2. This Is Not A Side Project
Let’s face it, Halo 3: ODST and even Halo: Reach were just gap-fillers in comparison to what 343i is working on (Halo Wars is different). As Bungie were left without O’Connor – the connoisseur of the franchise – they had to work away from the main storyline in the Halo universe. Other than exploring other narrative threads, it seemed Bungie wanted to make Halo more of a ‘modern’ (warfare) shooter and an effort was made to ‘spice up’ the Halo multiplayer experience with a number of experiments.
These came in the form of Firefight Mode, armor abilities, and armor customisation by means of trading credits in the multiplayer. These new features were merely borrowed elements from other popular games rather than meaningful additions to the series. Many fans have called out “betrayal” as a reaction to these additions, as they depart from that particular ‘feeling’ that Halo became associated with. Instead, Halo has gradually become more and more similar to the likes of Call of Duty and Gears of War. Bungie had to garner interest in the games if Master Chief was not in it, and what better way to do it than use old, yet popular ideas. Consequently, the franchise has become dour and has lost some of its credibility amongst die-hard fans.
Looking back, it may even be a good thing that Bungie gave up the franchise when they did, they were certainly losing their touch. When Halo: Combat Evolved first came out, it was quickly noticed for innovating inside the FPS genre. It introduced the idea of regenerating health (although it is technically a shield) in the FPS genre – this is now the standard in most shooters. Halo also brought about a change in weapon management in the genre – having only two weapons at a time meant the player had to actually make choices in the battlefield: which weapon do I take? Which two weapons are best suited to the current enemy? These were common questions the player had to answer. The ability to throw grenades and melee without having to swap them for a grenade was another innovation that changed the FPS multiplayer in particular. Multiplayer matches and the typical Deathmatch became much more tactical as players were granted the ability to be more adept at hunting each other down with three different modes of attack immediately to hand.
O’Connor has said he wants Halo 4 to return the magic that Combat Evolved was able to bring to the player. As this is almost a reboot of the series, and O’Connor has a whole new team with fresh ideas to bring to the mix, we anticipate that Halo 4 will bring about some of those genre-changing innovations and grand set-pieces that the series was originally noted for. Still, the problem with sequels is that they cannot go too far away from the original design in fear of upsetting fans – let’s hope 343i have some clever tricks up their sleeve.
1. Forward Unto Dawn
Halo 4 is going to be the start of a whole new trilogy. The end of Halo 3 saw the demise of the Flood, Master Chief was considered dead to the inhabitants of Earth, and the remains of the frigate, Forward Unto Dawn (in which he and Cortana ended up), were floating towards an unknown planet. The original storyline has been seemingly concluded, with no ties to the past left to clear up. This gives 343i a lot of room to bring forth the new, the shiny, and the fantastic. That potentially means new locations, characters, enemies, technology – everything! Of course, we do not expect this new trilogy to depart from the characteristics of the series too much, and after all, we are still following what can be considered the two main protagonists in the franchise. However, many of the core aspects of the original trilogy have no reason to be carried over necessarily.
Early speculation predicts that the Chief will land on a nearby planet, stumble across more Forerunner culture or technology and the storyline will take off from there. Further speculation has been pondering whether the planet that Chief is approaching is Onyx - it seems likely but no one can truly predict that yet. More exciting is the prospect of brand new enemies: it is unlikely that the Covenant will return, and it has to be impossible for the Flood to get a look in. Some people were growing weary of the parasitic infestation, but they can rest with ease, knowing that the Flood and the Gravemind are dead. Once again, fan speculation predicts an encounter with the Precursors and/or the Prisoner of Chakrum Hakkor. While this could be an interesting story arc, more brand new enemies are still very much needed.
Of course, another aspect that makes the Halo series so memorable is the colourful array of weapons and equipment available to the player. Plenty of new guns, gadgets and vehicles are expected - although some of us would be happy just with the return of the BR in all honesty. O'Connor hinted that some new ideas can be seen in the teaser trailer and indeed it is possible to see that Chief's armor has been tweaked along with his standard pistol at least. Whether Reach’s adherence to the modern shooter, with features like ‘reticule bloom’ and armor abilities, will remain is still a mystery. However, it is a mystery that we would like solved, and, as we are traditionalists when it comes to Halo, we would rather do away with said features.
Ultimately, we have absolutely no idea where Master Chief is headed, and that is a very good thing considering that the series was starting to get old and beginning to repeat itself when it was not being grafted with unnecessary additions. The only glimmer of information regarding Halo 4 is set to be revealed at Halofest in August, as well as hidden within the familiar walls of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. 343 Guilty Spark, lead the way!