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Here comes the new boss: fears for Halo’s future

Sunday, 11th March 2012 11:39 GMT By Mike

Microsoft, Bungie and 343 Industries have bent over backwards to assure fans the studio handover won’t change anything for Halo 4. Mike Bowden dares to doubt.

The very thing that made Halo magical, the very reason I invested so much time doing the kinds of things I described, in all the manners I which I described it in, was because of Bungie’s decision to keep the Chief’s character as empty as possible.

Halo is the best console shooter to date. There, I said it. I don’t really believe that, however. In fact, I’m chuckling to myself as I’m writing. No. Halo is actually the best shooter to date, period, but I like the PC crowd and don’t wanna piss on their chips; they been good to me, y’know?

Now, with that said, I’m sure that once-crowded room that only a VG247 headline article can create, now only has a handful of people in it. My audience. I love you too.

However, this article isn’t about how great Halo is. It isn’t about how, the first time I played it, I got “the rush”. I felt like it was me behind the wheel. That perfect head shot. That sticky grenade thrown right across the map, soaring through the air majestically like Pat Garratt on his way home from San Francisco, landing on its invisible Elite target with aplomb. The musicality of the faint screaming of Grunts as the Elite tries to take cover but no: all dead. I took aim, I pitched, I shot. I scored. Heaven.

Next time I played however, I missed. So I didn’t wipe them all out I one go and the game was different. Another time I had a different weapon load-out which again, changed how I approached the situation. If I was feeling particularly aggressive I would steam in (not on Legendary obviously, that would be stupid), determined to come out on the other side ablaze with the kind vigour and verve of a Master Chief: a man of battle. (It took man-guts to write those words). Or, in a more thoughtful, reflective – a kind of quiet vicious – mood, I would hang back, targeting the Elites and Jackals from afar then simply waltz across the battlefield, meleeing the hapless Grunts, who flit around with flapping arms begging for their lives.

Then there are the Warthogs I could pick up and mow my enemies down with, or not. Then there were the marines whom I could take with me, or not. Then there were the Banshees I could fly in, or not.

My choice. My game. My sandbox. My Chief. Me.

Oh, Halo. There’s never been another game like you. Or should that be, there’s never been another game like me?

What am I talking about? Indeed, what. Trust me, hold someone’s hand and keep reading – this goes deep.

The very thing that made Halo magical, the very reason I invested so much time doing the kinds of things I described, in all the manners I which I described it in, was because of Bungie’s decision to keep the Chief’s character as empty as possible. I’m calling Bungie Lead Writer (and marine voice-actor) Joseph Staten to the stand, who, in February 2011, told Industry Gamers that:

We left out details to increase immersion; the less players knew about the Chief, we believed, the more they would feel like the Chief.”

Under 10? Halo At A Glance:

Halo: Combat Evolved released in 2001 as a launch title for the fledgling and unproven Xbox, the first American-made home console to challenge Japanese domination in generations by going head-to-head with PS2. It was originally expected to be a Mac exclusive and also appeared on OS-X and PC. The series is generally credited with popularising online multiplayer in the console sphere, thanks to Microsoft’s revolutionary Xbox Live, and the franchise has become one of the platform’s most important exclusives. The latest release is a remake of the first game, an Anniversary Edition built on the Halo: Reach engine.

Bungie developed the first three numbered games as well as Reach before handing over to the Microsoft-owned 343 Industries. With Halo 4, due for release in the 2012 holiday season, 343 will begin a new trilogy called Reclaimer.

Damn straight. Hoo-rah! Boom! Etc. He called it. I can’t disagree with him. He nailed it. Or, Bungie nailed it. Apart from the open maps, the underlying story-arc, the locations, the weapon-balance (*cough*pistol*cough*), the score – oh my God, Marty! THE SCORE! (getting goosebumps just thinking about those chanting monks), the hidden-treasures, the co-op, the multiplayer, the way the team almost single-handedly redefined our expectations for online gaming across the board, it was that – that was the overriding feature of Halo that made, or makes, it legendary and moreover The Chief so goddam sexy. It’s because he’s you, he’s me (he’s more me than you, obv.), he’s a symbol of your playing style, he’s everything you want your hero to be. Like most things in life, Staten’s design decision was beautiful in its simplicity. Forget John 117 or whoever he is/was, I’m Spartacus.

Ok, great. I’ve single-handedly encapsulated what elevates Halo above every other shooter franchise out there. Well done me. Now what? Well, the whole poit of this is, is I have to tell you, I’m scared. I’m scared because 343 Industries has just announced they’re taking bold steps with regard to the big man’s character. They’re delving and I’m not sure I like it.

343’s Frank O’Connor, aka Mr. Halo to some, told our aforementioned trailblazing international editor, Mr. Patrick Garratt-if-you-please back on the West Coast of the US: 343 wants to delve into Chief’s character to see what “makes him tick”.

*Gasp*

“There will absolutely be these quiet moments of introspection and character study in the game, but […] you’re going to walk around the corner and see a staggeringly huge, bigger than Hollywood set-piece,” Frankie said.

Now that last bit I like, but I can’t help but ask myself the question: Is 343 in danger of alienating players and their affections for Master Chief? Were Staten’s words only last year perhaps those of warning for the fledgling studio? Surely the more Master Chief gets his own character, the less me there is, ergo the less enjoyment I’ll get?

“Immersion was the main goal here. Also keeping the Chief a man of few words reinforced what we wanted to be a tough-as-nails soldierly persona,” said Staten. His formula is tried and tested. So is 343’s, if were being honest. I’ve assumed the role of many a character whilst playing a video game. In fact, RPGs are my bread and butter. I’ve assumed the role of the lonely soldier, the bad-ass soldier, the deep, introspective soldier, the wise-cracking, thick-skinned-but-fragile-on-the-inside-and-a-huge-hit-with-the-ladies soldier, but the personality and character for the Master Chief, that what makes him indubitably iconic, is that with the Halo franchise, the hero is who I want him to be and the genius of it all was, was that the game engine facilitated and more than catered for the scope of imagination, hence its enormous popularity and following.

As a Halo fan, 343 has got me worried. The panic button hasn’t been pushed yet, but I’m worried. Please, Mr. 343 man, don’t take my me away from me.

Latest

25 Comments

  1. absolutezero

    Halo invented the FPS.

    Halo invented self-insertion characters.

    Halo invented guns.

    8/10

    #1 3 years ago
  2. BULArmy

    The original Halo was fun and all, but the sequels were the CoD of the past, overrated mediocrity.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Erthazus

    To be honest, Master chief was not empty, he was (and still) underdeveloped. If you look to any Halo character, they are all underdeveloped…

    For example Half-Life’s Gordon Freeman is pretty much an empty character and he never said a single word and some people say that he is the best character in videogames because Gordon Freeman have a strong connection and relationships with NPC’s.
    The only strong connection between Chief is Cortana in my opinion and he still speaks with her and that just not make him really empty. That just makes him underdeveloped. So Microsoft or 343 industries trying to search “that” sweet spot for him.

    Everything else, well, Halo sucks in every major way it is. Don’t want to repeat myself. It’s an overhyped FPS game which had the first supported mp on the console, when other people played a ton of great MP games out there on the PC.

    @1, LOL

    #3 3 years ago
  4. pukem0n

    “Under 18? Halo At A Glance:

    Halo: Combat Evolved released in 2011 as a launch title for the fledgling and unproven Xbox,”

    2011?
    mixed up a 1 with a 0 :S

    #4 3 years ago
  5. polygem

    3: if it comes to gameplaymechanics this is the best shooter ever created – i canot understand how anyone can seriously say it´s “…overhyped…and sucks in every major way”. this is just “overarrogant” bullshit. halo is almost perfect. what bungie achieved with halo is absoluteley stunning and to me the legend of zelda, super mario and halo are the most important gaming franchises ever created and the definition of gaming. almost everything we see today takes reference from these 3 ip´s really…you can now go on and namedrop older games those games took references from – but still i believe the most impact do these three have.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. _LarZen_

    “Halo is the best console shooter to date”

    I stopped reading after that.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Maximum Payne

    @6 So what is yours then ?
    BF or cod ? :)

    #7 3 years ago
  8. _LarZen_

    @7 Cant say I have 1 that is way better then all others, but personaly I think fps games like Bioshock 1,Bioshock 2,Metro 2033,Crysis 2 etc are just as good then the Halo games. Some of them even way better…

    Enjoy COD and BF also, but it’s getting a little “old”..just like Halo.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Da Man

    Fun fact 1: PC elitists don’t like Halo.

    Fun fact 2: Erthazus is a moron who has no life other than this website and his shitty comments and he’s yet to state one reason why Halo is anything but good. Hardly anything to repeat. Only real one he hates it is because he feels threatened and believes people shouldn’t play first person shooters on consoles. That however doesn’t make this game any worse.

    Fun Fact 3: Erthazus is a ret-.. Oh, don’t want to repeat myself.

    Oh, and it is the best multiplayer on consoles. Campaign is a matter of taste. Halo is unparalleled in terms of AI and sandbox anyway.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Da Man

    Forgot to add that Half Life is a boring piece of shit.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Da Man

    And, #5 (polygem) still haven’t figured this out?

    People have nothing but PC games and internet in their life. These people have a wrong sense of entitlement. They believe their precious computer toys shouldn’t appear anywhere but PC. Halo is pretty much the reason why fps became popular on consoles. PC nerds are sad.

    This link never gets old, doesn’t it:
    http://kotaku.com/5398204/halo-reach-beta-shots-sneak-out-of-ms-hq-updated?comment=16881046#comments

    Poor misguided soul hated this game before he could even spell it. Holy war, innit.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. LOLshock94

    Halo is amazing and half life is shit, specially the story for half life….just so shit

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Hunam

    Wow, I’m almost certain some of you people are getting more stupid by the day.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Maximum Payne

    @8 Good taste.
    M apology for suspicious :)

    #14 3 years ago
  15. Da Man

    Butthurted for sake didn’t was consolized casuals.

    Hentai, PC and internet for life.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Mike

    Anyway, do you agree with what the article actually says about the Chief’s character and its implementation in Halo 4?

    #16 3 years ago
  17. OrbitMonkey

    ^ tch, mike. You start a article stating YOUR opinion that Halo is the greatest and expect the average reader to be able to focus on the rest?

    I do agree on your latter point that Chief is a superb cypher. I think of him as white, a black friend of mine thinks he’s black, we’re both gonna be disappointed if it’s revealed that chief is Chinese. Y’know what I’m saying?

    #17 3 years ago
  18. Killerbee

    Interesting article.

    I can’t say I agree that Halo is the best shooter ever but then I guess that makes me one of those PC bores. Yeah, guilty as charged (though I’d stil also take TimeSplitters 2 and Black before Halo when it comes to last-gen console shooters – so sue me).

    But yeah. The cipher thing. I agree about the iconic design of the Chief’s armour and (being a PC bore) I like the Gordon Freeman approach with the silent protagonist, but I think you’re elevating the Halo mythos too much. It’s a great shooter, and that is the main reason to play it – not the narrative or lore which I could take or leave really. Give me that sandbox and AI yes. If 343 frame a decent character story round that then great. But like other beloved shooter franchises – Doom or Unreal, say – we know they’re not going to be the next Bioshock so it’s not a major worry.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. LOLshock95

    I’m gay

    #19 3 years ago
  20. LOLshock94

    Same

    but not as gay as phoenixshite ;)

    #20 3 years ago
  21. No_PUDding

    @Killerbee

    Utterly spot on. You play it for the shooter, not the character. Halo 4 might try, but it’s very easy to forget about the developers intentions for a character who’s yours ultimately.

    No worries Mike, it’ll be good!

    @LOLshock95

    Me too!

    #21 3 years ago
  22. xxJPRACERxx

    What I don’t like about Halo is the floaty feel, the bland environments and level design, the boring enemies and the colourful look.

    What I like about Halo is the weapons feel, good control (for console I think it’s one of the best), nice story (but like I’ve said previously I don’t like the level design), good multiplayer (both co-op/firefight and competitive) and many options.

    For console this is probably the best package available. About single player or the overall series, I prefer Half-Life.

    #22 3 years ago
  23. shadders

    Halo is the best shooter ever made, the remarkable thing is how far ahead of the competition it is.

    Bioshock
    Crysis
    BF
    COD
    Metro

    When you really look at these games, when you peel away the flashy bells and whistles and look at the actual things you do in the game, Halo is streets ahead. We always talk about how Halo influenced all the shooters that came after it, but playing through Halo Anniversary recently, the thing that surprised me was how much it hadn’t influenced modern games. Things Halo was getting right in 2001 other franchises are still floundering with 10 years later.

    Weapon balance, sandbox, enemy AI, the mix of vehicle & on foot combat, the freedom to express yourself through play, in all of these regards Halo is peerless.

    As for 343i butchering our game.. it’s a possibility. I remain hopeful for now, because above all else I want it to be brilliant, but in situations like this there will always be trepidation. The worst case scenario is that I just pretend it didn’t happen, remove it from my consciousness and believe the story ended at Halo 3. In much the same way that I believe there are only 3 Star Wars films.

    #23 3 years ago
  24. ManuOtaku

    The thing that worries me the most about this post is that now we have two LOLshock (94,95) 8D

    #24 3 years ago
  25. ysleiro

    I agree with everything the writer wrote. Indeed Halo is the best FPS shooter series to date.

    Some of the guys here just don’t get what he is talking about or haven’t stepped out of the box and analyzed a game for what it is. A piece of technology and art.

    Technologically alone Halo goes unmatched to this day. Unparalleled multi-player experience. Amazing balance of vehicle use. A great Sand-box feel. FORGE, Game recording (the list is too big). Basically it boils down to “Halo is a technological ass whooping”.

    The one game that I think is trying and deserves honorable mention is Battlefield for it’s NICE vehicle use and sand-box feel as well.

    Art is where Halo stopped being a front runner after Halo 2 (and it’s not because of graphics). I’m talking about story telling. Not that the story sucks or the story telling got LAME as hell but they could certainly improve on this.

    #25 3 years ago

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