Halo 4 hit stores on Nov. 6, 2012, with many retailers opening their doors for a midnight release celebration, and many serious Halo fans playing all night before heading out to vote in the morning. We were lucky enough to get an early chance to play the game here at Xbox.com, and I’m happy to report that Halo 4 is well worth any potential loss of sleep. The team at 343 Industries has done a spectacular job of bringing Master Chief back, along with fresh new enemies, weapons, gameplay, and mission types, all without sacrificing a bit of what’s made Halo the premiere science-fiction shooter series for nearly 11 years.
Though we’ve played through Halo 4, this preview focuses on what’s new in the game, without ruining any of the game’s surprises. As Master Chief returns to action after a long period of hibernation, an epic science fiction story unfolds, and some mysteries from the first Halo trilogy are explained. But while we’ll talk about new enemies, new weapons, and new locales, won’t spoil those reveals or give away any of the game’s great, often surprising, moments.
After the opening cinematic ends and you don the helmet of Master Chief again for the first time in five years, you’re bound to notice that the game’s graphics are sharper and more intricate than previous titles in the series. Characters and scenery alike have more detail, and all-new models make enemies look even more foreboding; even the new bulked-up Grunts look threatening. Along with increased model and texture detail, the game’s engine features dramatic new lighting effects and some great usage of smoke and fog . Above-ground exteriors are lush, and the detailed environments add new gameplay elements as well, such as giant tree growth that the Chief can run up on to get a good vantage point for sniping.
As the game opens, Master Chief is brought out of the state of hibernation he found himself in at the end of Halo 3 to find that the wrecked ship he’s on, the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, is in orbit of Requiem, a huge, metallic Forerunner planet. Avoiding spoilers, we’ll just say he soon finds himself inside the world, trying to reconnect with a UNSC crew that’s in trouble, and facing a challenging new enemy.
That new enemy is the Promethians, a mysterious new group of aliens that seem to be harnessing Forerunner technology. There are three primary types: Crawlers, which are like very mean cybernetic dogs (actually, like cybernetic dogs with freakin’ laser beams on their heads); the very fast and very hard to kill Knights; and the enemy I’ve learned to target first, the Watchers. Watchers hover above the group and can toss your grenades back at you, regenerate the foe you just spent half a clip nearly killing, shield the Knights, and even spawn more Crawlers. Individual Crawlers aren’t that threatening, but when you get a pack of them attacking you all at once, your shield level can start going down very quickly. Along with the new enemies come some impressive new weapons: new energy-firing variations on assault rifles, pistols, sniper rifles, and shotguns, as well as an impressive grenade that has a gravity-well-effect that sucks enemies into its explosion.
If there’s one thing you should have learned from Halo 3, it’s that you should never trust a Covenant truce. As Halo 4 opens, you’ll find they’re also around on Requiem, and once again they’re shooting not with you, but at you. There were times in past games when they’d not only fight by your side, but even provide a bit of comic relief. Not here: the grunts don’t exactly come across as professional soldiers, but they’re not spouting smart comments, and they seem a bit deadlier than before. (That’s not to say there’s not humor in Halo 4. The achievement for finding the Red vs. Blue Easter egg in Spartan Ops should clue you in there.) Exactly what the Covenant is doing here isn’t obvious, though there’s enough shooting between the two races that it’s obvious they didn’t arrive just to pay a friendly visit to the Promethians.
Though there’s a lot that’s new here, you’ll find lots of old favorites in the game as well. The wreckage of a crashed USNC ship helpfully scatters lots of classic UNSC weapons around the landscape, for instance, and you’ll find that Warthogs, Mongooses, Scorpion tanks, and even Elephants play parts in various missions. But my favorite ride is a new addition, the Mantis: a mech-style walking vehicle equipped with nicely powerful machine guns, rockets, and even a hydraulic-overpower move that lets you stomp enemies. You’ll encounter the Mantis in the campaign, where it proves very useful, but even better, it’s also available in some multiplayer levels.
The movement and gameplay has the classic Halo feel, and any weapon reflexes you developed in earlier Halo games should work without adjustment here. However, I did notice myself running out of ammo more frequently than in previous games. That’s not a bad thing: It forces you to be a bit more strategic with your shooting instead of using “spray and pray” tactics, and besides, it’s seriously exciting to try to run past an angry pair of Promethian knights as you try to reach a dropped bolt gun. The weapons and movement feel right, but between conserving ammo and fighting improved AI, prepare for an extra level of challenge in Halo 4.
New to Halo 4 is Spartan Ops, a new cooperative episodic adventure that lets player continue the Halo 4 story. Each week, there’s a new episode of a CG video series that follows a group of characters from the UNSC Infinity. After watching the episode, you’ll play through a series of five missions, each of which should run about 15 minutes. The missions tie into the week’s video, and they also lead into the following week’s episode.
It’s sort of a combination of the best aspects of episodic television and downloadable content. Expect a lot of action each week, followed by a cliffhanger that will have you anxiously anticipating downloading the next Spartan Ops episode. The 10-episode Spartan Ops season is included with Halo 4; there’s no extra cost.
You can tackle Spartan Ops alone, or co-op with up to three friends. Any experience and unlocks you earn in Spartan Ops will carry over to the more familiar Halo 4 multiplayer modes.
In the War Games section, you’ll find traditional Halo multiplayer modes, ranging from straightforward Slayer and Capture the Flag modes to favorites like Grifball. There are also new modes, such as Regicide, a free-for-all deathmatch where one player becomes king, and the others try to take him out; and Dominion, a base-capture mode with a heart-pounding sudden death countdown that kicks in after one team secures all the capture points. As usual, you can customize the game types like crazy, create your own multiplayer maps in the Forge, and relive and share videos and screenshots in the Theater.
Also, remember that additional battlegrounds are in the works for Halo 4, with new multiplayer maps keeping things fresh after Halo 4’s release. See our article about the Halo 4 War Games Map Pass for the full scoop on what’s coming up.
Into the Action
If you haven't gotten Halo 4 yet, don't wait, head over to the retailers page right now! Meanwhile, we’ll have plenty more about Halo 4 in the coming weeks, including regular reports from the front as Spartan Ops episodes are released. In the meantime, while you wait for your chance to join the game, let us know in the comments section below what you’re most looking forward to in Halo 4.
Article by Denny Atkin (gamertag: Editer)
cant wait till nov 6th im getting the system looks amazing.
I read this whole article. It sounds very amazing what Halo 4 has in stored for its fans.
5 Days left!!! 5 Days left!!! 5 Days left!!!!! i cant wait its almost here!!!!
the only thing im not looking forward to is the online will be filled with 8 year old kids
im looking forward to the (from wut i can see) absolutly 3pic forge mode....no more nit-picking corners...freakin makes my mouth water...also, its about time we thawed out chief and gave him a workout!...limited edition...here i come, 5 days and counting
legendary edition midnight release who's about that life
Counting down the days hours and minutes..... Call of Duty who???? LOL
EEEERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!! WHY CANT IT BE NOVEMBER 6TH WHYYYYYYY!!!!
i cant wait at all i have pre-ordered it and got it today i havent played it yet but not sure if i can play it it without getting band please let me no leave me a message at uncorkingvirus6
of course microsoft owned xbox.com boasts about their very own product. lol.
@Hmmdabah83, are you serious? You do realize that much of the aspects that made CoD so good have been put in to this game? You're a moron. Black Ops 2 is still going to bank.
Ima cry when I get that game in my hand. I won't sleep on it
What isnt there to look forward to?