Spartan Ops Reveal

If anyone had doubts as to whether or not 343 Industries would be able to handle the Halo franchise, Halo 4 erases them. Coming to the series as a less-than casual Halo fan (I skipped ODST and Reach), one look at the game’s single and multiplayer modes was enough to get a pre-order out of me.

First off -- Halo 4 looks absolutely stunning. 343 Industries has completely reworked the series’ traditional “look,” adding brand new bells and whistles everywhere. Master Chief’s visor offers a very Metroid Prime style curvature bathed in the soft glow of various HUD elements. You’ll also notice some slick in-HUD camera feeds and a few new details on the Chief’s armor. It’s all really cool and, for the first time (at least in my opinion), really makes you feel like you’re slipping behind the visor.

Another big first introduced in Halo 4 is Spartan Ops, a story-based co-op mode. All multiplayer modes take place on the UNSC Infinity (the big ship seen in the gameplay demo below), a giant ship built primarily for exploration. Player characters will act as Spartan crewmembers, with multiplayer matches acting as training simulations aboard the ship, a la the Danger Room. In Spartan Ops, players will engage in four-player matches (though you can play through the mode solo) set to a storyline. 343 Industries is promising to offer episodic missions every week.

Mission storylines will connect together into a larger story arc. Though episodic content usually leaves the door open for countless wave-based challenges with a loose narrative affixed to it, it sounds like 343 Industries is aiming to make goals a little different

On the multiplayer side, Halo 4 is introducing leveling elements that have become commonplace in most online shooters. You’re able to unlock new weapons and build custom loadouts. It’s a massive shift for Halo 4 multiplayer and, as a bonus, items unlocked in one mode are carried over into the other.

Multiplayer progression goes beyond new weapon and armor options. Players can also earn “Specializations,” which are meant to augment their play style of choice. For instance, players who rely on stealth can unlock bonuses unique to that style of play. The main Halo 4 rollout begins in October, with the release of “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn,” a series of five weekly installments of a live action series focusing on the Infinity’s captain during his younger years. All five episodes will lead into Halo 4’s November 6, 2012 launch.