The Halo Effect

The first official screenshot of Halo.

When most gamers think about the Xbox and its successor, the Xbox 360, one of the first titles that comes to mind is Halo. Since the birth of the original Xbox there has always been a Halo title to fight our way through. This year marked the tenth anniversary of Halo:Combat Evolved and saw the re-release of the flagship title with brand spanking new graphics, limited Kinect functionality, and some reboots of various iconic multiplayer maps. This year also marked the changing of the guard as it were between Bungie (the original creators) and 343 Industries (the Microsoft Owned studio). When I first heard about the Halo franchise changing hands I felt very unsure whether or not this change was going to be a good thing.

Typically when franchises change hands, bad things happen.

 

The new company either feels that they cannot change anything and we get a clone of the previous title or they feel compelled to change everything and it loses that “something” that made the game in the first place. With the re-release of Halo: Combat Evolved or Halo:CE for brevity many of those concerns were put to rest and following the first tantalizing bits of footage we’re seeing from Halo 4 I cannot be any more happy that 343 has taken over control.

Long before this changeover happened, 343 was working to release additional content which expanded upon the Halo universe such as novelizations which expanded to be books telling entirely new stories from the Halo canon, several series of graphic novels which did the same, and Halo Legends a series of Animatrix Esque short films that continued to tell us more about the world we occupied while playing the games themselves. I’ll be the first to say that story was never a strong suit of the series it was good, but I always felt it could be better and 343 seems to agree.

 

The other good thing about 343 taking the reigns is that Microsoft created this studio solely for the  purpose to carry on the Halo franchise and is filled with people who love Halo as much as the fans playing the games and reading the books. This love shows in the detail put into the additional multiplayer maps all the way through the short video series constantly being added to Halo Waypoint, and now with what we’ve seen of Halo 4. The long missed battle rifle is making a triumphant return, multiplayer maps are going back to what made the original maps so much fun, and we’re finally being promised some character development of the Chief himself. The Master Chief is someone most of us grew up with, and now as the industry turns towards the idea of true character development and stories that are a bit more adult oriented we may finally learn more about this enigmatic character that we previously had to rely upon the novels to flesh out for us.

I’m in no way discrediting Bungie for the efforts they put into this franchise, but it was plain to see that the men and women who had lovingly crafted our Halo fix for ten years were ready to try something new for a change. Their swan song to the franchise came to us in the form of Halo: Reach and was an incredible game and one of the best Halo stories I’ve had the pleasure of playing through but in as many things as they did right they got as many wrong.

The gaming industry is an entirely different beast today as it was ten years, or even five years ago. We as gamers are steeped in incredible titles with first person shooters such as Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 all the way through to Skyrim and Mass Effect 3. The result of this is that it is difficult to get excited for another Halo title, or at least a Halo title which is more of the same. First impressions based on staff interviews and the footage we’re seeing makes me think we’re going to see the evolution of Halo while staying true to what makes Halo, Halo.

Change is never a bad thing, and I fully expect that 343 can and will get some things wrong as they learn to stand on their own two feet with Halo 4, but I also get the feeling we will be incredibly surprised by all of the things they get right and the world will once again be clambering for a taste of Halo.

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