E3 is always one of my absolute favorite times of the year, given that it is more or less Gamer Christmas. Each year we’re treated to some of the biggest, most anticipated titles getting their time to shine on stage, while each conference also offers tons of elaborate surprises and teases to enjoy. When it came to down to picking the reveals and announcements that I’m most looking forward to, I decided to take a bit more of an unorthodox approach in what I am hoping for from this year. As much as I’m looking forward to the next reveals of games I’m personally ecstatic for — such as The Last of Us: Part II, Death Stranding, Beyond Good & Evil 2, and Super Smash Bros. on Switch — I decided to instead turn my attention to Microsoft this year and what I’m hoping they do with arguably their biggest franchise: Halo.
Going into E3 2018 and Microsoft’s conference, one of the easiest predictions to guess is the fact that we are almost certainly going to get an announcement for Halo or Gears of War, two of Microsoft’s flagship franchises on Xbox. Given that Halo 5: Guardians released in 2015 and Gears of War 4 followed suit in 2016, logic would make it seem appropriate that we’re due for some indication of where either franchise is heading next.
Where Gears of War 4 gave us a new set of characters that are expanding on the scope and scale of its universe and world, Halo, I think, is in an unusual position going into E3 2018. While Guardians was a fine entry in the series, Halo 5‘s impact on both Halo fans (and gaming audiences, as a whole) seemed softer compared to the series’ heyday in the Xbox 360 era. Likewise, 343 Industries’ previous struggles with The Master Chief Collection also put a decent blemish on one of Microsoft’s most revered (and valuable) franchises, resulting in some fairly significant damage control after its launch.
As much as I have enjoyed the Halo series in the past (and still do, to this day), I can’t help but feel that the franchise is experiencing some fatigue as of late. While the past two Halo titles have experimented and altered the series’ core gameplay in some significant ways — i.e., the introduction of loadouts, more mobility, etc. — I wouldn’t say that either the fourth or fifth mainline games have done much to radically alter the series as a whole, other than catering to its hardcore fans and those that play competitively.
So for this year at E3, to put it as bluntly as possible, I would absolutely love for Microsoft to utilize the Halo series’ potential by bringing us into a completely different side of its universe, especially when it comes to a new style of gameplay or storytelling. I want Microsoft to do for Halo what Sony did with this year’s God of War — take the elements of the series that work best, and put them into an entirely new context, setting, or style of gameplay.
Halo has not been a stranger to this before, as we’ve seen from the spin-off Halo Wars titles, even as recently as last year’s Halo Wars 2. However, a strategy title, in the grand scheme of things, made for a relatively seamless transition between the first-person shooter gameplay of the Halo titles and the RTS gameplay of Halo Wars. I think what I want more of from the series are the qualities that we saw from its riskier, more experimental entries like one of my personal favorite Halo games, Halo 3: ODST.
Originally released as a standalone expansion for Halo 3 in 2009, Halo 3: ODST stood in stark contrast to the games in the series that came before it. Instead of the grand, epic battles that defined games like Halo 3, ODST took a more grounded, realistic approach by putting players in the role of an ODST unit, known simply as the “Rookie.” Where the previous games put players into the power fantasy of being Master Chief — a super-soldier with a legendary reputation — being set into the role of an unknown trooper fighting on the fringes was a remarkable and refreshing take on the franchise, combined with its film noir-esque visuals and soundtrack.
Even gameplay-wise, ODST departed from the traditional format of prior games in the series by featuring a more open structure and had a far greater emphasis on stealth and tactics. Given that the Rookie and his ODST companions lacked the superhuman powers and strength of Master Chief, the sense of vulnerability that ODST put onto players didn’t take away from the Halo experience of it at all. Instead, I felt it added to the sense of being put into the shoes of a player on the sidelines in the grand war between Master Chief and the Covenant, where strategy and stealth had to take the place of the Chief’s extraordinary physical abilities to survive.
ODST, essentially, was the Rogue One to the traditional Star Wars movies that we know and love, and I would love for Halo to expand beyond telling the story of Master Chief in whatever ways possible and to flesh out the series’ universe in other ways, narratively and gameplay-wise. This isn’t to say that I’m necessarily against the story of Master Chief, but more that I would hope for seeing some kind of new title — perhaps a spin-off — that could take the series into another exciting and unexpected direction like ODST did.
I’m pretty sure we’ll see what is (most likely) Halo 6 during Microsoft’s press conference this year at E3 2018, given that it’s been quite a few years since we saw Master Chief in action. This will no doubt please the millions of fans looking forward to the next chapter of Master Chief’s story, as the fourth game was intended as the start of a new story arc in this current trilogy. That’s why I’m tempering my expectations that, by and large, I don’t necessarily expect Halo 6 to be the sort of experience that will dramatically shift what we’ve come to know and love from Halo games of the past, and primarily as one of Microsoft’s most critical system-selling franchises.
But I can’t suppress my desire that Microsoft will have some kind of surprise in store for us with Halo at E3 2018, which I’m hoping is a spin-off that will bring the series into a radically different direction. Maybe an open-world RPG in the vein of Horizon Zero Dawn, set in the Halo universe? Or something a bit more narrative driven inside the series’ world and lore, in the style of games from Quantic Dream?
Given the massive array of novels and stories that have expanded on its history over the years, Halo has a plethora of stories to tell, and I hope at this year’s E3 that Microsoft and 343 Industries (or heck, even a new developer or studio) will find a new and exciting way to tell them.
As we near E3, what do you want to see the most at this year’s show? What’s your dream scenario? Be sure to let us know in the comments. Lastly, be sure to check out some of the other hopes and dreams for E3 2018 from the rest of the DualShockers writers.