The return of Master Chief spells trouble for the Call of Duties and Battlefields out there
Halo has drifted from the centre of the gaming universe. Once upon a time it was the big cheese, the king of the hill, the game of games, but since the big teaser trailer released at last year’s E3, there’s been a whole load of nothing on the series, giving way to Titanfall, Call of Duty and Battlefield to steal the headlines.
Well that stops now. Last week, the General Manager at 343 Industries, Bonnie Ross, announced that Halo 5: Guardians is out next year. Ross promises it is “a bigger effort than Halo 4,” running on a whole new engine built for the Xbox One. The return of Master Chief is exciting, and while the late 2015 release date puts a damper on things, Ross says that the Halo “journey” begins this year. Who knows what it could be.
2015 seems like a long way off, but it means that 343 will have the time to develop the game properly. Many of the games released on the Xbox One so far have also been made available for the previous generation of consoles, meaning developers have reigned in the potential to make sure it’s playable on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This will be a game designed for Xbox One from the ground up; Halo 5 will really flaunt the capabilities of Microsoft’s new box.
And if there is any game with the potential to really demonstrate the power of the Xbox One, it’s Halo. Epic battles, like the ones we read about in the spin-off books that haven’t been possible on consoles so far, and battlefields with hundreds of soldiers instead of the couple of dozen that we are used to. The possibilities are intoxicating.
But for Halo 5 to succeed it still needs to contend with the next iterations of other FPS games. Call of Duty has had an incredible impact on the genre, creating a massive audience and reinventing what we expect from modern shooters. It’s hard not to imitate one of the most lucrative and popular games out there, especially since it comes out year after year with massive, record-breaking sales, and even Halo is somewhat guilty of taking inspiration (the Create a Class system, for example). But with Halo 5, it has the opportunity to break from this mould and become Halo again, rather than Call of Duty with a Halo skin.
Combat Evolved did so much to push the genre forward but the series has played it relatively safe since then. 343 Industries proved themselves capable of making a quality Halo game with Halo 4, and now it’s time for them to truly take the reins and make it their own instead of just trying to recreate Bungie’s original.
It definitely has the potential to win back the FPS crown. One area where Halo easily trumps the competition is with its story. The series is one of the few first-person shooters left that still has a compelling plot with characters that we actually give a shit about. Battlefield and Call of Duty’s stories have lost their way while Halo has only gotten better. The Halo universe is vast enough that there is limitless scope to expand the game’s narrative, while other shooters are more limited in comparison. It might not sound like much, but given the massive success of The Last of Us and Metal Gear Solid, it shows that a good story can go a long way.
Halo 5: Guardians has been confirmed to appear at E3, where Microsoft will further detail the future of the series. You’ll be wise to keep it on your radar; time and time again the Halo series has delivered, and the return of Master Chief makes for one of gaming’s most exciting prospects. His first appearance on next-gen sends excited shivers down my spine. Just imagine the Chief in his huge badass armour, every detail, every scrape and struggle in extra crisp 1080p and 60 frames-per-second – other shooters won’t be able to compare. It is time for Halo to take back the throne.
Images: Microsoft Studios