Halo 4 Review Round-up
The accelerated ticking of our internal clocks can only mean one thing: the big day is almost here. Our bodies are ready. Is yours?
Instead of the traditional nine months, it’s taken us more than three years to create (what we hope you will find to be) our masterpiece, and in a mere four days, we will hand our baby over to you. It’s been a long and arduous journey, full of grueling days and sleepless nights, and the fact that we’re so close to launch is nothing short of surreal. Butterflies are flying laps around our stomachs, and we anxiously wait to hear what you, the Halo community, think of the newest title in your beloved franchise.
As the clock struck midnight last night, reviews began pouring in. The majority of us at the studio stayed up all night reading them, and we’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the response. As we prepare for the masses to begin populating Halo 4’s virtual battlefields, we’d like to offer you a brief review round-up, brought to you by your friendly neighborhood media outlets. There are too many to include here, so we trust that you know how to find the rest.
Every day I get to experience Halo. Tuesday, though, thanks to the EMEA Xbox team, I got to do it like never before.
I was recently whisked away to Liechtenstein, a beautiful country lying entirely within the Alps. For one day only, the mountainous landscapes of the normally tranquil countryside became the stage for a real-life experience set in (a replica of) the Halo universe. Taking over some of the country’s most iconic landmarks, including a 13th century castle and a working mine, fans and worldwide media from 16 different countries were catapulted into this off-world environment to take part in a theatrical experience which saw them travel to a top secret location before being unexpectedly thrust into a war zone which re-created brutal battle grounds through pyrotechnic explosions, thunderous sound effects and cinematic set builds.
The experience started with a deceptively uneventful bus ride from Switzerland to Liechtenstein. To fill the time spent in transit, we were treated to a viewing of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (Yes, I saw the ending. No, I will not tell you what happens.). Then, the bus pulled off into a deserted area, with nothing but patches of dirt, clumps of trees and the cover of darkness to greet us. Well, nothing but the aforementioned things if you weren’t to count the dozen or so military vehicles, downed helicopter and 15 soldiers mingling suspiciously in the distance.
The second the bus rolled to a stop, the soldiers welcomed us, asking us nicely to exit that vehicle and get on a different one. And by asking us nicely, I mean yelling at us at their top of their lungs while delivering small amounts of spittle to our frightened and confused faces.
I might have pooped my pants. Several different times.
After climbing into the back of an unlit military vehicle, I chattered nervously with the others temporarily trapped there with me about what could be coming next. The windows were blacked out, as was the barrier between the back and the front, so we huddled together in a cramped, dark space lit only by adrenaline and the soft glow of mobile devices.
Ten minutes later, we were delivered to a military camp in the countryside, which was actually a local farmer’s field that had been transformed into a post-apocalyptic battle ground (a total of 280 props, three makeshift tents and one helicopter helped complete the transformation). Smoke and the bark of soldiers’ orders filled the air as we scurried to pick up supply bags and find a seat in one of the tents. Once everybody was situated, Dr. Halsey (played by none other than Jen Taylor) came out to debrief us on the current situation. Our help was needed to decode a series of cryptic clues. If we were successful, we would save mankind from extinction by fighting off the threat of an attack. If we weren’t, well… that wasn’t an option.
We were divided into three different groups, each of which was assigned to a leader, and then off we went, deep into a working mine (that was turned into a movie film set for the day with a team of six pyrotechnic specialists re-creating explosions with fire balls and sound effects). I had several near death experiences, one of which involved my attempt to get a poncho on. Helpful hint: If you’re wearing an adorably fluffy coat with a hood, remove said coat before attempting to put on a poncho. Otherwise you’ll flail around like an idiot for an extended length of time, much to the chagrin of every single soldier, the rest of the participants and your lady boss that is of course standing right behind you.
As we went deeper and deeper into the quarry, explosions rocked the walls and smoke filled the tunnel. After encountering a distraught doctor, we began sifting through the dirt in an attempt to find a glyph. After unearthing one (it’s worth noting Frankie delicately used a spade while everybody else dug around frantically with their hands), we ran out of the mine, driven to a frantic pace by both the soldiers and a series of thunderous explosions.
Upon safely reaching the entrance, we breathed a sigh of relief and delivered our glyph into the hands of an awaiting doctor. The other two teams also found glyphs, so Dr. Halsey talked us through piecing them together. As that was happening, a nearby disturbance turned our attention back to the mine, where we saw a faint glimmer of light that could only mean one thing: Something (or someone) was coming out of the tunnel. The lights got brighter, shining directly into our eyes and rendering us temporarily blind. Before our vision cleared, we could barely make out a puma-shaped outline, and then we caught sight of the Master Chief, riding in the back of a Warthog. As his chariot of choice came to a stop, a series of pyrotechnic explosions at first startled us, but then caused an eruption of cheers.
Our hero had arrived.
Now that we were officially safe, we were transferred to the Gutenberg Castle, one of the most important historical landmarks of Liechtenstein, which had taken on a new guise as a futuristic military fortification. There, with the Master Chief in tow, Cortana congratulated us on our success and briefed us on our next mission (which you’ll be tackling on November 6). Then we played Halo 4 until the wee hours of the morning.
If you’re on Twitter, keep an eye on the #ExperienceHalo hashtag for more coverage from the attendees. A little birdie tells me Nak3d Eli is working on a video as we speak, that he’s recounting his experience at this event via Twitter, so that’s a good place to start should you desire additional coverage. Here’s the official wrap-up video, to give you a small visual taste of what actually went down.
Enough about that particular experience, though. Let’s chat a bit about the one you’ll soon be having, come November 6, shall we?
Last night I dreamt about physics, waldo and ancient melodies.
//ATTENTION ALL OPERATIVES: HIGH PRIORITY INTEL RECEIVED, REVIEW IS MANDATORY/
Halo 4 Pre-launch Q&A
As this is the last Bulletin before Halo 4 launches, I thought we would continue our customary tradition of Q&A sessions with Frankie. Kevin Franklin, Humberto Castaneda, Chris Davidson and Brad Welch also provided some of the following answers to your numerous game-related queries. So, without further ado, here is one last Q&A, the Q of which were provided by you, and the A of which were provided by us.
Will Spartan Ops have consecutive seasons, and when can we expect their release? - GristlyStew721
Spartan Ops is being treated just like any other "TV show" and we'll wait and see how it's received and digested before moving forward. We have some very cool story ideas and some ways to continue the arc of the Spartan Ops series, but it's a pretty grand experiment and we will apply our learnings from that experience in appropriate ways.
Will there be a skill-based ranking system? - xBrutaIity
We are tracking all player skill data and while it will not be exposed in the game UI at launch, we have some ideas about how to give players access to that information, in a useful way, in the not-so-distant future.
What playlists are going to be available at launch? - SensoryFour34
Infinity Slayer – 4 v. 4
The newly introduced Infinity Slayer variant allows Spartans to earn points during the course of a match, which can eventually be leveraged to call in ordnance from overhead. Ordnance drops within Infinity Slayer consist of three selectable but randomly generated weapons or power-ups, the latter of which can alter a Spartan’s speed, shielding or ability to issue damage.
Big Team Infinity Slayer – 8 v. 8
Same as above, in an 8 v. 8 setting
Dominion – 6 v. 6
Teams are pitted against each other to capture, fortify and resupply bases to win. After infiltrating a base, a player can capture it for their team, whether it is a neutral base or a base previously claimed by the enemy. When a team has held a base for long enough, it will automatically fortify, defending itself with turret emplacements and energy shields. Holding a base earns teams points for each resupply, and provides teams with heavy ordnance drops and vehicles each supply cycle.
Regicide – 6-player FFA
The Spartan in first place is the King. As the King racks up kills, their bounty increases, thereby increasing the points other Spartans gain from killing the King. All other Spartans’ heads-up displays and motion sensors give away the King’s location at all times during the match, aggressively focusing combat wherever the point leader happens to be.
Flood – 10 players
Within this War Games simulation, the deadly parasite has returned – a group of Spartans have been transformed into incredibly fast and deadly Flood combat forms. As the Flood, players are forced to destroy uninfected Spartans, converting them into Flood combat form allies. As an uninfected Spartan, the player’s goal is to survive the seemingly never-ending Flood onslaught, staving off transformation into the parasite.
Capture the Flag – 5 v. 5
Played with up to four teams, each of which has their own Flag. The goal of each team is to steal an enemy team’s Flag, while protecting their own. Once a team has grabbed a Flag, they must return it to their own capture point to score. Flag carriers are only able to use a Magnum or the Flag itself as a weapon.
Oddball – 5 v. 5
With up to eight teams in combat, the goal of the War Games simulation called Oddball is to hold onto the ball the longest. While holding the ball, a player or team will gain points, but the player holding the ball is unable to defend themselves with their weapon. Players are also able throw the ball or use it as a weapon for close-range melee attacks.
King of the Hill – 5 v. 5
Reminiscent of schoolyard skirmishes, the War Games competition known as King of the Hill pits up to eight teams against each other in a struggle to hold a specific territory. While this is a classic game type, its most recent iteration offers a variety of new scoring methods, including a focus on individual performance in addition to the team’s collective effort.
Team Slayer Pro – 4 v. 4
This playlist features the following settings: No Radar, 3 Loadouts (DMR, AR or BR with 1 grenade and Resupply Tactical Package), Player Movement Speed, Reload Speed and Weapon Swap Speed set to 110%, Friendly Fire ON, Score to win Round 60 Kills, No Map Loadouts, and No Custom Loadouts.
I was thinking about starting Spartan Ops with my friend before starting the campaign. Will the first episode spoil the campaign? Major spoilers? Mild spoilers? - Superman x JLA
There are a couple of big ideas that are obvious, and don't read any further if you don't want those spoiled, such as the fact that a couple of characters and ships have "made it" but beyond that it won't necessarily spoil or ruin the campaign. However we still advise people to play them in the correct chronological order.
Will there be a UNSC flying vehicle (Falcon, Hornet, etc.) on the multiplayer side of the game (excluding Spartan Ops)? - Phat M0nk3y4
Not in Multiplayer but there are some interesting options available in Campaign.
Will your Halo 4 milestone unlock exclusive armor for Halo 4? - MSchnelkz 17
There will be an armor set and some emblem unlocks available in the CLASSIFIED section of Waypoint. You will need to find codes (hint: Check the Bulletins) and play Campaign, Spartan Ops and War Games in Halo 4 in order to unlock.
We recently got our first look at the Crimson, Majestic and Castle Map packs, expected to be out in December, February and April respectively. Can we expect any more map packs after these, and at what frequency? - GristlyStew721
We are obviously still working on those maps, some of them playable now, although not polished and some (the more distant ones) are basically concept art and geometry at this time. We will ultimately have to put sensible limits on how much DLC we create to prevent too much splintering of content and playlists. So, while some of that can be done via playlist and hopper management, the reality is that whatever we do on top of the announced maps will have to offer something logical to the existing suite.
Can Sprint be disabled? - Buffdaddy Jama
Sprint is a base trait for all Spartans, but you can, as always, adjust the upper limit of your Spartan's speed in custom game player traits. In the “Traits” section of the custom game menu, players can tune a Spartan’s movement speed from 0% of default to 300%. When tuning a player’s movement speed, Sprint scales as well. Sprint itself cannot be disabled, but there are many other ways to modify player speeds, including power-ups and trait zones.
Is it true that Theater isn't available in Campaign and Opartan ops? If so, what was the reasoning behind this and will there be a future patch or download to fix this? - unip8
Theater Mode in Campaign did not make the cut for launch for various reasons of scheduling, rendering issues and some significant engine changes. However, we are treating Title Updates very differently for Halo 4 and rather than simply using them as opportunities for simple big fixes, we are thinking of them as a way to sustain and grow features and options, so it is possible you could see Saved Films made available for Campaign (as well as some other significant features) at some time in the not-too-distant future, but that's yet to be determined.
At what SR rank will the BR be unlocked? - Ommageden
The BR and DMR are unlocked VERY quickly. Unless you wear a blindfold and earmuffs, you should have both unlocked before the plastic wrap from your packaging hits the floor. It's also vital to note that they are unlocked for you to customize your Spartan with. There are plenty of playlists that will make default loadouts that include those weapons, available to people with no Spartan Rank whatsoever, including guests.
How many slots will we get in Halo 4's File Share? More importantly, is there going to be a Bungie Pro equivalent? - Jeff McRae
There will not be a Bungie Pro equivalent, but all users will have 25 slots for their personal catalog.
How does the install process for Disk 2 work? Can we play off Disk 2 without installing it? And if we do install Disk 2, can we play all that content while using Disk 1? - IIBloodDaggerII
Disc 2 contains largely multiplayer content. You can put it in at any time, even before Disc 1, and install the content. You will get a nice slideshow, some pretty music and a gradual progress bar. After a few minutes, you can remove that disc and never deal with it again. Everythingmultiplayer, including Spartan Ops, Forge and Campaign can then be launched from Disc 1. You can, of course, also install Disc 1 to your storage device to make loading quicker and reduce wear and tear on your optical drive, but that's optional and is a 360 system feature, not a necessity.
If you preorder weapon skins (e.g., Arctic BR from GameStop), will they unlock the weapon as soon as you redeem the code, or will you have to unlock the weapon before you get the weapon skin? - a zoojoo
You'll get immediate access to that weapon (or armor for that matter) with that skin; you don't have to rank up or spend Spartan Points. For weapons this is mostly a fairly small head start, since the skinned pre-order weapons are low in the ranks, but some of the armor skins will definitely give you earlier access to that type of armor.
How will Split Screen work in Halo 4? - The Little Moa
Split Screen support in Halo 4 is identical in most respects to Halo: Reach. Two player split in Campaign and Spartan Ops, and four player split in War Games and Forge, although we may restrict this in some matchmaking playlists.
Clan support was a feature that got many players into the competitive spirit of Halo Multiplayer in a challenging-yet-rewarding way. Why has this feature died, or rather been missing in action, since Halo 2? Was it ever considered for implementation in Halo 4, and what was the deciding factor in it not being included? - u4iX
As we mentioned before, we plan to continue consistent and meaningful sustainment updates to improve and enhance player experience. Social constructs are something we too have missed since Halo 2, and we're looking at interesting ways to improve those experiences in the not-too-distant future. I will be using that expression a lot. Get used to it.
Will the Mammoth be featured in Multiplayer? - TheLateLateShow
The Mammoth is currently only used in Campaign.
Can you talk about what criteria matchmaking uses to find suitable teammates and opponents? What does the system prioritize? Location, connection, skill, etc.? - NYSTOFMIND23
Matchmaking will use geography, connection data, history and skill to determine player populations per game. Skill and connection get very high priority, but there will be other factors involved. I should also note that the simplification of our hoppers and playlists means that the quality of those matchmaking criteria will be improved through population density and that alone will make a huge difference.
Have you guys come across any hilarious bugs/glitches in earlier builds of the game that you'd like to share? - Plain Ben
We collected a ton of "best bug ever" stuff including movies and animated gifs. It would be fun to make some of those available in the future. We have some pretty funny Derptana faces caused by animation and mo-cap bits that are horrific and hilarious.
What is Extraction? - DR ROCKSO 721
In the game type Extraction, Spartan teams are tasked with the retrieval of assets from various sites using prototype translocation technology. Once a team has found a viable site, they must initiate the extraction process with a quantum marker and its spherical translocation beacon. As the extraction process occurs, teams must defend their beacon in order to prevent others from converting the existing extraction process into their own favor.
What can you tell us about the betrayal booting system in Halo 4? - omarlotrc
Betrayal booting takes game type and "deliberateness" into account and while in a lot of ways it's similar to the prior incarnations, we've tried to be cleverer about what the game thinks is deliberate versus accidental. And Join In Progress should help ameliorate the negative impacts for everyone involved.
How awesome will Halo 4 be? On a scale between 1-343. - Dont pass gass
I will answer this when players give us their impressions in less than a week.
Speaking of which, see you then! Through the scope of my Battle Rifle, of course…