After announcing Halo 4 last June, Microsoft and 343 Industries have begun talking about Master Chief's next adventure in earnest. On the story side, they're promising a darker narrative that explores the Chief's motivations and personal qualities. In terms of multiplayer, well, there's a lot more news to digest. Among the highlights are a deeper progression system that goes beyond Reach's cosmetic unlocks--what 343 is calling a "story wrapper" around the multiplayer action, and the promise that none of the maps will be recycled from the campaign. Have a look at the video below to get the full picture:
While 343 certainly has some big shoes to fill after taking over the series from Bungie, a number of Halo fans were turned off by Bungie's work on the multiplayer in Halo: Reach. Among those diehard Halo fans is pro gamer Tom "Tsquared" Taylor. After making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year playing Halo titles on the MLG circuit, Taylor has found himself questioning the future of the franchise he built his professional career on over the years. We talked to Taylor about what he'd like to see out of Halo 4's multiplayer in order to bring his love for the franchise back to its former levels.
Skill-based matchmaking and a return to clans
When it comes to matchmaking, there are two things Taylor wants to see in Halo 4: a return to 1-50 skill rankings across all match types and a proper clan system. "When you remove skill rankings, you get these people who have never played a certain playlist going against people who have played it 200 times," says Taylor. "They do that to improve the time barrier, but I would much rather wait around for a quality Halo match."
Taylor doesn't necessarily have a problem with rankings based on experience points, which reflect time spent with the game rather than one's skill level. In fact, he thinks the two systems can work side by side. "If they can find a balance between the two, that would be great. There's nothing wrong with giving the experienced players a shot to play with the skilled players," he says. Just make sure skill level bears the brunt of the matchmaking work.
As for clans, Taylor sees those as an invaluable tool for hardcore players to keep their competitive and personal lives organized online. "Clans are a way for you to have an additional friends list," says Taylor. "You can only have 100 friends on Xbox Live, and some of them are your real friends that you play with casually. But with a clan you can get on Halo, and boom, there are all your Halo friends."
Bring back the wayward battle rifle
With this one, Taylor is in luck. He wants to see the old battle rifle make a return minus any reticle "bloom" causing the weapon to become inaccurate in long bursts--and that's just what 343 has promised for Halo 4.
However, Taylor can see a compromise between the battle rifle of old and Halo 4's approach to gameplay-changing unlockable items. That is to say, he wouldn't mind doing away with bloom if it meant having to unlock a certain weapon attachment first. According to Taylor, such a system "would give an introduction to the game and a reason to get good at it."
More original maps, more often
Taylor is happy to hear that 343 won't be sharing environments across the story and multiplayer campaigns like in Halo: Reach. "That gives me a lot of confidence," says Taylor. "I don't think there were a lot of great Halo: Reach maps. When I think 'great,' I would go with Zealot. That was the only one that was absolutely amazing."
But Taylor would also like to see 343 hit the ground running with new map offerings beyond what's on the disc. "That's always something that Halo has done really well, but they just came short with the Forge system," says Taylor. "They thought that Forge was going to overtake everything and produce a lot of maps, but it didn't. And it took a little longer than expected for Reach's maps to come out."
Get more people involved in Forge
If you read that last item and assumed Taylor dislikes the Forge system, you'd be wrong. He's actually a tremendous fan of some of the original maps that have come from Forge, but wants to see players given better tools for making maps and a better system for those maps to really catch on. Provided 343 winds up bringing Forge back (they haven't confirmed one way or the other yet), his first wish is a simple one: let players create maps that aren't so drab. "There's no paint tool in Forge, yet the colors are so vibrant in the game as you can see with other maps. When you go back and talk to your friends who have barely played Halo, they're like, 'Oh, I love that one map with the sand.' But there are no maps like that with Forge. They're all gray."
Taylor believes better creation tools will allow for more creativity and, thus, attract more people to create maps. "It's a pretty small community, but there are people dedicating hours and hours to building these maps. Because it's not easy if you've ever tried to build one. I just wish there was a little more incentive to build these maps. If they fix the coloring problem, and add snow or sand or other attributes, I think that would be amazing."
Lose the armor abilities, but keep the custom loadouts
Taylor enjoyed what Halo: Reach's armor abilities brought to the story campaign but thought certain abilities were too unpredictable and unbalanced in a multiplayer setting. "I liked the jetpack a lot. The evade was a little too much. So was sprint. And nothing was more frustrating than armor lock," remarks Taylor. "When you add those to your playlist, you're telling everyone that's how you want your game to be played. And that's not fun."
That doesn't mean Taylor wants to see custom loadouts done away with entirely. Halo 4 will give players the chance to earn new weapons and abilities with a progression system similar to Call of Duty, and Taylor is confident 343 can build such a system without throwing off the balance between new and veteran players. "Halo has always been about balance. Halo: Reach had some really great ideas, but it just fell short on a couple of them."