The Halo Bulletin: 8.15.12
by bs angel
15. August 2012 22:00
It's getting hot in herre
The temperature outside is 80 some-odd degrees today, and the temperature inside is similarly balmy. Between the sun beating down on our studio and the hot pockets of air generated from thousands of machines that rarely reach a sleeping state, our working conditions have reached a near sauna-like level. The scorching days and sweltering nights are not slowing us down, though. The audio team is one week away from having content in across the board, cinematics is nearly polish-complete, and we're continuing to push hard toward ZBR.
At this stage of the game (pun totally intended), playtests tend to become slightly more compartmentalized. The time for significant changes and alterations has passed, and tweaking and fine-tuning has moved front and center as we focus on finalizing each individual component that comprises the totality of the Halo 4 sandbox.
Halo has a history of evolving with every iteration in the franchise. Keeping the essence of Halo while building upon that foundation requires a thoughtful and deliberate hand, and we've worked hard to craft an experience that consists of not only fan favorites, but also new features that deliver a fun and satisfying gameplay experience. One of those new features is Specializations. Specializations were originally revealed in the announcement of the Halo 4 Limited Edition, but details were sparse. So, it's time to dig a bit deeper into this particular aspect of the game.
WARNING: Numerous words and images inbound...
Halo 4 Specializations
The UNSC Infinity, the largest starship in the UNSC fleet, is your gateway to the Infinity Multiplayer experience in Halo 4 and serves as the center of your Spartan career. Here you will build your custom Spartan-IV super-soldier, and progress your multiplayer career across both Spartan Ops and the multitude of competitive War Games modes.
Halo 4 has fifty levels. Once you have advanced through the standard fifty levels, you will get the option to enlist in a Specialization. You can choose the order in which you tackle unlocked Specializations. However once you select one, you must advance through it completely before enlisting in a separate Specialization.
Specializations allow you to enlist in specific rank paths. These paths are composed of ten levels each. As you level up through these dedicated paths, you will unlock armor sets, emblems, visor colors, weapon and armor skins, and armor mods - which provide even more options to customize your Spartan-IV to fit your preferred role on the battlefield.
These armor mods will work exactly like all other tactical and support mods in the game. They are not tied to specific armor for each Specialization, so you don't have to wear the armor to use that particular mod. They enhance a small part of the sandbox (meaning good players will still be good, and not good players will still be not good), allowing people to play the style they want to play and experience the parts of the sandbox they like on a more frequent basis.
We consider Specializations end-game content because even if you have "access" to all of them on day one, you will still need to reach level 50 before you can enlist in any Specializations. Think of them as giving you control over extending your level cap.
Two Specializations - Wetwork and Pioneer - will be available to all players when the game launches, and the rest will gradually be made available in the months following launch. We will be keeping a close watch on player participation post-launch and will roll out the additional six Specializations when the player base reaches certain milestones. There will also be playlists available that do not utilize loadouts or armor mods.
Halo 4 features the following Specializations:
Wetwork Specialization: Spartan optimization for stealth operations which focus on the elimination of an enemy target with the goal of leaving no tactical footprint behind.
Stealth Armor Mod: The Stealth armor allows users to move quickly and silently in combat, executing enemy assassinations with lightning fast dexterity.
The Stealth armor mod - which has very sharp shapes and angles, reminiscent of a knife or blade - does a number of things to help a player that likes to get up close and personal. It adds sound dampening when sprinting, animations are performed faster (to minimize the time you're vulnerable), and it has a minor effect on Promethean Vision. Typically, when Promethean Vision is activated, people appear red. When you use Stealth, though, only your outline appears red. Many times when someone is using Promethean Vision, they scan quickly so if there's a lot going on, they may miss you. Or you can hope, anyway.
Pioneer Specialization: Spartan optimization for deployment into uncharted, hostile territory (such as uncolonized worlds or Forerunner constructs like Requiem) for the purpose of gathering/relaying information.
Fast Track Armor Mod: The Fast Track armor mod allows Spartans to gain more experiential data from each encounter, effectively ranking up quicker during the process.
The Fast Track armor mod features armor that has wiring which runs throughout the armor to control temperatures in extreme conditions. Gameplay-wise, it gives the player more post-game experience. In-game, if you get 10 points per kill, you don't get more at that exact moment, but after the game it modifies the amount of experience your Spartan earns to increase the speed at which you rank up. It's not for everybody because it takes up a primary spot (that could be used for something like carrying an extra grenade or sprinting longer). And, in case you were wondering, you can't change to it at the end of a game and get more experience for the entire match. Yes, we're on to you...
Engineer Specialization: Spartan optimization for the subversion, repair and reconstitution of a wide range of technology, including Covenant and Forerunner complex networks.
Drop Recon Armor Mod: Armor mod allows users to predict the location and time of an Ordnance Drop through an external suborbital monitoring system.
The Drop Recon armor mod - the helmet of which has four socket connections for add-ons, depending on the task - lets you know that Infinity Ordnance is coming and what the Infinity Ordnance is. You see the waypoint and type of weapon that is coming down prior to the weapon entering the game (the specific time is still being fine-tuned). Organized teams will find this armor mod useful because, with communication, there is the likelihood you can beat everybody to the weapon spawns your team finds most desirable.
Tracker Specialization: Spartan optimization for long-range target tracking (trans-continent and off-world), particularly in scenarios where conventional tracking has failed or such a substantial time has passed that the trail has gone cold.
Requisition Armor Mod: The Requisition armor mod allows users the ability to recall their own ordnance requests in order to acquire more helpful weapons in the field.
The Requisition armor mod - the helmet of which has a scanning device on the front of the visor - allows you to choose a new set of personal ordnance when personal ordnance is granted. When the menu for a personal ordnance appears on your screen, hitting left, down, or right on the D-pad selects the relevant option. When you have Requisition and hit "up", you receive a new random selection of choices. This armor mod doesn't have knowledge of what ordnance had previously, so while you're not guaranteed better choices, you're more likely to get the weapon you're good with or your favorite power-up, if you didn't get it the first time around.
Rogue Specialization: Spartan optimization for single-operative missions which require a lone Spartan to be deployed on their own for incredibly long durations of time, even years if required.
Stability Armor Mod: The Stability armor mod allows users to increase their aiming stability when being fired upon.
The Stability armor mod - which features several sharp fin elements and sharp angles - makes you flinch less when you're zoomed in and getting hit. It will be valuable to players that prefer using precision weapons and often find themselves engaged in long-range battles. If two similarly skilled players, both with DMRs and using scopes go head-to-head, the person using Stability has a small advantage. Skill and steady hands will still win the day but Stability allows you to keep your aim on target when facing multiple bullet strikes. Similarly, the player with DMR and Stability will have a larger advantage over a player with AR at long range. But (and yes, there's always a "but") the player they're fighting may have made a choice for a different mod in that slot, which may come into play with an additional grenade or something else. Victory is never guaranteed...
Stalker Specialization: Spartan optimization for target shadowing missions which require tactical invisibility despite operating at an extremely close range to the target itself.
Nemesis Armor Mod: The Nemesis armor mod allows users to target and track down previous attacking enemies, highlighting them on the armor's passive sensors.
Nemesis armor - which features lines that are both strong and stealthy - gives you an icon on your HUD of the last person that killed you. While some people utilize it to get revenge, others use it to avoid that person (for obvious reasons). It's also useful when playing defense for seeing where an offensive player is going. On maps with limited visibility, Nemesis can provide a short window of intelligence in the movement of enemy players or teams, allowing a respawning team to react and steal a match. In play testing, we've seen players trusting the extra information implicitly and falling for feints or being target fixated with the extra information and being lured into unfavorable situations. As with everything in Halo, this upgrade allows you to tailor your play to your style but remember that the enemy team is aware of the ability and will be countering and often using it or another option to tip the scales back in their favor.
Pathfinder Specialization: Spartan optimization for deep, unconventional deployment within unknown enemy territory and with little to no assistance from command.
Gunner Armor Mod: The Gunner armor mod decreases the time of weapon overheat when occupying a vehicle weapon position and increases Spartan speed while carrying a detached turret.
The Gunner armor mod - which was designed to explore alien worlds - has two major functions: One, when you're on a mounted anti-infantry gun (Warthog and the secondaries of Wraith, Scorpion, etc.), the guns overheat less quickly, allowing you to fire longer at the maximum rate of fire. And two, when you pull the gun off an emplaced mount, you move faster, allowing you to use those guns more effectively offensively instead of just defensively. You still won't be able to use Armor Abilities or Sprint, but you can move faster, bringing some heavy firepower to any offensive attack.
Operator Specialization: Spartan optimization for the operation and control of a wide-range of vehicles; space, air, ground, and sea.
Wheelman Armor Mod: The Wheelman armor mod gives Spartans the skill to coax every bit of stamina and durability out of vehicles they are piloting.
Wheelman armor - which features cylinder packs that could be preplaced with more oxygen or cooling material depending on the mission - makes you suffer the negative effects of an overcharged Plasma Pistol burst for less than the normal time. Vehicles you drive are also more durable over a longer period of time. You can still get hijacked, but the window for that is smaller.
Some players will select their Specialization based on weakness, trying to make up for a skill-based deficiency. Others will select their Specialization based on strength, hoping to turn close games into more solid victories. Whichever path you choose to take, you should make a meaningful decision for your play style, no matter what decisions others are making because, as you'll find out in a mere three months, it's all fun and games. Until your buddy takes your personal ordnance, that is...
Custom Challenge of the Week
Many people love Elites, some for the advantages that come from having quadruple-hinged jaws, others because they find virtual battles against split chins particularly satisfying. Regardless of which group you fall into, you'll probably get a kick out of this week's Custom Challenge of the Week.
To participate, set up a Custom Challenge with Elites as the type of kill. Assuming you're successful in your Covenant adventures, resulting kills will net you double the usual credit multiplier. This challenge will be active from now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.
Super Jackpot Weekend
If my calculations are correct (and they never are), we haven't missed a Super Jackpot weekend in at least four months. We don't plan on ruining that streak, so the tradition continues, this weekend with Firefight. That means that starting Friday and ending on Sunday, hopping into Anniversary Firefight or Firefight will present you with the chance of receiving a 27,000-credit bonus. I would say go get some, but I already know you will.
And that, my friends, wraps up yet another Halo Bulletin. I'll see you next week, when hopefully our weekly communication will be music to your ears. Until then...
P.S. As if there weren't enough images to choose from in this Bulletin, here is one more for you, in the form of your customary Friday Caption Fun picture. Embiggen, snag, and then hit the latest installment to contribute your witty quip. Off you go!