To no surprise at all, 343 Industries held one of the longest lines at the Jacob Javitts Center as hundreds of hungry gamers lined up in wait to get their first hands on experience with Halo 4′s multiplayer. As on lookers on the lines kept a close eye on every match, we couldn’t help but notice the vast amount of customization options that were available as players were given a few minutes to dress their settings to their liking. Firstly, the armor options are plentiful and for the most part all look very unique from the next. Helmets and upper body options ranged from slight variants to the Mark V armor to even more so futuristic and imaginatively more fictional designs. These options of course were complimented by the following choices of starting weaponry which contained fan favorite UNSC weapons such as the Assault Rifle, Battle Rifle, Magnum and return of the DMR along with interchangeable skin options for the weapons. If players were lucky enough to absorb these options quick enough, there is also options to change the players equipment to help bring a little something different into battle for each person. Bubble shields, regenerator, jetpacks and the new Hardlight Shield were just a very few of the choices everyone was torn between choosing just one.
Once loaded and ready, we set out in an objective based gametype in which players must take control of any 3 bases coded Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Taking control of these bases opens up a fortification upgrade that expands the base further in layout and also weapon and vehicle spawns around the base for defense. When these upgrades are obtained, points are accumulated by how long these bases have been controlled in combination with player kills in efforts of defending these bases. Naturally since it would be ideal to control 2 out of 3 bases, the strategy in deciding which bases to control became the largest factor. Bravo being located in the middle was the most difficult due to being placed in the thick of where most firefights took place and vehicle routes were taken. This combination of balancing priority between slaying and objective is a brand new enforcement to the Halo series’ mindset of not being a typical run and gun to win style shooter.
The game moves and feels MUCH faster than any other Halo title before. Sensitivity of 5 felt more of a notch up to 7 and we also found many players, after their first encounters, switching to a lower sensitivity immediately during downtime. Sprinting really feels like you’re covering good ground this time around and seems to last fairly longer than in Halo: Reach, although it could just simply be you’re covering more ground in less time. In terms of sound effects, everything does sound a lot more futuristic but not coming off as being overly mechanical. Gun fire and explosives really give off the ambience that there are indeed robotic Spartans at war on the battlefield. Much to many players, including our own delight, the famed in-game announcer is much more vocal in calling the action by even alerting players when their base even in potential threat of being taken by enemy hands or fully fortified for defense.
Visually, it’s almost a safe bet to say this game will score perfect across all reviews for it’s graphical output; this game looks amazingly polished! Every color pops will equal performance that keeps even the dullest moments of battle very lively. Quality of the map didn’t drop for as far as the eye could tell with even the most inaccessible areas looking just as vibrant as the actual intended sandbox for battle. Sparks and explosives are crystal clear from far distances within battles you are too far to participate in yet can measure the tension by visuals alone as to where in previous Halo games the audio cues were more indicative than any eyesight.
If there had to be one complaint, it would surely be that the ride in Halo 4 was simply too short lived. At the end of each session players seems more than reluctant to pull themselves away from the stations and let the next wave of players in, it was simply that fun. This hands-on has made it very clear as to why there is a dedicated disk to multiplayer alone for this title that is an 8GB install. With all these customization options, attention to detail in mechanics and map design; Halo 4 is making itself a major contender for the spot of best shooter for 2012. Of course, we will just have to wait until November 6th to find out!