New HALO game. Which as far as I’m concerned is almost as important as the question of who’s going to be the next freakin’ Pope.
I can’t believe I missed the announcement trailer dropping at E3 – that was two months ago and I’m only now getting around to it. Being in the old country tends to have this effect, where REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF passes me by completely.
Anyway – here it is:
First impressions? Well:
I love the fact that they used a rendition of the “Finish the Fight” track from the HALO 3 soundtrack. That is one of the very best tracks from the very best soundtrack of the very best game in the very best FPS series ever made.
The graphics look pretty amazing – but not quite as photo-realistic as they should be, given current technology. HALO 5: Guardians had better overall graphics even straight out of the trailers. Of course, this is just an announcement trailer, not a serious gameplay video, so that is to be expected.
The news that I am seeing concerning HALO Infinite‘s gameplay is extremely encouraging:
A sequel to Halo 5 had entered the planning stages by September, 2015. By this point, the developers were aware of where the story would go, and had begun writing the game. The game has been referred to offhand as “Halo 6,” before the real name was announced on the E3 2018. Frank O’Connor has argued that the next installment would feature “a much more human story”. The studio plans on keeping the cooperative mode introduced in Halo 5. Halo Infinite will have splitscreen, as will all other future Halo FPS games. As of June 2017, it has been confirmed that Halo Infinite will not be discussed “for quite some time”, implying a longer development cycle. Halo Infinite will have a beta at some point prior to its release. Halo Infinite will also have more focus on the Master Chief by “doubling down” on him. There will be no Battle Royale mode featured according to Jeff Easterling’s claim “The only BR we’re interested in is the Battle Rifle”, in response to the popular trend during a livestream.
This is excellent news. It addresses ALL of the major concerns that I had with respect to H5.
As I pointed out in my initial review of H5, and then again in a retrospective about the HALO series that pointed out why its gameplay had gotten a bit stale and boring, I noted that HALO‘s custodians – “creators” is the wrong word, since Bungie moved on over 8 years ago to work with Activision on the Destiny series – in 343 Industries and especially Microsoft have basically taken the safe course at all times with one of gaming’s truly great series.
And in so doing, they repeated some of the biggest and worst mistakes of past HALO releases with H5.
There is absolutely no question, almost 3 years after that game’s release, that HALO 5: Guardians was not the game that it should have been. I gave the game a pretty high rating when it was released, but I noted clearly that I was probably being generous. In retrospect, I certainly was. Upon multiple replays, it became clear that HALO 4 was and remains a vastly superior game in just about every way, while HALO 5: Guardians simply repeated a lot of the really dumb mistakes from HALO 2.
They shifted the focus from the MASTER GODDAMN CHIEF, the biggest badass in all of gaming this side of Batman, and towards new characters who, frankly, nobody gives a damn about. (Except Eddie Buck. He’s awesome.)
They moved away from creating a truly great campaign-based FPS and decided to concentrate their efforts on the multiplayer modes instead. Which is fine and all, but one of the HALO franchise’s greatest strengths and selling points has always been the superb single-player campaign mode. By moving away from this to more of a multiplayer game, they simply turned HALO 5: Guardians into a spiffed-up sci-fi version of Call of Duty.
On the multiplayer side, Microsoft and 343i decided to remove split-screen co-op, which I suspect was actually a Mr. Softy decision. The argument that they gave was that playing in split-screen co-op would “degrade the graphical experience” or some such nonsense. This was frankly idiotic; nobody plays co-op with his friends to stare in wonder at the graphics on the screen, but rather to play HALO with their friends until 4am, all together in one room, on one console.
Microsoft’s real reason for getting rid of split-screen co-op was actually to sell more Xbox One consoles. It was transparently obvious – and an amazingly stupid cack-handed marketing ploy.
The absolute worst decision with H5:G, though, was unquestionably the removal of focus from Master Chief and his adventures. They had every opportunity to craft an incredible story showing off a grieving and war-weary Master Chief finding reasons to carry on and fight alongside his siblings from the SPARTAN-II program after the death of Cortana in H4. They could have crafted an intensely personal journey through a stoic warrior’s past, present, and future. They could have shown us the Chief and the Arbiter fighting side by side and back-to-back again, two legends of war doing what only they know how to do.
But they didn’t.
The H5:G story was largely incomprehensible. It was not particularly interesting – except for the bit where Fireteam Osiris basically jumped into Hell’s mouth to liberate the city of Sunaion from the Covenant Remnant. I’ll admit, that was pretty spectacular and featured some truly intense battle sequences.
Overall, though, H5:G simply felt flat compared with the legendary battle sequences from HALO 3 and HALO 4 – especially the Scorpion tank rampages. My God, but I loved those from the old games. In HALO 4, especially, the Scorpion sequences felt truly epic. You really felt like you were at the controls of an unstoppable behemoth smashing through all resistance and blasting everything in sight with 90mm hardened tungsten penetrator rounds.
With HALO Infinite, 343i now has a real chance to address these flaws and problems. It sounds like the developers have really taken on board the criticisms of hardcore fans like me and are working hard to fix them.
Only time will tell, but it looks like this game is a “return to the roots” of sorts, hearkening back to the very ideas and elements that made the original Bungie-developed HALO games so brilliant: epic stories, deeply resonant characters, great voice acting, amazing music, white-knuckle action sequences, intense combat, and a sense of an intimate personal connection with a legendary character.
For now, though – all I can say is, “bring it on”.