The Halo franchise is viewed highly by its fan base for many different reasons, and multiplayer may be the biggest one of them all. Gamers were treated to a brand new Halo 4 campaign trailer at Microsoft’s press conference earlier this week, and while it looked great, it didn’t cater to the desires of fans longing to obliterate friends and strangers online. At this year’s E3 we managed to score some hands-on time with Halo 4‘s multiplayer, and it was far from a disappointing venture.

After booting up the game, it became immediately obvious how much better the game looks than its predecessors. Halo 4‘s visuals have been given a noticeable overhaul, and the multiplayer is looking better than ever before. Explosions are impressive, the new suits of Spartan armor have a nice shine, and the levels are more vibrant than ever before. Audio has also been upgraded to provide players with more authentic atmosphere — although realistic sounding guns may be the least of fans worries when their character can leisurely jump 15 feet in the air.

There were a few control alterations. Crouching/teabagging is no longer performed by pressing down on the left analogue stick, but has instead been moved to the Xbox controller’s ‘B’ button. Clicking down on the left analogue now makes the player’s Spartan sprint; an option that is no longer an Armor Ability, but is now a standard gameplay mechanic amongst every player online.

The option to sprint whenever the player feels the need changes the overall speed of multiplayer matches significantly. Making the player faster makes the multiplayer faster as well, that much is obvious, but that’s far from a bad thing. Being able to dash away from enemy fire or charge into the heart of battle is a breath of fresh air for online multiplayer, and adds emphasis on the ‘fight or flight’ mentality that comes pre-installed in every human psyche.

Sprinting ahead of a trailing enemy and around a corner also sets up an opportunity to use a new weapon called the M363 Remote Projectile Detonator. This little gun seems rather puny at first, but after firing the gun off once its significance will immediately become apparent. The first shot taken with this weapon will send out a small explosive device, and it will stick to whatever it hits. After the explosive has been launched, all gamers have to do is pull the trigger one more time to set it off.

Getting the M363 weapon can be a challenge though, but the game is more than willing to give it to you. After decimating the competition (something I accomplished with relative ease), I was able to have munitions dropped off for me on the map. An icon will appear on the screen, seemingly at random during several points in the match, giving players an option between one of three drops. Two weapons (including the previously hyped M363) are available for deployment, but there’s also a third option that’ll drop an armor ability to run faster.

Halo 4 multiplyer hands-on preview

I had the opportunity to try out the Longbow and Wraparound multiplayer maps, and each was constructed with the player in mind. Wraparound is a smaller map that provides numerous sharp corners and escape routes in case you run into one or more members of the opposing side. Longbow, on the other hand, is a larger map that has several vehicles (including a Warthog, Ghost, and Mongoose), as well as buildings for players seeking shelter from the vehicular combat occuring outside. Each map looks great, and that’s thanks to the game’s new visuals.

Weapons will also randomly drop on the map throughout the game, and their presence will be marked on the screen. Rocket launchers, M363’s, and pretty much every other powerful weapons can appear on the map at any time, and it takes away the monotony of knowing which weapons are where — although some weapons can still be found just laying about the map.

If there were any concerns about 343 Industries taking over the franchise, then they can now be put to rest. Halo 4‘s multiplayer is better than it’s ever been before. With awesome multiplayer, a fantastic looking single-player campaign, and an additional episodic campaign called Spartan Ops, Halo 4 looks at this point to at least live up to the hype it’s currently generating here at E3 2012.

Halo 4 launches for the Xbox 360 on November 6th, 2012.

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