Every console has that one franchise; the franchise that isn’t just a series of games, but a defining part of the system itself. For the Xbox consoles that franchise is undeniably Halo. When Bungie created Halo, they didn’t just create one of the most popular FPS franchises of all time, they created one of the best FPS franchises of all time. Arguably one of the key factors behind the success of the Xbox systems, the Halo franchise has been going strong since it was conceived all of those years ago. Halo owes its success to Bungie and the fact that they always seemed to know what was right for the franchise. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and with Bungie moving on to pursue new ventures, the future of the Halo franchise now rests in the hands of the men and women over at 343 industries. Creating the true sequel to Halo 3 is a weighty task, and many must be wondering, are they equal to it?
So far it seems the answer to that question is a resounding yes. From what we have seen at this year’s E3, I can only conclude that the franchise is moving in the right direction. 343 are preserving what we all love about the Halo games. The multiplayer will still play in largely the same way as it has always done, and the campaign will still see you shoot, punch and drive your way to victory, but that’s a good thing. In gaming I’ve found that the saying ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ holds especially true. Change is good when it’s needed, but refinement is better when it isn’t.
What is new on the multiplayer front is that we will now have some context as to why we are running around flinging sticky grenades at each other. You see, on the UNSC Infinity there are a new batch of Spartans in training. During this training, they are pitted against each other in combat simulators, allowing them to participate in controlled, safe-ish combat. Essentially it’s Halo’s version of the X-Men’s Danger Room. Tying the multiplayer into the story is a first for the franchise and I am interested to see how far this idea will be developed over the already confirmed sequels.
On the campaign front things are looking great too. 343 seem to have improved on the prior instalments in almost every way imaginable. The gameplay is looking as tight as ever, there will of course be new guns and toys to play with, as well as new enemies to encounter (here’s hoping we’ve seen the last of the Flood), and a new story to get engrossed in. For me, though, the graphical improvement was the biggest and most impressive change; I don’t think I’ve quite got over those particle effects yet, and the cutscenes are looking outstanding. I know great graphics don’t make great games, but let’s be honest: they certainly help. So then, much like the plans of a certain team of lovable mercenaries, it seems that the plans of 343 industries are coming together rather nicely. It looks like it’s time to get excited.
If your appetite needs any further wetting, then check out this impressive live action trailer for Halo 4 entitled “Commissioning”, it kind of makes you want a Halo movie doesn’t it...