The original Halo Wars ends by putting itself in stasis, with the human warship Spirit of Fire coasting through void - its crew forced into cryosleep, its ultimate relation to the rest of the saga left open for debate. The in-game explanation for this uncertain denouement is the loss of the vessel's Faster Than Light drive. The creative rationale was perhaps Bungie's intense ambivalence about handing the keys to its universe over to Ensemble, developer of the Age of Empires games. Packed with all the floaty jeeps and energy swords a Halo fan could wish for, the plot of Halo Wars nonetheless sits at a careful remove from the numbered Halos, offering a separate cast and events that, for all their dizzying import, never quite overlap with the antics of Master Chief and co. Fast-forward to 2017, and even as the robust-looking Halo Wars 2 approaches release, there's the sense that the Spirit of Fire's fate has become that of Halo as a whole - a mass of trailing story threads and lost souls, waiting for somebody to give it a heading.
Some video game developers could make for great architects, just as some architects would have made great developers. I yearn for a Call of Duty map pack styled after Le Corbusier, and I reckon Richard Rogers could work wonders if he was allowed to design the Martian space station that houses the next Doom.
It's a big year for Bungie. Not only does it celebrate its 20th birthday but, with the impending release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, it's also formally signing off custodianship of Master Chief to 343 Industries.
In this new series of opinion pieces, some of Eurogamer's favourite writers reveal how they really feel about some of the world's most renowned, or most reviled, videogames.
I don't know about you, but I saw it coming. "This isn't the typical, huge, three-year cycle for our studio; it's one of three products we have going on, so it's a little smaller in scale," said Bungie community lead Brian Jarrard at the Tokyo Game Show last year. Yeah right. "It's going to represent hours of new campaign gameplay, but it's not a full, entire game like Halo 3." Yeah right.
If there's one thing Bungie and Microsoft want to get across about Halo 3: ODST, is that this is a full Halo experience that justifies its full-price status.
The earth-shattering arrival of Killzone 2 earlier this year had serious ramifications for Microsoft's reputation for hosting the most technologically advanced shooters on console. Its answer: ODST, a brand new FPS set in the Halo universe but separate and apart from the super-soldier heroics of the iconic Master Chief.
If you're after four letters that tell you what a big deal the Halo franchise is, how about these: ODST. Try them out - only a series that's really put some big numbers on the board could follow them up with such a resolutely unsexy initialism. ODST sounds like a mid-western dairy farmers union, perhaps, or the name of a qualification you might need in order to operate a forklift truck. Both Bungie and Microsoft must be feeling pretty confident to let their favourite daughter go out on a Friday night dressed like that, then.
After indie and esoterica, sports and music, MMOs and RPGs, fighting and strategy and action and adventure, we conclude our look at what's coming this year with two fields which tend to put refinement ahead of innovation. Can shooters and racing shake themselves up in 2009?
As you've undoubtedly gathered, Bungie got to show off Halo 3: Recon for the first time yesterday. It was a big deal for the studio, not least because the expansion was originally down to be unveiled at E3 - until Microsoft pulled the plug at the last minute.