One of the most genuinely fun times we had on the PAX show floor this week was rubbing elbows with members of the Halo community while waiting in line to play the Halo 4 multiplayer that Microsoft had set up.  Some of these guys are a riot, talking about, “Man, I’m gonna kill someone with a flag!” or “Just wait till I shoot you in the face.”  The build-up to the forthcoming match is really something to laugh about – and then, of course, it gets down to business in the map itself.

Halo 4 multiplayer is coming along undoubtedly well, as 343 Industries has applied some interesting change-ups to the formula, while still keeping the action genuine enough that fans won’t feel alienated.  The company recently showed off its new Exile map, as well as some modifications to its Capture the Flag (CTF) mode.

First off, being a flag carrier no longer feels like it’s a complete burden.  You can actually run this time around, though people are still able to catch up to you.  In addition, flag carriers can now arm themselves with a smaller weapon as a way to keep people off their back, such as a Magnum.  It’s not as effective as an assault rifle, obviously, but it’s nice to have something that works on your behalf.

As one of our Halo cohorts pointed out, you can actually use the flag offensively as well.  343 Industries actually went as far as including a “Flagssassination”, which activates a little kill event where you can finish off someone with it.  Granted, this probably takes a bit of skill (you don’t want to run up to someone brandishing a powerful weapon shouting “YERRRGH!” – unless you’re crazy), but the satisfaction, and humiliation, might just be worth it to some.

Exile, as a map, is great.  It’s very similar to the Halo 3 Rat Race map, with a rounded course that features a wide assortment of vehicles to ride around in, including the Banshees, Ghosts and Scorpions, so there’s no shortage of opportunity to take someone down really good.  It runs really well and is quite detailed, with plenty of room to run around outside and, if needed, grab some cover.  Halo fans will feel right at home here.

The custom loadouts also deserve a mention.  343 did some tweaking in this department as well, adding everything like a Regeneration Field that both defensively shoots out an energy burst while healing you, and a Thruster Pack that gives you an advantage in the air, though it’s also easy for someone to shoot you out of it if they’re a crack shot.

Finally, during their panel, the Halo 4 team also announced that both Grifball and Oddball would be making a return to the game, and though we didn’t get a chance to play them, the changes sound quite promising.  In Oddball, if you’re the ball carrier, you’ll be able to brandish a weapon and, like the Flagssassination, take someone out with a well-timed death.  Grifball presents its own variety of weaponry as well, with everything from Gravity Hammers to Swords in a bid to score the most points on your opponents’ goal.  You know, like football, but more violent.

All of this sounds very cool for Halo fans, who were worried that 343 wouldn’t have “the chops” to match what Bungie’s done with the series before.  Relax, guys, it’s in good hands.

You can check out Halo 4 on the show floor today if you haven’t yet.  We highly suggest it.

Halo 4 drops November 6th on Xbox 360.