343 has confirmed that Halo's beloved Skull multiplayer modifiers have gone the way of the Dodo, for the sake of the new weapon and gear levelling system. Speaking to OXM at E3, lead multiplayer designer Kevin Franklin also shed a little more light on the game's multiplayer scoring system. In brief, this is the first Halo game where you'll score points for making a bloody spectacle of yourself.
Well, that's what I'm calling the new "distract assist", of which you'll read more in a mo. But what's all this talk of Skulls? "No, we've moved away from that," Franklin stated. "We're looking at the Infinity experience very specifically as a new one."
"The only way to make things work across all the nodes to your progression, like if you're playing with or without your friends you're still earning the same armour and experience points and levelling up the same character - to get that shared progression we really needed to unite the different experiences. So we went in a different direction which we're really happy with."
First glimpsed in Halo campaigns, Skulls later appeared in Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach's Firefight modes, allowing players to alter the odds for the purposes of masochism or humour. Halo 4 lacks a Firefight mode, but does offer an extensive Spartan Ops co-ops component that's designed to scratch a similar itch. We're still waiting to hear whether the campaign will feature Skulls.
The game's competitive modes take place on the deck of the aforesaid Infinity, a hyper-advanced UNSC starship. Its co-op component sees Infinity crewmates venturing out on planetside missions. The idea in both cases, we're told, is to give multiplayer a sense of permanence and narrative logic.
And what of these new Assists? Well, 343 wants to foster the sort of mutual gain mentality that governs Battlefield 3, with its roster of rewards for supporting actions. Thus, "if you're running and an enemy starts stars shooting at you, but gets killed by a teammate because he was distracted by you, you're rewarded for distracting the enemy.
"This came straight from players in our feedback sessions who felt they should have been rewarded for that. There are all sorts of assists. For instance, the King assist in Regicide is the first ever assist in a free-for-all game, so even though you're all playing against each other, we'll still give you an assist for helping kill the score-leader, even if you kill the other player a few seconds later.
"All of these things wrap up into our assist spree so you can get a Wingman spree. We found lots of ways to reward players for doing things other than kills. We're really stoked to show off our objective games because that'll come through even more."
We'll add all this to our list of ways Halo 4 multiplayer isn't the Halo you remember.