New multiplayer modes and a vastly improved level editor were revealed for the first time for “Halo: Reach,” the latest game for the Xbox 360 from Bungie Studios, during a panel focusing on the hotly-anticipated game at Comic-Con International in San Diego. An awed crowd cheered as Bungie representatives played a live demo of Versus Firefight and showed off the capabilities of the massive editable map Forgeworld.
Moderated by community manager Brian “Sketch” Jarrad, the panel included developer Chad “Shishka” Armstrong, multiplayer producer David Allen, and multiplayer design lead Lars “Insane Vader Guy” Bakken.
The panel opened with the “Halo: Reach” title screen displayed on the big screen, with the music playing in the background. The crowd began to get antsy, cheering and hollering for the panel to start.
“Wow,” Jarrad said. “What an easy crowd. ‘Halo: Reach,’ I don’t know if you guys have heard of it, but it’s a big thing.”
From there, Jarrad went into explaining Versus Firefight. Firefight was a cooperative multiplayer mode first introduced in the last game in the series, “Halo: ODST.” Players would team up to fight off wave after wave of computer-controlled enemies.
“Rather than what we did in ‘ODST,’ we’re going to let players get their hands dirty and customize their own experience.”
From there, Bakken took over the podium, starting up the actual game. The crowd went crazy as every new menu screen was displayed. Various new pre-set modes were shown, including Generator Defense, where there are hard point objects to defend, and Gruntopacalypse, where the enemies are “all grunts, all the time, aim for the face.”
Players can create their own Firefight scenarios using a detailed set of menu options, setting everything from whether drop ships are used or not, to the makeups of the waves of enemies.
“Whatever you want to do, it’s completely customizable,” Bakken said.
From there, he went on to Versus Firefight.
“We thought, ‘what if you get to play from the Covenant’s perspective,'” he said to a cheering crowd. The game began, with Bakken controlling a Covenant strike team, and Armstrong controlling a Spartan.
“Pwn him!” was shouted from the crowd.
Bakken used the battle to show off a few new combat features. When players use the plasma sword, kills activate assassination scenes where the camera pulls back to third person perspective to show a cinematic kill scene. Also new is holographic armor, with which players can leave holographic decoys of themselves to fool the enemy.
Bakken also hyped up the release of a new vehicle. As the crowd started cheering, he revealed… a forklift. Which, as he joked, can lift forks. “It beeps when it backs up.”
Armstrong took over the panel to introduce Forge World, the new version of “Halo’s” earlier map editor, Forge. Previously, it had been revealed that the classic “Halo” map, Blood Gulch, would be returning to the game, except now called Hemorrhage. The map was shown, looking very familiar, like a higher-resolution version of the original map.
“Welcome back,” he said as the crowd cheered. Armstrong began showing just how modifiable the map was, taking the now-iconinc Blue Base and turning it green, before deleting sections of it.
“I’ve talked enough about Blood Gulch, should we finally go beyond the canyon?” Armstrong asked. “So what’s beyond the canyon? The majority of the map.”
Flying his Falcon airship, Armstrong flew over the canyon walls, revealing an enormous map with a variety of key locations, including waterfalls, an island, smaller, walled off areas and even a hanger carved out of the wall of a sheer cliff face, called the Coliseum, perfect for the user-created game Grifball. Forge World started as five separate maps, but was combined into one giant map for a massive editable multiplayer experience.
After showing off the scale of the world, Armstrong began to demonstrate just how editable the map was and how much easier it was than in previous version of “Halo.”
“Half the stuff you do is actually agonizing to do in ‘Halo’ through Forge,” he said. “Our goal is to make it easier. Now, when I place a piece, it stays put.”
Armstrong began cycling through the library of editable items.
“Twenty four people in this room just wet themselves,” he said.
The new Forge editor allows players to place objects in their worlds in three different ways. In normal mode, objects drop where you place them with realistic physics. Fixed mode allows players to place an object in fixed space, allowing for aerial platforms or barriers. Phased mode turns objects intangible while placing them, but solid after placed, allowing gamers to create fortresses built out of cliff sides, giant walls, or just combine random objects, creating new structures for their world. The ability to place objects has also been increased, with more sensitive and intuitive controls, so tapping on a controller stick doesn’t send an object spiraling off into space.
“I kind of feel sorry for anyone just walking in – when did ‘Halo’ turn into Legos?”Armstrong joked.
There are a huge array of other features, from toys, including a golf club that acts like a gravity hammer, to visual features, like making everything black and white, or scratched and sepia-toned like an old film. Also available are everything from jump pads and teleporters to visual cues like flashing lights.
“It’s very important to us that Forge is being used,” Armstrong said. “We saw what people were doing with it before, and I don’t just mean the maps, but the art and all the crazy things people were doing with it.”
Also announced at the panel was a new “Halo: Reach” edition of the Xbox 360, with custom art on the console, as well as custom controllers. One of the panel attendees was selected as a “Halo” super fan and received an early edition of the new console.