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Halo 4 hands-on preview

Monday 8 Oct 2012 10:22 a.m.

Still from Halo 4

Still from Halo 4

By Dylan Moran

The return of Halo is long overdue.

I’m not one for dragging a franchise on just for the sake of revenue, but Microsoft were never going to let the child which guaranteed their console’s success 11 years ago just fade away.

343 Industries say this new Halo will be more character-driven with an evolution in both Master Chief and Cortana, focussing on their relationship, while introducing new people to the series’ canon.

The Forward Unto Dawn episodes on YouTube are the first step of this – giving a preview glimpse at some of the new faces Master Chief will be meeting in Halo 4.

See the first episode of Forward Unto Dawn below:

Halo 4 singleplayer plays largely as advertised, with the Covenant taking something of a backseat as Master Chief battles the Prometheans, a Forerunner warrior-servant class.

These enemies are intense. They’re really a step up from the Covenant, and that’s saying something. The Prometheans have a unique system of working together – the little guys will rush you to try and distract you from the big guys, who can absolutely crush the Chief with ease. If that wasn’t bad enough, the big guys spawn little drones who can heal them.

Having a jam on ‘heroic’ difficulty definitely felt like it was actually ‘legendary’ or even a step higher than that.

343 assure fans the campaign mode is longer than any of the previous games – and the difficulty undoubtedly has something to do with that.

The new Promethean weaponry is also great and much more purpose-driven than the Covenant armory. Gone are the days of simply carving your way along with a light sword. Instead players need to plan their actions ahead – sometimes this can take until the third or fourth run through an area to really nail down.

Multiplayer has not really been re-hauled so much as rejuvenated. Yes, special ability unlocks are back. No, they are not necessarily as advantageous as in games past.

They range from your standard halo-jump ability to a Team Fortress-esque mini-turret to protect objectives, but one-size definitely does not suit all as specific abilities are suited to specific maps and modes.

One part of online getting a lot of buzz lately is the Mantis Mech. 343 have been trying their hardest to get across the point this giant robot is not overpowered – and they aren’t lying.

The Mantis has incredibly weak shields and guns. It excels against enemy vehicles, but can be taken down in a one-on-one fight with standard infantry.

But as a Battlefield 3 vehicle-hog I realised where the Mantis is best used – as a compliment to your ground troops. If you keep the Mantis back from the front lines with a steady stream of guys soaking up the bullets, you can dominate (I showed this off going 18-0).

The only gripe I really had was with the Spartan Ops DLC. Over the past year or so we’ve seen all the big FPS titles move to what I’m calling a ‘365 DLC’ model. That is, they are bringing out periodic content to keep their gamers playing their title long after its use-by date.

Call of Duty and Battlefield 3 have both done this through paid subscription models – so kudos to the Halo team for doing it for free – but if you’re going to snare your players it needs to be great content.

The three Spartan Ops missions we played ‘Land Grab’, ‘Sniper Alley’ and ‘The Challenge’ may have taken place in different locales but all ended with a similar feel. Basically you and up to three other mates trek through an area killing all the bad guys then walk back the way you came to get picked up. Each episode takes about 10 minutes.

At no point did it seem challenging or unique… in fact it got quite same-old very quickly.

There is a lot to like in Halo 4. At this early point it has everything right, and series fans can rest assured this is going to be a contender for game of the year.

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