ‘Make us the biggest, best, most successful game in our history. You’ve got till November 2012.’ It’s a new thing, it’s how Microsoft has decided to get Halo 4 made, and it really might not work.
343 Industries is a team. Some teams are greater than the sum of their parts, but many are considerably less. Talented individuals don’t necessarily gel, particularly when they’re thrown together from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. It could all turn out to be a horrifically expensive mistake.
But you know what? We’ve seen Halo 4 now and… obviously it’s way too early for a verdict, but it looks very impressive, doesn’t it? Sure, we haven’t seen anything massively different or new or innovative, but there’s no denying Halo 4 looks quality.
Staunch fanboys might object, but abandoning the bright, angular, primary coloured Halo style of old has done it a world of good. It’s not photorealistic, by any means, but Halo 4 does have a new depth and level of detail to it that lends it atmosphere and believability.
It doesn’t just look good; it looks absorbing and satisfying. Like a massive rum baba.
And that’s just the single-player campaign. We haven’t even got onto the multiplayer yet, although single-player and multiplayer are one and the same from now on. Kind of.
Will mech combat be coming to Halo 4? Would that even be a good thing?
Multiplayer isn’t an arbitrary game thing any more, it’s part of the story. And it ties in with the new, innovative Spartan Ops mode. Both multiplayer – which has been fancily renamed ‘Wargames’ – and Spartan Ops chronologically take place after the single-player campaign.
Spartan Ops is a series of daily, episodic missions, averaging about 20 minutes in length, that 343 is promising to run for months. These episodes will largely centre around teams of Spartans beaming down from the UNSC Infinity to the planet’s surface and Wargames will represent the advances training simulation systems aboard the ship.
Given what we’ve seen of main campaign’s opening, the single-player mode will likely consist of Master Chief’s journey across the planet’s surface to where the Infinity has been brought down. Then it’ll climax with him liberating it, probably just by asking nicely.
Just kidding. He’ll do it all by shooting loads of stuff. We promise.
While you don’t have to complete the campaign before dedicating the rest of your life to Spartan Ops and WarGames, that would be the logical way to go about it.
You liberate the Infinity then you create your very own Spartan and start training him or her up between daily Spartan Ops missions. You use the same character across each mode, so XP earned in one benefits you in the other.
Here’s Master Chief’s new design. His hair has changed.
It seems Microsoft and 343 understand that the point of DLC should be to keep people playing your game in the long term and not just to squeeze more money out of them – the free episodic DLC is a great idea, no matter how you look at it.
We’re sure there’ll be some paid for DLC at some point too, new WarGames content and possibly even a second ‘season’ of Spartan Ops, but still…
So, it looks great and it’s innovating in some inarguably fan-friendly ways – it’s difficult to find fault in Halo 4 at this point. It looks like the super-studio idea is actually working, which is perhaps because of one important detail we forgot to mention in the opening paragraph.
The most important quality each and every member of the 343 team brings to Halo 4 isn’t their talent or experience; it’s their love of Halo. Over 200 of the world’s most hardcore Halo fans are making Halo 4 and, so far, it shows.