Halo 4 to have co-operative, episodic multiplayer
Game Informer's cover story has detailed Halo 4's competitive and co-operative multiplayer, filled in some of the story blanks, and more.
Halo 4's multiplayer will have direct ties to the story. Players are Spartan IV soldiers aboard the UNSC Infinity, a vessel Master Chief will encounter several times through the core campaign.
There are two kinds of multiplayer. The traditional competitive multiplayer includes a number of old and new modes, and is explained as Spartan IV training sessions in the ship's holodeck.
Players can apply upgrades and mods, level up through the ranks, choose loadouts and purchase new gear with earned points. Other new additions include weapon drops and medals awarded in-match.
A new mode called Regicide has been added; the leading scorer is "king," and for each new kill he or she makes, the point value of taking him or her down goes up.
Two maps were described - Wraparound, a Forerunner solar power facility, and Warhouse, a UNSC manufacturing plant of three stories. We saw both these levels recently in San Francisco.
The second multiplayer experience, Spartan Ops, is a co-operative mode for up to four players which will be released in weekly instalments.
Each week players will gain access to a new cut-scene and group of missions as they explore a story comparable to that of the single-player experience. All updates will be free.
Both multiplayer modes will support drop-in play, eliminating lobby wait times and rage quit issues, and character progression and unlocks are continuous across both.
The relationship between Master Chief and AI companion Cortana will "take centre stage" in Halo 4, as the latter confronts "rampany" - the AI equivalent of senility.
Nevertheless, 343 Industries intend "the return of the Master Chief" to be the core focus, reiterating earlier comments that the developer intends to explore the enigmatic Spartan's character.
Gameplay described in the magazine builds on an earlier teaser trailer, revealing that the ship on which Master Chief awakens, four years after the events of Halo 3, is being boarded by hostiles.
The enemy turns out to be the Covenant, but quite why they have broken their truce is unclear, especially as the recurring villains will not be the game's primary antagonists.
Instead, a new, unrevealed enemy will take the spotlight, proving very very different from either the Covenant or the Flood. 343 promises these new adversaries will "work together in collaborative ways" and are "elevated in terms of their intelligence and complexity" over past enemies.
Halo 4's plot will explore the Forerunners, the mysterious alien race which used the Halos to wipe out sentient life "in order to save it" over 100,000 years ago - including waging a war on humanity which devolved us back to primitive cave dwellers.
The Foreunners' artificial Shield worlds, refuges against the menace of the Flood, will play an important role. At one point, Master Chief and Cortana crash land on one called Requiem.
343 Industries now boasts around 250 staff, up from just 30 about three and a half years ago. Halo 4 is expected exclusively on Xbox 360 during the holiday season.