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E3 2012: Halo 4 hands-on

E3 2012Halo

We went into the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The streets were quiet and things were winding down after the first day of E3. But our night was only just getting started. We went to the nightclub Exchange LA for a 343 Event and a hands-on opportunity with one of this year’s biggest and most anticipated games, Halo 4.

Music swelled through the club while caterers brought around food and the bars were serving Halo-themed inebriants. Stations were set up in rows along the main floor and upstairs area with a taste of Halo 4’s multiplayer option, War Games, along with the newly announced Spartan Ops mode.

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We spoke with some of the staff from 343 as we queued up to play the new mode and they explained how the new mode would be doled out through free episodic content and the way it’d serve as a continuation for the story. It would run in seasons, with new content becoming available on a weekly basis over the course of the game’s lifespan. It isn’t clear how long this will run but we were assured 343 were looking at the big picture and wanted to provide further value on what’s already looking to be a value-packed game.

After a few minutes, we were able to get on and experience it for ourselves. The introductory bit from the Spartan Ops mode consisted of preliminary placeholder art but it gave the gist of the setup, before our troop of four players landed and engaged in battle. The map we played looked stunning; with a billowing dust cloud rising far in the background and the best lighting we’ve seen in the series to date. The co-op option also proved to be a lot of fun and we found good use of some new Forerunner weaponry and a solid design that reinforced cooperative play.

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We then made our way on to the newly renamed “War Games” content and played a bunch of matches on a map that felt every bit as true to the spirit of Bungie’s prior work as their own entries. Competitive multiplayer is still very much at the heart of the Halo experience and we found the iteration to be wholly beneficial.

It still feels great and balanced around team play in a satisfying way. There were noticeable improvements to the mechanics and a range of subtle changes that worked in the game’s favor. And on top of that, it’s still very much a Halo game and the classic arsenal of weaponry still works as expected. It’s a significant iteration and yet one that doesn’t deter from that initial appeal.

After playing some rounds of the multiplayer and speaking with the team, it quelled any concerns we had about the shift in development. If our time with the game’s any indication, Halo 4 is about as promising of a successor as series fans could hope for and was easily one of the most enjoyable games we played at this year’s E3.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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