A new, and potentially game-changing, piece of information has just been released for Halo 4 that is sure to prolong the shelf life of 343 Industries first opus well into 2013. This new feature, called specializations, give players incentives to keep plugging away on the multiplayer battlefields long after they’ve ranked up their Spartan IV dozens of times.
Specializations are essentially new ways for players to improve their Spartan — make them more stealthy, harder to kill, or allow them to level faster. Each has a different name and unlockable armor and color set (10 levels in all), and only two will be unlockable at launch. If you purchase the Limited Edition of Halo 4, however, you’ll have access to all eight without any waiting.
The first specialization (one of the two unlocked at launch) is called Wetworks and significantly boosts the player’s ability to play stealthily. Footsteps will be dampened when sprinting, and the new Promethean Vision ability (which allows players to see through walls for a brief amount of time) will only reveal an outline rather than an entire image.
Assassinations will also be much faster for the Wetworks specialist, leaving them vulnerable to attack for a shorter period of time. It’s not all stealth, though; the player will still show up on radar.
Pioneer is the other Specialization unlocked at launch, and will help players level up faster than most. Spartan Ops Designer David Ellis is well aware that players will use Pioneer in the hopes of leveling other facets of their gameplay, but he explains that its only when Pioneer is active that the faster accumulation of XP takes place.
The Engineer Specialization marks the first that will be available after Halo 4 launches in November. Ellis gave no timeline, but the Engineer’s ability to track weapon drops and be alerted to them earlier than other players seems like a pretty important advantage.
As we’ve detailed before, players will have access to the rare weapons in Halo 4 via drops. They won’t just be strategically placed around the map, and respawn once depleted. Having the Engineer or the next specialization will help keep you well equipped for battle.
The Tracker specialization is almost like a compliment to the Engineer in that they can swap out the items contained within a drop to better suit their play style. Think of it like the Pro version of a Call of Duty perk where the player can roll the dice in the hopes of getting a better weapon.
Perhaps the most useful specialization is the Rogue mod, which significantly increases stability when aiming. In past Halo games, Bungie had created this feature that when the player was hit they would be popped out of their zoom, but that is not necessarily the case with a Rogue.
Firing from the hip, though, is not affected by the mod — your bullets will still spray all over the place.
Another specialization that feels heavily informed by Call of Duty is the Stalker, who has the ability to track the last person that killed them on the HUD. They say that revenge is a dish best served cold, and players that pack this mod will be able to serve it up regularly.
For the player that loves their vehicle weapons and turrets is the Pathfinder specialization, which reduces the cool down on vehicle weapons and allows the player to move faster when carrying a detached turret. In past Halo games, or at least the ones that allowed for emplacements to detach, that player has been at a disadvantage in their movement, but advantage in their offense. Now there’s no worry about lack of movement, at least with the Pathfinder’s mod on.
And finally is the Operator specialization, which is for all the vehicle drivers out there. The Operator’s mod allows the player greater resistance to the EMP blast of a plasma pistol, greatly lowering the chance the Warthog loses juice, and allows them to recharge a vehicle’s armor in an out of conflicts.
Ellis also explains that players will be rewarded for driving well and getting assists.
It’s still unclear how exactly these specializations will come into play in Halo 4 — how they will level up, whether they can be combined — but at least we have a closer examination of the elements 343 Industries is putting into the game to help it stand out from Bungie’s work on the franchise. It’s a lot to take in right now, but very soon players will be able to better understand the specializations, and use them to better their gameplay.
Which of the specializations are you most likely to use? Do you like the addition of mods like these to help improve player performance?
Halo 4 releases November 6, 2012 for the Xbox 360.