If there was one series that defined Microsoft in the console space, it’s Halo. In the ten years of our love affair with Master Chief, the one thing that has always remained consistent throughout was Bungie’s involvement in the development of the games in the franchise. As you already know by now, Bungie has since moved away from the series and, well, console exclusivity altogether. Microsoft, owners of the Halo name, decided to make use of their coveted IP and did so by using their own internal studio to keep things going. Enter 343 Industries and the upcoming Halo 4.
While many remain weary of what a Bungie-less Halo title would be like, I’m thinking the complete opposite. Not only is 343 Industries a good thing for Halo 4, it could be the best thing to happen to the franchise in a long time. Here’s a short list of reasons as to why.
Change is Good
Normally, when writing an editorial about one game, I try my hardest to avoid bringing up the title’s competition. But in the case of Halo 4 shifting to a second developer, it’s almost impossible to not make a connection to Call of Duty. For that series, bringing Treyarch in as a second developer intially seemed like a boon to the franchise. Anyone remember how bad Call of Duty 3 was?
However, after becoming further acclimated with the series, Treyarch proved that not only could they match up well with offerings from series creator Infiinty Ward, they can even pass them in some respects. The Treyarch-developed Call of Duty: Black Ops arguably provided the best story the series has seen thus far — I can definitely see the same thing happening for 343 Industries and Halo 4.
Through games, novels, comics and even anime, the Halo franchise is filled with so much lore, yet the story telling that’s been presented by Bungie, has for the most part, been quite lacking. Sure, we’ve had a few epic moments along the way, but nothing really to write home about. This is where 343 can really make the biggest difference and drive home the point that they too can put together not just a good Halo title, but something better than the fans are used to.
Modern Military Shooters are the New WWII
Are you ready to return to space? Because I sure as hell am. This has nothing to do with being an old-school Halo fanboy. If anything, it has more to do with being sick of seeing the same old stuff from shooters lately.
Most of these titles, especially as of late, all feel and sound exactly the same. Terrorsist ‘X’ and his horrible regime are bringing a disruption to “territory Y” and making the region unstable, blah, blah and blah. It’s all the same scenarios and conflicts constantly being regurgitated. Although I’m sure this all may sound highly hypocritical considering I’m counting down reasons why the 4th Halo title will be awesome; but, honestly, I’m just excited that a high profile shooter isn’t taking place in a desert city in the middle east. And I’m certain that I am not alone in that regard.
The Underdog Effect
Trust me when I say that I never thought I’d ever use the words underdog, Halo, and Microsoft in the same sentence. However, it’s the only way to describe the current situation that 343 Industries finds themselves in.
Let’s be real here: Even with all of the bank roll and marketing power that comes with being an internal Microsoft studio, no one — OK well not no one — but many folks outside of 343 Industries don’t expect the studio to truly live up to its gargantuan “Bungie-like expectations.” However, this frame of thought could very well play in their favor because when you have people anticipating a sub-par experience or something that borders the line of mediocrity, all that 343 really has to do is just deliver something solid. They don’t have to re-invent the wheel — just paint it a different color. If they do this, gamers will consider Halo 4 the best thing since pong. At this point, I feel that the bar is set so low that the only way to cross it is to go over it.
If you were one of the Halo fans on the fence about the upcoming title, I hope this short list has helped to settle some of your concerns. Not only will 343 Industries deliver the goods in Halo 4, they’ll probably surpass most, if not all, of your expectations. With E3 only a couple of short weeks away, it wont be long before I (hopefully) get to tell you “I told you so.”