343 Industries has a new offering of Halo 4 screenshots, mostly revolving around the expansive, vehicle-happy "Meltdown" map. Meltdown reflects its name rather well, depicting a moon once encased in ice now undergoing a climate change, exposing much of its canyons and rocky terrain.
Here's a brief description:
While most Forerunner technology appears to support safe usage over immense passages of time, the failure of specific systems can cause a cascading effect which dramatically impacts a site’s foundational composition. This frigid moon’s icy conditions once served to control a Forerunner reactor’s intense heat, but those days are now long gone.
343i devs noted that they started out wanting to make a generously sized map that would suit both infantry and light vehicles. The ultimate design resembles a figure eight, but while this main path is suited to vehicles, plenty of smaller paths (such as caves) give players freedom to run around. Base interiors are also simpler.
The split environment, aside from looking pretty rad, also helps players differentiate where they're located, where they've spawned, and so on, despite the symmetrical design of the map. A further breakdown of the design:
Meltdown is built around a looping layout with upper and lower pathways. The lower path is focused on vehicles (which tend to run loops around the map and perform hit-and-run actions on enemies), and the upper path is focused on infantry (which tend to move across the light bridges into the center combat space and use cover to ambush enemy players or move around the cliff walls and fight at range from the high ground). Throughout the design process, our goal was to make infantry feel on equal footing to vehicles. This is where the tighter vehicle paths, plenty of cover and numerous foot paths come into play. With this in mind, we wanted a level that felt like a large vehicle map while staying the size of a medium infantry map. Unlike the normal large vehicle maps that are usually seen in Halo, the tighter vehicle paths and prevalent infantry areas make it much easier for the player to traverse on foot without feeling vulnerable to snipers and vehicles. It's also possible to run from one side of the map to the other within a short amount of time, similar to other medium-sized maps.
Despite how large it is and the whole "vehicle-heavy" thing, Meltdown doesn't spawn a Banshee by default. During matches, the UNSC Infinity will keep the map well-stocked with heavy weapons, however, like the Incineration Cannon, Scattershot, SAW, Fuel Rod Cannon, Rocket Launcher, and Sniper Rifle.
More screenshots of Meltdown can be seen after the break.
Above is the Mantis mech, a new kind of vehicle in Halo 4. 343i certainly had a challenge in front of them when it came to animating this thing, and coming up with proper visual cues for players to go by in combat. Its multiplayer and campaign iterations are also rather different, for the sake of balance.
During the balancing phase, we discovered players were having a hard time knowing if the Mantis was reloading or not from certain distances, because the silhouette remained the same. To address that issue, we decided that it needed some sort of visual feedback to show when the weapons were temporarily down. It was definitely interesting and challenging to decide how we could animate the arms without it sorting into itself at different torso rotations and pitches, or looking like a Jersey Shore fist pump. Once we got the animations down, we found that it was extremely useful to players on foot, because it visually conveys the windows of opportunity infantry has when the Mantis weapon systems are down.
Overall, it’s slightly similar to the Scorpion tank in terms of health and armor, but it trades firepower for maneuverability, allowing the Mantis to be more agile than the Scorpion when needed. Also like the Scorpion, it is capable of being boarded by enemies and EMPed by a Plasma Pistol charge. One notable difference is that the Mantis is capable of using its weight to deliver a devastating stomp to crush enemies in front of it by pressing the melee button. Time your stomp carefully though, and remember that it’s a risk reward. If you miss and or use it carelessly, you leave yourself open to being boarded.
Hit the source to check out the latest Halo Bulletin in full, and to read a little more about the design challenges behind Meltdown and the Mantis. Halo 4 will be out on November 6 for Xbox 360.