Where Next for Halo?

Published on November 14th, 2013

We speculate what lies ahead for Master Chief…

With the Xbox One set to in a matter of days, the Internet is rife with speculation about how Microsoft’s new console will treat the Xbox 360’s most cherished franchises. We know what’s happening with Forza and Dead Rising, but what about Microsoft’s biggest interactive trump card, Halo? We asked long-time fan Joe Robinson where he thinks the series is going and his answers didn’t disappoint. Spoilers ahead…

Where Next for Halo?

Will Master Chief's armour change when he arrives on Xbox One? We wouldn't be surprised.

I once heard an interesting story about Halo. After Combat Evolved was released, certain people key to its creation left to go on to other things. When they did they took the secrets of the Halo universe with them, which, so I was told, explains why the series was a bit direction-less in terms of the big picture. Certainly, Halo 2 wasn’t really all there as far as the plot went (And that’s not to mention all of the cut content), and Halo 3’s focus on the Chief and Cortana ignored all of the mystery and majesty of the universe in favour of a love story. It also rather hurriedly tied up as many lose ends as it could, leaving a lot of the larger questions unanswered.

Direction-less or not though, the series has done incredibly well for itself. Halo releases consistently get respectable sales – not the levels of Call of Duty or GTA perhaps, but it’s a very strong first-party franchise nonetheless. Its importance to Microsoft cannot be understated, as the franchise has been there with the Xbox division almost from the beginning. Combat Evolved helped the original Xbox gain momentum, and Halo 2’s release with Xbox Live revolutionised how game companies approached multiplayer on the home console. Halo 3, while not an Xbox 360 launch title, probably inspired many a sale of that new console simply by being announced. Now that Bungie is gone, Microsoft will want to take this franchise as far as it can, but what does that mean?

Looking forward, we’ve already had a glimpse of what’s to come. At Microsoft’s E3 2013 press conference they showed a teaser trailer for a new Halo game, exclusive to their upcoming next-gen platform, the Xbox One. Being such a key pillar of their first-party strategy, it would have been more of a surprise if the company hadn’t talked about the game. Microsoft Game Studios Corporate Vice President, Phil Spencer, even said that having someone come out and talk about Halo was ‘important’, even though the trailer raised more than a few questions. Is this going to be Halo 5? Will there be more Halo games on the Xbox 360? Why was the Chief wearing a cloak anyway?

Where Next for Halo?

had such potential, and then this ship arrived...

Spencer’s comments in the days following that E3 conference revealed much. For one, it’s important to realise that the ‘Reclaimer Trilogy’ as it was originally announced when they first revealed Halo 4, is no longer a trilogy – it’s a ‘saga’. While I can’t say I saw this coming, in light of Halo 4, it’s not hard to see how they came to make that decision. 343 Industries’ first proper release post-Bungie, while being a bit of a blockbuster spectacle, didn’t really start anything, apart from laying the ground work for the series to continue almost with a blank slate.

Halo 4 introduced many new facets to the Chief’s universe: new enemies in the Prometheans, new supporting characters, new Spartans, new worlds and realities – the UNSC is no longer fighting for its survival, it’s taking its rightful place in the Galaxy as the new ‘superpower’. This theme could fuel any number of titles, and with so much of the universe unexplored and unknown, Halo could well become the Star Trek of videogames if pushed in such a direction. With Cortana gone as well, there’s space for a new companion to emerge, and that could come with any number of new sub-plots to reinforce the emotional side of the Chief’s character.

It’s a shame really, because Halo 4 had so much potential that was wasted – The Didact and his plan to wipe out humanity, Cortana’s ever-increasing rampancy, the fact that the Master Chief was still technically lost in space… all of this could have easily spanned three games, but instead they tried to cram it all into one painfully short campaign. Like we said though, the stage is set and the sky’s the limit. Even on the multiplayer side of things, despite an arguably poor execution this time around, Halo is still trying to position itself as the new king of online console gaming. Spartan Ops, as an idea, was actually quite excellent – an episodic co-op experience that had the production values of a TV show. The missions themselves though were actually pretty dull and repetitive, so that needs to be worked on. If they can get this right though, then the Spartan Ops formula could win back Halo’s rightful crown as the co-op game of choice, and even be the next ‘big thing’.

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