Microsoft pulled back the curtain on Halo 4′s multiplayer today, detailing both the game’s central hub and the cooperative aspect of the experience.
The multiplayer modes center around the UNSC Infinity, the largest starship in the UNSC fleet according to Microsoft. This is where players will customize their characters and access multiplayer matchmaking. However, I think there’s more to this hub than that. Read the paragraph from Microsoft’s official press release:
The hub of the “Halo 4” multiplayer experience is the UNSC Infinity – the largest starship in the UNSC fleet that serves as the center of your Spartan career. Here you’ll build your custom Spartan-IV supersoldier, and progress your multiplayer career across all “Halo 4” competitive and cooperative game modes. Surrounded by the sights, sounds and crew of the biggest vessel in the UNSC fleet, your multiplayer experience will be embedded in the fiction of “Halo” like never before, where your progress and game choices affect your appearance, arsenal, and role on the battlefield.
It sounds to me like players will be walking around the Infinity, interacting with the crew and accessing different stations for different aspects of the multiplayer. I’m thinking of the Infinity like the castle of Super Mario 64; players could walk Mario around as much as they wanted, seeing different parts of the castle and finding little secrets, but it wasn’t until Mario jumped through a picture that the real gameplay began.
If Halo 4′s hub is a full-blown starship with secrets to discover and different sections to explore, that will be awesome. Better still, if this starship is inhabited by other human players, like PlayStation Home for instance, that would be even more impressive. Granted, I don’t think there will be any gunfights going on in the hub, but just seeing other characters roaming around, even if it’s just people in my party, would be quite awesome.
Microsoft didn’t stop there, also detailing the cooperative half of Halo 4′s multiplayer. Known as Spartan Ops, this mode will expand the Halo 4 story, sending teams of four on missions to discover more about the Forerunner world known as Requiem. From the press release:
Spartan Ops. The story of the UNSC Infinity intersects with the “Halo 4” campaign, then continues on in a brand-new, story-driven experience known as Spartan Ops. A first of its kind and exciting new addition to the “Halo” franchise, Spartan Ops is an episodic adventure that blends immersive storytelling, high-quality cinematics, and action-packed gameplay to deliver an unprecedented serialized experience.
Through a weekly series of cinematic episodes on Xbox LIVE, Spartan Ops will tell the continuing story of the UNSC Infinity, following the events of “Halo 4.” These episodes will center on the UNSC Infinity leaders and crew, and a new team of Spartans – Majestic Squad. These cinematic episodes will provide the backdrop for the weekly Spartan Ops gameplay missions. Playable in single-player or cooperatively (with up to three friends), explore the corners of Requiem in these objective-based missions, and help uncover the secrets of the mysterious Forerunner world.
A massive-scale adventure that builds off the “Halo 4” story, access to Spartan Ops is included with “Halo 4” at no additional charge – effectively delivering two campaign experiences in one game.
Weekly updates to the co-op mode, to put it simply, is brilliant. I loved Modern Warfare’s Special Ops missions, but unfortunately once I completed them, that was it. Here Microsoft is adding new missions every week, with their own story and characters, and each of the updates will be accompanied by a cinematic video explaining why these missions are carried out. Expanding the story of Halo 4 without releasing a fast sequel is awesome; I never have a problem with more lore to explore.
My only concern is the length of time in which 343 and Microsoft will support the weekly content. One month? Six months? All the way up to Halo 5? If it were up to me, I’d extend that content as long as possible, especially if players continue to play the missions as they release. No harm in continuing a successful idea, right? Isn’t that the whole reason we’re getting Halo 4 in the first place?
Unfortunately, today’s press release said nothing about the competitive multiplayer offering other than that it’s called “War Games” and that more information will be released at a later time. It doesn’t take a AI like Cortana to figure out that the “later time” will be E3 2012. Speculation will run wild until then, but if War Games sounds any bit as good as Spartan Ops does, I’m sure the fans will love it.
Master Chief is coming back in a big way. Are you ready for some Spartan Ops?