How Halo 4 Could Change Multiplayer As We Know It

The Halo franchise is no stranger to multiplayer innovation. Since the release of Combat Evolved in 2001, the series has long set the standard for optimal multiplayer play with its map design, gameplay, and modes.

Eleven years later, the story of the Master Chief now finds itself in the hands of a new developer and at the beginning of a new trilogy in the upcoming title Halo 4. And while the return of Chief, Cortana, and enemies old and new are all promising of a great single player campaign, it’s 343 Industries’ ambitious new take on multiplayer that is really shaping up to be something unique.

Why? Because if it succeeds, it might just set a new precedent for multiplayer integration in gaming.

Multiplayer in Halo 4 takes place on the UNSC Infinity, a massive military craft in space that houses the Spartan IV, a next-generation super soldier taken from the top ranks of Spec Ops fighters.

The Infinity doubles as both a ship and tactical training ground. Multiplayer modes in the Infinity take place on the combat deck, an area capable of replicating any known environment for the Spartans to battle it out in as they increase their skill.

Players begin as low-level recruits, building experience and progressing through the ranks. Playing earns gamers Spartan points, which can be used as in-game currency to purchase items to place in one’s loadouts. As one moves up in the ranks and collects more points, weapons, armor, abilities, and modifications will be unlocked and available for use in battle. Through this, players will be able to create their own custom class of soldier to fit their needs.

Of course, classic multiplayer modes will be made available through the combat deck, including the return of Red vs. Blue.

Where 343’s multiplayer design becomes interesting is in Spartan Ops, a secondary multiplayer mode that almost doubles as a separate campaign.

Spartan Ops will consist of stepping off the Inifinity and tackling missions with up to four players in a cooperative campaign. Said to rival the single player mode of Halo 4 in both size and scope, Spartan Ops will consist of weekly episodic chapters detailing the story your Spartan IV moves through, along with five unique objective-based missions taking place in different environments throughout the galaxy. Missions will reward players with Spartan points to continue to upgrade their character, and players will have to work together to successfully complete the objectives.

Through this new mode, complete with episodic cinematics, difficulty levels and a completely separate storyline from Halo 4, 343 Industries is trying to create a story-driven cooperative campaign unlike any other. New episodes will be released each week for several months, and missions have infinite replayability.

If successful, 343 would add to Halo’s long-standing legacy of creative and interesting multiplayer design. And in a game market where multiplayer too often feels out of place or “thrown together”, the idea of integrating a uniqe, stand-alone storyline with cooperative missions shows that creativity in multiplayer is possible. Even the matches on the Infinity make sense from a training perspective, and the Infinity will cross over into the single player campaign, tying it all together with a neat little bow of continuation.

It should be noted that the weekly multiplayer episodes and missions are not separate DLC packs; they come as part of the complete Halo 4 package. Meaning that, for your money, you essentially get two games with two different storylines and styles of gameplay. The idea of combining two different experiences in one unlocks some major potential for the future of gameplay, and this innovative use of multiplayer could easily extend the life of the game as it keeps players locked in for more. Hopefully this not only makes Halo 4 great, but also makes other developers take notice and start to integrate some of these same ideas into their own games to make multiplayer just as immersive and memorable as their carefully-designed single player counterparts.