Last week, ShopTo News were invited to an exclusive press, community and celebrity night based at the London Film Museum. We were there to check out Microsoft and 343 Industries' new Xbox 360 flagship title, Halo 4. The event was showcasing some brand new features found within Halo 4's multiplayer options with a whole array of new maps, co op options and even a brand new vehicle.
Hidden in the depths of Covent Garden's London Film Museum, Microsoft had created a bunker filled with everything any self respecting Halo fan could want. 40" large Samsung HDTV's showing off previously unseen gameplay with swanky new Tritton Halo 4 branded headsets, a exceedingly tall Master Chief slowly patrolling the floor and glow in the dark Halo branded Mountain Drew - though much to my relief, only the bottles gave off a fluorescent glow.
The event was christened by Scotland's very own Frank O'Connor, who after many years at Bungie is now 343 Industries' Content Manager. Frank mentioned that he was immensely proud with the 343 team back in the states and praised their hard work as they drew towards the increasingly difficult crunch time. O'Connor knew his crowd and didn't keep anyone waiting long, providing a snappy speech before everyone dashed to the consoles.
Each table had a different Halo 4 set up, a few had the new cooperative Spartan Ops set up while the large centerpiece of the event had 10 HDTV's placed back to back for a large scale warfare battle of the the organisers choosing, which was generally capture the flag or team deathmatch/slayer varieties. I've enjoyed every title in the Halo series but never considered myself a major fan, however finally sitting down and getting some hands on time with the newest addition in Microsoft's long running sci-fi shooter series was great. The controls have been tightened up since Halo: Reach's slightly murky feeling play style and once you've found your perfect set up you'll feel right at home with the layout.
One of the first things I noticed is that there hasn't been any major changes to the Spartan's movements which, since moving to 343 Industries, will come as a great relief to many players. It's pretty clear that 343 Industries hasn't taken a backseat on any section of Halo's sixth instalment, the graphics have been majorly polished since Halo Reach, allowing for a constant 720p native resolution throughout the game, a first for any Halo game released for Microsoft's second console. The whole game just looks crisper when compared to any previous entry.
343 Industries also brought along a new vehicle to the event. One that, until a few days ago, had remained a complete secret. The Mantis - A Robocop ED-209 style mech that a single player can pilot on certain larger scale multiplayer map. One arm is equipped with a minigun that plows through nearly any target and the other a rather powerful rocket launcher. ED-20...the Mantis was available from the start of the level for each side and is considerably slower than a Warthog or Mongoose but still preferable to walking. A suprising omission from the Mantis's repertoire is the inability to jump or launch itself off the ground in any way, though it can stomp, killing any unlucky Spartan below it with the force of a thousand suns.
The inclusion of the Mantis is a brilliant addition to the Multiplayer, I managed to play around with it on Ragnarok, an old fan favourite which used to be called Valhalla but is now remade and retitled, and it didn't feel over powered. As soon as I jumped in the overbearing mech I was the target of the opposing team's Banshee and so a ground to air battle ensued. It seems quite balanced until you're trying to hide under it oh and in case you're wondering...Yes you can teabag people with the Mantis.
Lastly was Spartan Ops, yet another new addition to the Halo series in the form of a 4 player cooperative full length campaign which replaces Firefight from the last two games. Spartan Ops story line runs six months after the main campaign and revolves around Majestic Squad who will interact and help Master Chief out during his new battle. In the level we managed to play our Spartan with the help of three other unlucky chaps were given the task of destroying several Covenant position within a base and then rocky environment. The four player battle created quite a chaotic experience with Covenant enemies appearing from every little crevice. From what we saw there didn't appear to be a penalty for dying, but this could have just been the set up for the press event.
Halo 4 is set for a world wide release on November 6th and you can preorder today from ShopTo.