knows his self-worth.
(09-02-2012, 04:18 PM)
PAX Impressions Part 1
Edited out of the last page, didn't want to park it at the end of the post and leave it in a quote (thanks though, Der Flatulator).
I'll do this in three posts, spread over the course of the day. The first will be just the basic, core mechanics, which think is most important. The next will be more granular, looking at specific new things - armor abilities, game systems, map setups. The last will be about how I think it all comes together.
That also means these three posts will start very positive and become more critical. But at the outset, I want to make this clear: Halo 4 is a better game than Reach. It immediately plays better, and it's simply more fun. It's also got a LOT more going on, which means there's more stuff that can either work, or cause problems. And some changes will push the gameplay in ways I think will be problematic down the road. But more on that later.
The usual caveat that this was an unfinished game set up for public exhibition played under often less than ideal circumstances. But I got in enough games - a half dozen or so - that I think I have a feel for Halo 4.
The first thing I did when the game started was strafe, as player weight/inertia remains one of the biggest problems in Reach. It's largely removed from the game; I'll need to go back to past Halo games to compare, but it felt comparable to Halo 3. I could move where I wanted to move with enough responsiveness to survive situations. Night and day difference with Reach. Jumps and base speed also feel similar to Halo 3, so if you thought that game was too slow, you'll feel that way about the base speed here. But again, coming from Reach, the improvement was immediate.
And yet...it still felt pretty slow, at first. I started clumping around the level and was surprised at how different it was from what I was expecting after seeing videos. But after a few games, I stopped thinking about it; I guess I adapted. The gunplay is so immediate and movement responsive enough that I never felt like I died because my movement options were restricted. That, right there, makes this a better game than Reach.
"Does it feel like Halo?"
I mentioned this briefly the other day, but no. But not in the way the question is usually asked. Halo 4 "feels" entirely unique to the series, in that there's been a great emphasis on making the player feel like they are inhabiting a hulking suit of armor. Everything from the sound design to subtle HUD shifts when you move to the way the screen bobs a bit as you sprint emphasize that you're a dude (or dudette, I think) in a suit in a way the rest of the series has not.
What it does successfully is make you feel heavy and massive, without actually slowing you down; you feel like an agile tank. Now, this actually took some getting used to, because I had a hard time separating what the audio/visual inputs were telling me from what the gameplay was. I realize that might sound confusing, but you move as agile as in Halo 3, but feel much heavier than in Reach.
I think the game achieves through less intrusive ways what Reach was going for; rather than have weight slow us down and limit movement, they've found other ways to convey it. The audio is a big part of it, and I'll over that in the next post.
I picked the Battle Rifle for my first load out, and stuck with it for a while. It feels good to use, and while it may just be my perception of it playing for the first time at a public event, the spread feels a bit less than Halo 3. I felt like I was headshotting folks at somewhat longer range than in Halo 3, with all shots landing. Very solid mid to close range gun.
But I switched to the DMR when I could. I'm not sure if it's because it was more effective, or because it sounds like a goddamn hand canon (probably the latter), but I just found it more fun to use. On the first map I played (Forerunner aesthetic, Haven?) it proved an advantage down the long sight lines.
I toyed with a few other weapons. On the new map, in between Gauss Hog deaths, I picked up a lucky nearby ordnance drop. I thought it was the Promethean Light Rifle. As the Warthog drove by I scoped in real quick on the driver and blew the whole thing sky high, landing a double kill. I see people have since figured out what that is. I have no idea how it's balanced, but sure was a surprising result.
The pistol feels like Halo 3's, but only a touch more accurate as Reach's. I stripped a lot of shields with it, but am pretty sure I never landed a headshot. It seems to serve the same role as the pistol did in Halo 3: it was tuned so the CTF carrier has something to use, sort of like the VIP mode in Halo 3. It won't be something people select for MP. I forgot to try the Assault Rifle. Sorry, Dax.
I only got a few melee smacks in, but I didn't whiff the way I still manage to with Reach. I can't put my finger on why, but as others have observed there's a definite emphasis on gunplay in Halo 4; melee combat was more rare than in Reach, despite everyone having sprint. I'll need more time with the game to figure out what's driving it, but Halo 4 is does emphasize gunplay more than Reach.
With each new Halo game, there's an adjustment period for grenade throwing, since the arc gets fiddled with each game. I didn't have to adjust this time around; I was just parking grenades where I wanted them to go. I think that means they throw similar to Reach, since that's what I'm used to.
Plasma grenades are still plasma grenades, and seem to take just a touch longer to blow than in Reach. That is a good thing. Frags are returned to their role in Halo 3: strip shields. I got tagged by them a few times when I had a couple shots on me, and they just took my shields down rather than killing me instantly. Far fewer grenade deaths (and also, fewer grenades piling up, since players don't seem to drop them unless you have that perk selected).
I had one odd moment with a frag grenade. I put two shots with the DMR on someone at close range, and then bounced a grenade down at his feet while stepping back around a corner. As the frag went off, I come back for the kill and find he's like, 15 feet up in the air; I think he did an accidental grenade jump. I land another couple shots but he finishes me since his head is out of my range. I suspect people will grenade jump like crazy in this game.
Short version: I think 343 more or less nailed the core gameplay. Certainly, they've nailed it in ways Reach simply didn't. Aside from the pistol - which seems to have been designed as something to give the flag carrier - I never missed shots when I thought I should have hit them. I never died and then cursed my limited mobility. I didn't take two shots and despair as a frag grenade tinked around the corner. The audio (more on that later) and stuff they're doing with HUD and overall emphasis on the armor you inhabit means it all feels quite different from the previous games, but the core is quite familiar.
It doesn't feel like Halo, but it plays like it.
Last edited by GhaleonEB; 09-02-2012 at 04:35 PM.