Those of you who follow @EnglishHaloBlog on Twitter – and you absolutely should follow me on Twitter – may have noticed that I was at a Halo 4 party last night.
It was organised by Microsoft and “Celebrity Gaming Club” which seems to be some sort of PR company which arranges for celebrities to come and play videogames for photo op purposes. I was invited along with a handful of other UK-based Halo community folks to play Halo 4 with the aforementioned celebrities.
I played pretty solidly for 4 hours, sparing bathroom and beverage breaks, it was the E3 build so we got to play Slayer, Infinity Slayer and Regicide on Adrift, Haven and Longbow.
I’ll talk about the maps first.
Haven is a great looking map, it’s all clean lines and good lighting which gives a really nice contrast to players and weapons. There are pretty long sightlines from all sorts of angles which meant any cover you think you’ve got can very easily be taken away by clever map use from the opposing team.
The lower sections of Haven can offer a quick escape if things are getting hairy up top. However I did feel like the lower section could have done with a lift or two up to the higher level as it can sometimes be a bit of a walk to get in on the action if everything is going on above you.
Adrift is definitely my favourite of the three maps, which I didn’t really expect from the gameplay videos I’ve seen. The tight corridors mean that you can quite easily shepherd players into your cunning traps. I think the lifts in the main atrium mean you can move around the map really quickly if necessary which is great for Regicide. Aesthetically it’s a bit busy, there’s steam and flames coming from pipes which can be distracting and there’s lots of crates lying about everywhere which get in the way as much as they offer cover, but that’s something that we’ll get used to in time. In terms of map flow I felt this was the best of the three.
All the games we played were 8 player (either free for all or 4v4) and I really don’t feel like Longbow worked with small teams. I’d often spawn and have to walk for 20 seconds or so to find a fight which is a bit boring really. There is a raised hill section in the middle with really long lines of sight and a wall to the rear making flanking difficult. I saw a team get a hold of the hill and they kept it for the duration of the game, easily picking off opposing players as they tried to run up the ramps to the hill.
Longbow has these lower valley like areas which seem perfect for marauding through in a ghost or Warthog picking up splatters, I imagine in time they will become no-go areas for players on foot without some heavy ordnance. I enjoyed Longbow the least of the three maps, but I put this mostly down to team size.
Lets talk about modes..
Before playing I thought I didn't expect to like Infinity Slayer, being something of a traditionalist I could see myself gravitating towards vanilla Slayer, but after spending some time with it I’ve become fascinated by Infinity Slayers nuance and subtlety.
I assume we all know it’s a Slayer game, but instead of a race to 50 kills it’s a race to 600 points, with 10 points being awarded for a “Generic Kill”, 5 for an assist, 20 for an Assassination and so on. At first I just played it like a Slayer game and wracked up the kills, but by about my fifth game I’d started to learn how to maximise my points. I could kill these two guys with my BR and get 20 points, but if I stick the first guy, that’s 15 points, use my Thruster to jump behind them and stick the second guy - 15 points. Then a double kill 30 points. 60 points for killing two guys.
In time I can see there being some brilliant playstyles and tactics emerging in Infinity Slayer, it’s a much deeper game than regular Slayer and a much more enjoyable game mode than I'd anticipated.
Regicide is a free for all Slayer gametype where the leader (in terms of points) is “King”. The King has a bounty on his head visible on everyone’s screen as a waypoint over his head. I found that most players would charge for the King, this often made them easy targets as they wouldn’t be paying full attention to the rest of their UI (Motion Tracker). I also noticed that when a good player was King (which is often the case late in the game) he could take full advantage of the fact everyone was charging him by getting in a good defensive position and mopping up easy kills giving him an even greater lead (and a higher bounty).
All in all it’s a really enjoyable alternative to vanilla Slayer and one I can see getting voted for a lot when the game launches.
Both of these modes featured Ordnance drops for reaching certain point milestones, to me the most interesting thing about the Ordnance was that I didn't usually want it, the gap in killing power between the "power weapons" in the Ordnance and the BR or DMR you spawn with has been drastically reduced compared to previous games.
I picked this in my loadout by mistake a few times, it is good as a close range weapon, and with a Magnum secondary it wasn’t an awful loadout, but not one you’d choose over the BR and DMR. The kill times at close range seem to be reduced compared to Reach. I had quite a lot of success going with the Magnum first and then switching to the AR for the mop-up.
This quickly became my go-to weapon, the “bloom” seems non-existent, it has surgical precision over most distances and the 3x scope makes it a bit of a mini-sniper. The BR probably has the statistical advantage at mid-range, but I don’t think that’s enough to make me choose the BR, I won most of my DMR vs BR fights at any range.
The BR is a fine weapon, but it’s inaccuracy at long range means I’d sway more towards the DMR, because I don’t think the BR's mid-range advantage outweighs it’s long range shortcomings. It sounds and looks great and I got a ton of kills with it, but it just didn’t feel as reliable as the DMR.
This is up there with the DMR, performance wise it might even be better, it has a higher rate of fire and is laser precise. My love of all things UNSC meant I swayed toward the DMR, but with extended play this might be the better weapon. It felt as though it had a slow reload speed, but that might just be a perception thing.
I only got to use this once, it has a longer charge time than in the previous games, but I found aiming to be much easier. In Reach when you’re scoped the movement can be quite skittish as the aim-acceleration means it often moves further than intended and you have to correct. This wasn’t the case any more as it had a really smooth aiming movement which for me made it much easier to use. I got one-hit-kills on both a Ghost and a Warthog so as far as I can tell it’s as powerful as it’s always been. When someone is aiming at you you get a red flicker on the screen as a tell that you’re about to get toasted.
The Rockets now move a lot slower than in Reach and have a smaller splash damage zone, as such there’s now quite a bit of skill involved in using them as you will often need to lead your target substantially if they're not right in front of you.
I’m not really much of a Sniper and only got to use the Halo 4 version twice, my very first shot with it was blaining a gunner off the back of a Warthog, which I don’t think I’ve ever managed to do in Reach (we’ll put it down to blind luck). Performance wise I found it similar to Reach, but as I said, I’m not really much of a Sniper.
The sound this things makes is crazy, it has a really rapid metalic, clunking noise, totally different to previous games. The bullet magnetism seems to be turned up pretty high too, but it takes a little while for the supercombine explosion which meant I often got killed waiting for the needles to pop (incidentally this actually meant I would get a Supercombine +10 and a Kill from the Grave +15 in Infinity slayer, so it’s not all bad).
Very much like the Reach version, I found that occasionally the reticule would go red, but it wouldn’t lunge when I pulled the trigger, we’ll put it down to being an early build.
I absolutely dominated with the Sticky Detonator on Adrift, I love it. With Promethean Vision and the Sticky Detonator I felt like I was untouchable, I went on a 14 kill spree using only the Sticky Detonator. The damage and splash radius of the SD's grenades are far greater than either the Frag or Plasma grenades. In the enclosed spaces on Adrift you can very easily set up traps for people. I found this to be a really fun weapon with a lot of nuance and a variety of potential strategies.
I didn’t really get on with the Scattershot, I struggled to judge the optimum range and ended up wasting a lot of ammo when I should have just taken another step or two. The lack or Forerunner weapons in this build didn’t help either as it meant people could very easily recognise you were carrying it and keep their distance. I’m sure I just need to get used to it, but for now I’m a bit cold on it.
This is a very useful Armour Ability, the claims that it doesn’t tell you any more than your radar are well off, the sillhouette of your foe can tell you which way they’re facing, what they’re carrying and sometimes even if they know you’re coming. As I mentioned, using this alongside the Sticky Detonator gave such a good awareness of opposing player’s movements that kills became easy. I imagine it would have been really annoying to be on the receiving end though.
I found this to be more useful in annoying people than any kind of tactical advantage, it telegraphs your position and slows your movement. In most cases turning and sprinting would be a better defensive strategy. To answer a question from E3, if you crouch whilst carrying the HLS the spartan stays standing, but the over the shoulder cam drops down to his bum.
I was mostly using this defensively, which didn’t really seem to pay off, the blurred vision would usually cost me more than the quick movement gained me. Speaking to other players it’s much more effective offensively either jumping in for the melee or to kill with the Scattershot.
This was mostly like the Reach version, except it now shows up on the Motion Tracker which caught me out a couple of times.
The guys from Microsoft have said they’ll be sending me over a nicely edited video of the event highlighting all the celebrities. There weren’t really any superstars, it was mostly people from crummy British TV (Hollyoaks and Emmerdale), footballers and Olympians. I got a photo taken with Olympic Gold medal cyclist Steven Burke, which is nice.
I may have missed some details so if you’ve got any questions drop a comment and I’ll do my best to give you an answer.
- Cowboy Out.