Let's get this one out of the way nice and early: we don't know much about Halo 5, or Halo for Xbox One, or Halo: whatever it ends up being called.
We do know, however, that it's being developed by 343 Industries and it'll be an Xbox One exclusive. There. Done.
Oh, and it'll be a first-person shooter.
So why is it my most anticipated game of 2014? Because, for me, Halo 4 proved that 343 Industries has the potential to make a wonderful Halo game, even if it didn't quite reach the heights of Bungie's best back in 2012. Now, with all the feedback, the blood, sweat and tears, the forum posts and the tweets that followed the Xbox 360 effort under its belt, it's time for 343 Industries to make its mark on the Halo franchise on Xbox One.
And 343 Industries has everything going for it. Here we have a studio owned by Microsoft, and so will be as well-placed as any to make the most out of the Xbox One hardware. Surely it was one of the first - if not the first - developers to get its hands on an Xbox One development kit. Halo 4 is perhaps the best-looking Xbox 360 game ever made. I hope - and expect - Halo 5 to be the best-looking Xbox One game upon its release.
343 Industries isn't backed with infinite resources, of course, but it's got more than most. Halo is Xbox's golden child. It is its most prized intellectual property and certainly its most commercially powerful. Need another 10 engineers to make the next-gen water glisten in the sun? Whatever you need guys! We've got to knock it out of the park with this one!
Let's cross the spoiler line. Hear that? That's the spoiler line fast approaching. You're about to cross it.
Halo for Xbox One is the second chapter in the Reclaimer Saga, at least that's what it was as of a couple of years ago. Then, the idea was that Halo 4 would be the first game in a trilogy for Xbox. I assume that plan remains, but you never know. Things change.
So, what does the ending to Halo 4 tell us about Halo 5? With Cortana dead, or, well, not of this world or something, I expect Cortana will come back to life, for dramatic effect of course. As a human perhaps? During Halo 4 the Librarian appears to alter the Master Chief's DNA, and if you complete the game on the Legendary difficulty setting we see his eyes - and they look... odd. Is John-117 becoming a Forerunner? Has he been one all along? Have we all?
At E3 in June 2013 Microsoft showed a teaser trailer featuring Master Chief on a desert plain facing off against a gargantuan bird-like Forerunner Construct. The Chief holds what looks like an AI data crystal chip. I'm not sure how much the teaser tells us about the game we'll play this November, but there it is, below. Is Master Chief searching for advanced Forerunner tech to revive Cortana? Why not?
"Bungie's time with Halo is over. We need to get over that, and, more importantly, so does 343. Halo is developed by 343 now. It's their baby. It's time they made Halo their game."
As those of you who read my Games of 2012: Halo 4 article will know, I liked Halo 4. I thought it did a lot right, even if it was flawed by the occasional odd design decision. Whatever your opinion, you can't fault 343's effort. Halo 4 was the studio's first video game, developed under the insane pressure to live up to Bungie's legacy set upon it by Halo fans and itself.
Franchise director Frank O'Connor has said 343 "will do much better next time", and I'm sure it will, but what I'm most interested in is its approach to doing better. I love the established Halo gameplay formula, that 30 seconds of fun, that sandbox in a bowl design, the feel of the weapons, the pace of combat, the suit, the shield, the pistol, the campaign co-op, the competitive multiplayer, the maps, the vehicles, all of it. That, I'm sure, won't change. Well, not too much. But I want 343 to make its mark to an even greater extent this time around. I want it to stamp its authority on the series with all the force of a superhuman soldier in a 10-ton metal suit slamming onto an alien neck.
Bungie's time with Halo is over. We need to get over that, and, more importantly, so does 343. Halo is developed by 343 Industries now. It's their baby. It's time they made Halo their game.
So, here's hoping for fresh ideas, new twists and, well, something different.
Oh, and no more quick time events to kill end of game bosses.
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