E3 2012: Halo 4 Hands-On Preview – This. Is. Sparta(n)!

Dan Webb

Unlike Microsoft’s Spring Showcase earlier on in the year - you know, when 343 Industries came armed with one minute of B-roll for the press who had travelled halfway across the globe to see Halo 4’s gameplay debut - E3 2012 was a different kettle of fish for the platform holder. With more Halo 4 content than you can shake a Battle Rifle at for this year’s E3, we finally got a chance to go hands-on with the game and jump knee deep into the nitty-gritty of the game's Spartan Ops mode and even get downright dirty in some War Game action. Whether that decision was made with Microsoft already knowing the fate of its Gamescom and TGS presence, who knows? What we know is, we played Halo 4 and we liked it. Nay, loved it.

Spartan Ops on the face of it might sound like some shameful knock-off of Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops mode, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Spartan Ops is in fact a weekly Halo 4 co-operative TV show of sorts, in which you’ll be one of the stars as you guide the story from start to finish, with new episodes being uploaded every week.

With the story of the UNSC Infinity – that big ol’ ship from the trailer – intersecting that of the main Halo 4 campaign, Spartan Ops follows on that journey as you follow the leaders and crew – and a Spartan team known as Majestic Squad – into the unknown and to a Forerunner planet called Requiem, which incidentally is where we pick up with our squad of Spartans.

We headed to the surface of Requiem, a planet infested with rocks oozing with luminescent lava and tall Forerunner structures. It’s a planet where the Covenant also believe they’ll find one of their gods, so you’ll be faced with multiple foes from multiple fronts. “We’ll make them see God,” one of the crew mutters as we embark on our mission to interrupt the dig and recover the core.

Before heading out to battle, we tinkered with our loadout, which is the same loadout you can use in multiplayer, but more on that shortly. Being able to choose your tactical package, your support upgrade and your armour ability is 343’s new way to tailor the experience to anyone who picks up a controller. Want more ammo? Equip the ammo support upgrade. Want to carry two primary weapons? Select the relevant tactical package then. They’re all incredibly handy in truth and you can even customise your loadout to suit the mission.

There are tactical supports that allow you to pick up grenades from downed allies; one that improves the recharge speed of your shield; one that allows you to fire primary weapons; and one that will speed up your armour ability.

In terms of support upgrades, there is one that gives you more ammo; one that improves the distance of your sensor; one that allows you to see your radar whilst you’re looking down the scope; and one that allows you to sprint uninterrupted.

That’s without mentioning the armour abilities too, four of which were in our demo: the Hologram; Promethean Vision that allows you to see enemies through walls; the Thruster which enables you to move quicker in a horizontal direction; and the Hardlight Shield, which gives you an additional shield for a short period of time.

In terms of the actual gameplay, it’s all standard Halo fare: move through various environments, dispatching foes as you see fit, before defending a point at the end before taking the core to the extraction zone. What isn’t standard though is the enemies you face, and although you might come across patrols of Grunts and Elites – this time with a slightly new rogue look – the Spartans will spend more time facing off against the Promethean Crawlers – panther-like creatures who are extremely agile and fight together in packs; Promethean Watchers – who are like flying sentinel AIs; as well as Promethean Knights – who are huge robotic advanced AI sentient beings. The new beasties make for much more of a challenge than the traditional Halo enemies i.e. the Covenant, and it makes working in a team much more important. With fresh new cinematic cutscenes and five new chapters every week, Spartan Ops looks to continue the Halo storytelling experience long after the Halo 4 campaign has finished and is set to delight fans.

In terms of the actual War Games though - which is a posh umbrella term for multiplayer - we managed to delve into some classic Team Slayer on the Haven map. It’s classic Halo multiplayer action for the most part, but with players able to tailor their experience, which funnily enough, actually makes the gameplay somewhat more enjoyable. It’s not something that one could actually explain, but it sure makes a difference and even better, it doesn’t actually unbalance the gameplay one bit.

Armed mostly with a Battle Rifle and a Magnum – opting to use the Promethean Vision as well – we set to explore the multi-levelled, yet symmetrical Forerunner structure and see who we could dispatch. With a central platform and two multi-levelled circular platforms surrounding it, it’s a map that really doesn’t take too long to learn. 343 even makes a concerted effort to point out power weapons on your HUD should you be in the vicinity.

That said, the introduction of Ordinance Drops should delight fans, as they're rewarded to players for earning a certain amount of points. They're not just granted for one life either, as your points tally isn't reset. This can result in a choice of a few different drops, whether it’s a defensive perk or weapon, or an offensive perk or weapon. When we had the option though, we always opted for the offensive route, choosing the Scattershot whenever we had the chance – a powerful Forerunner shotgun that can disintegrate foes. Sure, these may be subtle changes by 343, but they sure make things a lot more frantic and fun. Just how we like it.

We're not sure whether the multiplayer tweaks are as game changing as 343 would have you believe, but they do add a certain level of personality to the gameplay. Being able to pre-set your loadout to suit you allows you to go into battle with your own tailored custom experience, and that can make all the difference. Spartan Ops is surely going to please single-player and co-op gamers, but the introduction of custom loadouts and Ordinance Drops add a level of – probably much needed – unpredictability to the multiplayer proceedings. It’s no longer a matter of charging towards the same power weapons now, instead, it becomes a much more tactical battle. No wonder it won our Shooter of the Show award!

Halo 4 is scheduled for a November 6th, 2012 release worldwide.

  • Looks pretty sick so far
  • Cant wait to hear master chiefs sexy voice again.
  • My $99.99 have been spent, now to play the waiting game
  • After paying off the Limited Edition & Standard Edition as well, I will eagerly wait the 4 months and 22 days until this work of art is released.
  • Even though my massive back log I cannot wait!
  • They don't change bits of Halo, people moan. They change bits of Halo, people moan. Please stop people!
  • Waiting for my Limited Edition, cannot wait.
  • Just payed off the limited edition today. Can't wait. I never really like the multiplayer on Halo, but the campaign and coop is always amazing. I really like how they are finally trying to change Halo up a little bit more.
  • Awesome that means all the multiplayer bonuses you get with the Limited Edition carry over to Spartan Ops my money has been well spent. Looking forward to seeing everything this game has to offer.
  • @3 - The waiting game sucks, how about hungry hungry hippo's? A co-op mode that never ends? Christ, i was getting it anyway, but thats just amazing.
  • @10- Why play Hungry Hungry Hippos? I'm just gonna wait for the movie. :D Halo 4 looks brilliant. I fell in love with this game when I saw the gameplay at E3. Let me just say this, words do not do it justice. They had me at Halo.
  • Honestly this is looking better and better the more I see it. I was skeptical at first, because I didn't really get into Reach as much, but this is looking good. A lot better than Black OPs 2.
  • Ravenous Ravenous Rhinos are far superior to Hungry Hungry Hippos. Just sayin'.
  • sounds better then I could have hoped
  • @13 I think starving starving starfish is better.
  • @#10 - I'm sure it'll end... I'd treat it more like a TV show if I was you.
  • Soooo looking forward to this...I just can't stand the wait!!!!
  • I am really enjoy each piece of news they release about it. I mean they all seem to show the Halo I have known and loved for a decade plus adding in features that work in other FPS and making them their own. I really am looking forward to this game.
  • cant...wait....that...long! lol... i pre ordered the limited edition. i havent even played it yet and im already hooked.
  • Prancing Prancing Ponies! Now that is a game! I honestly haven't enjoyed Halo since 2, but I have played them all and will continue to play them in hopes of another hit like 2 was. Looking forward to this.
  • Is it me or is Promethean vision wrong? I thought Promethean or Prothian was Mass Effect? In Halo it's the Forerunners right? Shouldn't it be forerunner vision, Or did I miss something?
  • free hand job to whoever buys the legendary edition of halo 4 for me
  • @6 No one actually moaned in the five posts before yours, and the news post was pretty positive. @23 Protheans are a race in Mass Effect, Prometheus is figure from Ancient Greek mythology. If they're naming the enemies Promethean Crawlers, Promethean Watchers and Promethean Knights, and you can pick up Promethean Vision... Well, I have no idea what it means. Either the humans had a good reason to use an Ancient Greek name for all that stuff, or the implication is the Forerunners played some part in Ancient Greek mythology. I know they were long extinct by then, but with the whole genetic geas thing... you never know. Or it could just be the developers picked a cool word and have no plot to justify it. Or it could just be one of those "Forerunner translation tech pulls the best fitting phrase from your mind" things, like the Maginot Line.
  • @25 oh I like that the Forerunners in anicent greece mythology but it would make sense as in the halo books the forerunner language was compared to looking like a combination of all of earths anicent languages.
  • so those tactical packages are same as cod perks =/
  • So can't wait for Halo 4!
  • too much have changed, dont fix it if its not broken.
  • Good Work Halo 4 you made shooter of the show award! This is the battle of the Forerunners. I think this will be a hard fight, but a epic battle! ^_^
  • I'm in love with this game; gonna play it like the world is actually coming to it's end.
  • Realy love the Metriod Prime Interface/helmet view :)
  • cant wait to hear master chiefs cool voice again cuz im not gay hahaha xd i understand you guys but you can take it ambiguous ^^
  • @25, @26 The Promethean's where the race that came before the forunners, or thats what's been said thus far, they are speculated to be the creaters of the various races including the forunners in the books. The Forunners where meant to have been given the mantle of the galaxy, but it was decided that the Forunners would no-longer hold that posistion, and that a new race would be alowed to raise, and be tested, this being the humans, who had fought a war against the forunners, and the 'shaping sickness' aka, the flood, at the same time, and lost the war. The Humans are the reclaimers to the Mantle, to become basicly the shapers of the galaxy's. As a simple way of putting it. Very little cannon info has been given about the prometheans though. I'm also wondering where the Spartan II is on the Infinity though, I'm sure she was meant to be the captain of the ship, according to grasslands, think I'll check over, might of miss read her position on there.
  • @34 You're thinking of the Precursors who came before the Forerunners I believe. Prometheans are a rank of forerunner, its in Cryptum somewhere.
  • @35, ah bugger, epic fail on my part there >.< In that case, I wonder if we'll be seeing the 'the librarian'? Bugger, forgoten her title now, the life worker >.< I wonder If we'll be seeing Guilty Spark in Halo4, or if it'll be Halo5 where they bring him back into things.
  • @36 With Guility dead I don't think we'll be seeing him much lol. Kinda of sad when you think about it a lot of characters like Johnson won't be back due to you know that whole being dead problem too :(.
  • @37, oh, I would see your point... but, he's not dead. A spoiler for a few yet to read Halo: Primordium. Guilty spark was severely damaged, but recovered and 'interrogated' for the tale of his human life, but after he shut down, he managed to infect a star ships AI, and disabled the crew temporarily, so that he could travel without resistance to find 'the librarian' life worker person.
  • Damn it....fucking spartan laser always letting me down...
  • Sounds even worse than Reach.
  • @10 It will end, but will be continuous throughout the entire Reclaimer Trilogy(Halo 4, 5, & 6) To all those wondering/confused about the Prometheans: Prometheans were - rather, are - a Faction of the Warrior Caste of Forerunner. They served the Didact. Precursors are an extremely advanced race that supposedly created all sentient life in the Milky Way Galaxy, and possible other galaxies as well. As for 343 Guilty Spark, I 100% guarantee we will see him again. You may already have if you've read Halo Primordium, and thats all i have to say about that. So now - as they say - its time to hurry up and wait. Until November 6th.
  • cant wait for this..its gonna rock..
  • i was never good at waiting, but this will make it worth the while
  • @16 Well if we're treating it like a T.V. show can we treat it like Coronation Street or Eastenders? They've been going on for god knows how long.
  • The gameplay trailer made me very happy.
  • faptastic
  • i def cant wait till this game comes out already preordered it :D
  • When will the achievements be released ?
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