Change is inevitable. Things have to change in order to move forward, and this was evident when Bungie finished development on Halo Reach two years ago. Bungie was there from day one when the original Halo came out for the Xbox way back in the early 2000’s, but decided to jump ship from the franchise when it aligned with Activision last year. Would that change cement Halo as a once great but now dead franchise?
At E3 2011, during an E3 press conference, Microsoft answered back with a resounding “hell no.” It revealed a teaser trailer for what would get the game community stirring again - Halo 4. The game is being developed by Frank O’Connor and his team at 343 Industries and promises to break new ground for the series as Master Chief and his troubled virtual assistant Cortana head back to military duty with an all-new storyline.
The change in developers was jarring at first, but after the release of the 343 Industries project Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary last November, players breathed a little easier as the team handily brought the classic to the forefront once again complete with classic and revitalized visuals (which you could switch through on the fly) and engaging multiplayer options.
But Halo 4 is an all new project, and though all the details for the game haven’t trickled out just yet (Microsoft is likely saving them for a big reveal next month at E3), we do know a few things.
First off, 343 Industries is rebuilding the game engine from scratch with a little help from Bungie vets who have broken off to join their team. This will impact both a strong single player campaign that surrounds both Master Chief and Cortana as well as multiplayer modes that will have a stronger emphasis on action, relying more on newly created maps rather than older ones from previous games.
Players will have to get used to a lot of changes this go-around. O'Conner has said the levels will be decidedly darker as Chief returns to duty, exploring new sections of the galaxy as he tries to figure out what the Covenant are up to this time. The universe is a big place, and we're about to see some of the dingier side of it.
There will also be a huge change in the iconic Halo music. Rather than going with the traditional composer who’s been working on the series, Marty O’Donnell (who departed with Bungie for their new project at Activision), 343 is turning to composer Sotaro Tojima who previously worked on Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. Initial reports show that Sotaro is fitting in quite easily with the Halo franchise and fans should be pleased with what he provides.
We have some details on two of the many multiplayer maps that will be available in Halo 4. The first is Warhouse, a civilian manufacturing plant that focuses heavily on the deathmatch element. You’ll navigate through a series of corridors – and what pops through them – as you battle the elements, dodging gunfire around small warehouses.
Wraparound, the second map, works in a similar manner but with suspended walkways and open areas that can be used to your advantage – particularly if you’re a sucker for being a sniper. We expect many more maps to be introduced before the game’s release, and more are likely to be added via DLC.
From what we've seen, 343 is taking a fresh perspective on the series and wants to make Halo 4 something of interest to both veterans of its community as well as newcomers. We're getting details on firepower that we'll share in a future feature, but you’ll definitely have access to some truly great weapons, including a modified battle rifle that really does some damage while you’re targeting enemies. Now we just need a Plasma Blade and we can go to work.
With a release date of November 6th, Microsoft is hoping the Halo community embraces this latest chapter, even with their beloved Bungie gone in favor of greener pastures. Seeing is believing, and we can honestly say that 343 has put quite a bit of effort into it and will show off some surprises at this year's E3. We'll keep you updated, so be sure to check back for hands-on impressions and more from Master Chief’s world very soon.