Microsoft announced a new Halo last week, but you might not hear much more about it if you live west of Saint Petersburg. Halo Online, a free-to-play shooter, is currently only planned for release in Russia, but that didn't stop curious fans from digging up the game files and taking a look at how it works in action. From what they've found so far, it looks like a main dish of Halo 3 with some noteworthy trimmings from the rest of the series.
Halo Online is being built on a modified version of the Halo 3 engine by Saber Interactive and Innova Systems, in part to allow the game to run on less-powerful PCs. As demonstrated in the gameplay video posted by YouTube user Noble below, that means it should be instantly familiar to fans of the 2007 shooter. You can also check out its official trailer.
There are a few differences, though. Much like Halo 4, Halo Online adds in a sprint ability, allowing players to get around on foot much more quickly than in Halo 3. Dashing will also let you clear some previously inaccessible jumps, changing up strategies for some familiar maps - don't get too much air, though, because Halo Online also implements falling damage.
Speaking of maps, Noble explored some faithful ports of Guardian and Val Halla, as well as a map resembling a desert version of Avalanche, and one that may be a snowy update of Halo 2's Turf. Placement of weapon pick-ups, vehicles, and objects like Man Cannons appear to be nearly identical to the originals. Notably, Halo Online maps don't appear to include any Equipment, replacing pick-ups for items like trip mines and bubble shields with more ammunition.
Keep in mind that all of this information was gleaned from a version of the game that isn't even meant to be playable by the public yet, and it's all subject to change before the closed beta begins in spring.
Microsoft has specified that if it ever releases Halo Online outside of Russia, it would "have to go through region-specific changes to address player expectations". Still, I'd expect more alterations to the business model than the actual experience of playing the game - Halo is Halo, but the money-making stuff layered on top (like microtransaction-powered weapon rentals) can be tricky. Unfortunately, it's tougher to explore that side of the equation from semi-functional gameplay snippets.