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After a hectic week, I need to catch up on entries & comments, but I openly admit to being distracted atm: As promised, Halo 4 goodness!

gameinformer.com/halo4

^ More information on the new game can be found here. Game Informer got so much information from 343 about Halo 4 that it couldn't fit in one article. They indicated that they'll be releasing more info about the game on that site, and already you can learn more about Halo 4's new composer, read a brief article comparing Halo 4 to Halo 3, and watch a short interview with Frank O'Connor.

Details on the new story of Halo 4 are still vague, but the article did provide far more information about what to expect.

Game Informer was allowed a sneak peek at the actual game; in the demo they played through, Chief is woken by Cortana telling him someone is trying to board the Forward Unto Dawn. The year is 2557, some four years and seven months since the end of Halo 3, during which time Cortana took the liberty of modifying/improving the MJOLNIR Armor. For some reason, the Covenant is there: in classic Halo action, John defeats an ambushing elite followed by a small army of Covenant warriors who may or may not be acting independently. Annnd.... that's all they saw.

Next, Chief and Cortana were crash landed (???) on a strange planet called Requiem, which is the focal setting for Halo 4. The planet is encased in a shell built by the Forerunners in order to withstand the destructive power of the Halo rings. Of course, there are several questions this invokes: Who's on the planet? Could Forerunners still be alive? Why was this planet protected?

Per the article, the architecture of the planet is obviously Forerunner, but rather than being abandoned and unused, there's a certain life to them. There's also going to be an unknown, entirely new alien race with a new variety of enemy characters, new weapons, and a new story. 343 seems very concerned to ensure that this new alien race, in gameplay as well as story, will not simply be the Covenant with new skins. They've concentrated on making sure the tactics etc feel different. - But I have to think, with the whole purpose being to shoot and grenade your opponents into oblivion, the differences can't be that drastic.

As for the characters themselves, I'm still a little concerned. Frank O'Connor confirmed that Cortana's Rampancy will take center stage in the developing relationship between John and Cortana. Speaking of the John/Cortana relationship, I'm not sure if what they have in store for us is military-like bonding between the two -closer than family "bro-dom"- or something...more that I pray doesn't descend into outright romance. I'd be good with both, especially if the latter could be implied. Frank O'Connor said, "It's about finally moving their relationship beyond the realm of video game exposition, and what it really means to have your only friend be more human than you, but be an artificial intelligence. And what it means to your place in the universe to be put in a position where you have to deal with her rampancy. You literally rescued her in Halo 3, but her jeopardy was geographical rather than existential."

...I'm prepared for angst. Lots and lots of angst. Which is par the course for Halo, especially if you read the books. -Speaking of which, reading the books between now and when Halo is released (Gamestop tentatively has placed the date as November 2, fyi; I found this out over the weekend.), you will not be wasting your time. Much like Reach, it seems like the books are going to bridge a lot closer to the games. Still, I'm crossing my fingers that this doesn't end in tragedy. 'Cause then I might be forced to hate Halo's new stewards. >.>

I freely admit that I may have mentioned something about exploding ovaries to Sissy as I was reading about the new multiplayer 343 is developing...

The new multiplayer platform will take place aboard a UNSC ship called the Infinity. You will play as a Spartan IV - the next generation in the SPARTAN program after the end of the Human-Covenant war. Aboard the Infinity, you train with other Spartans in what Game Informer compared to Star Trek's holodeck: able to mimic any terrain or map, Spartan IVs test their mettle against each other in order to improve their skills.

Improving skills is key. Your Spartan IV will be customizable, and the options you have will be dependent upon what you have unlocked. Customizable options included: Primary weapon, secondary weapon, grenade type, armor ability, and an unknown "modifications" choice. --The only thing that I don't like about this is the thought of some high level person starting off with the sniper rifle, rocket launcher, or shotgun with every life; I hope that all weapons are not able to be chosen for loadouts.

Weapons include classics such as the assault rifle, magnum, rocket launcher, shotgun, Covenant carbine, and plasma pistol. Also included: BOTH the Battle Rifle AND the DMR! I kind of just died of happiness here. I just... 343, I don't know what to say. I just feel so loved! Also, we have a new array of weapons to look forward to: perhaps only alien, but I'm hoping for some new human weapons, too!

Medals are of course going to be present, but similar to Cr in Reach, Spartan points are gained for your battles in order for you to purchase armor upgrades and further upskill your Spartan. Armor Upgrades: they're no longer just for looking pretty! (THANK. YOU. SOMUCH!!!) Additionally, the system awards you Spartan points for not only kills, assists, or multikills: you get points/medals for things like distractions, too!

I'm ecstatic to announce that there will be no more playing as Elites: WOOT! 343 is also adding the ability to join games in progress; FINALLY, your team won't be relegated to a loss just because half your team quit! In addition, when you die, you don't have to wait the full respawn time: similar to Call of Duty, tap X, and you're respawned immediately.

Of course, I said that this was the next generation of multiplayer, and with good reason. There's a reason you're training so hard on the Infinity: weekly episodes of Spartan Ops.

Spartan Ops is the new multiplayer campaign mode, and it works similar to weekly episodes of a tv show. As part of the Halo 4 game - NOT DLC you have to purchase - 343 will release new Spartan Ops episodes for you and up to 3 friends to fight through. Described as missions that take place off the Infinity, the missions will have 5 objectives for you and your friends to complete and replay to your heart's content until the next week. But if continuing campaign missions aren't enough to excite you, these missions are all part of a storyarc that will continue for months! Talk about a reason to continue playing week after week!!

All in all, despite my reservations over the characters of Chief & Cortana, I think I'm willing to give 343 the benefit of the doubt. Making the Chief more human is a gargantuan task, but I have to say... I mean, looking at all the stuff they're doing, all the energy and care they're devoting to the other aspects of the game -As expected from Halo CE: Anniversary, the screen captures look stunning- I really think that Halo is in good hands.

There were aspects of the original Bungie Halo story arc that made me angry -such as humans teaming up with the Covenant despite the Arbiter's (one-off) story- and I imagine that 343 may do the same. But I'm admittedly a fan of fairy tales and happy endings: I expect a few disappointments in a war-torn sci-fi epic story. So I don't know if 343 will be able to pull of John's & Cortana's humanity, but I'm not gonna worry anymore. I think they've done enough to demonstrate that they deserve our support rather than fear and skepticism.

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April 2012

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