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The Future of Halo: From Monkey Nuts to Infinity Part 2

This could come in the form of class-based warfare in which each player inherits a role not unlike what we have seen in Battlefield or Destiny. For the sake of simplicity, imagine a mixture of Halo, FarCry and The Division to get an idea.

With the release of Halo 5, 343 Industries had a lot riding on its success as the coalition of developers working on the title had the enormous weight of the franchise riding on their shoulders. Up to this point, every Halo game releases (FPS) has been a blockbuster and virtually faultless. That is, until the release of Halo Master Chief Collection.

 

The Master Chief collection can be summed up with the allegory of the bar. Not to be confused with the allegory of the cave, to which it does have overlaps but is infinitely less entertaining. In the allegory of the bar, you as the subject grab enough drinks to put a Russian sailor to shame, find yourself a hottie, have an amazing time and then realize that hottie doesn’t have time for you the next day. In a nutshell, that’s what it felt like, as no matter how many times you text…. I mean try to jump into a multiplayer match, there is no love on the other end.

This is what Halo 5 did so well. It completely shattered the bad taste left in over from the previous titles and worked flawlessly as a game. But the longevity of the game couldn’t be accounted for until later in its post-release cycle where it surprised so many of us. Where most games have a strong release and taper off with the next 3 months to an eventual discount basket grave within the 6-month period, Halo 5 actually grew in playership. It was a monumental success that can be attributed to a world-class multiplayer arsenal and a paring of free updated content. However, the biggest attribute to this may be the freshness that the gameplay of Halo 5 exhibited. After a decade of similar gameplay from the Halo universe, this was the first title to take a step in a direction of the mysterious. Gamers coming back to Halo had to re-learn some of the rules and those just starting off had an equal footing.

I cannot say that the success of Halo 5 rested on evolving gameplay alone but it did work wonders for the product.  For the first time since the original release, the Halo name was refreshing and engaging on a level unseen in prior versions. So, with how great Halo 5 was, where can the next Halo game go to further push itself into the future?   

With the title it bears, it leads us to believe that Halo Infinite may not be a true sequel, otherwise it would have just been called Halo 6. This could signify that the move it is making is one that is away from the tradition of Master Chief saves the universe in the final chapter of the reclaimer story.  If this is the case, the story can be taken down a notch away from consequences of epic proportions to one that is more intimate.

 

Remember the Halo 3: ODST? Rather than saving the universe, this was a plot of one guy trying to find his friends. Sure, in the process they saved the city and fight back aliens but that was secondary to the human story. If Halo Infinite can take this same approach in terms of prioritization and place the focal point on the characters rather than the battle, we may see an account that focuses on a smaller struggle.

We know that the Halo ring is back in the mix, so what if the story went something like this; you play as an ODST where the mission is to find a way for you and your quad off of the halo ring. Your mission may still be to take down a massive threat but that is secondary to you trying to find a way out and save those close to you. Bringing the scale down to a human level would allow the storytellers to weave a tale that deals with the loss of war, the love of companionship, the struggles for survival for people placed into a situation with seemingly hopeless odds. A story of courage would have a profound meaning which goes missing when you control an unstoppable space marine that has already defeated these foes 5 consecutive times. With your odds that good it’s like playing a child in a game of Chess, only that child is preoccupied texting his friends, has never played Chess before and is in fact, a cat.

In the last article, there was mention of mystery of the universe to pull a player in and the importance of your character which pushed the player to action. We know the Halo ring all too well by this point, but we only know it from the perspective of Master Chief and Cortana. Having characters around you that are not nearing invincibility, can pilot any vehicle, or have the ability to self-heal could show a perspective that has not been previously seen. It can make an otherwise old subject feel fresh and mysterious again. Laying out a story as mentioned above could serve to do both and gameplay can follow.

No longer being burdened with the weight of the world on his shoulders the chief is taking a back seat as a group of ODST take center stage, each with class-based abilities. Halo has always had a strong emphasis on Co-Op and multiplayer therefore a deeper transition into this territory would come naturally. This could come in the form of class-based warfare in which each player inherits a role not unlike what we have seen in Battlefield or Destiny. For the sake of simplicity, imagine a mixture of Halo, FarCry and The Division to get an idea.

The entire Halo ring is a sandbox here where you can choose to tackle objectives as part of a group of ai or real-life friends. The game is set up to where each player has a class such as engineer, assault, or pilot and each class represents a playstyle. In this case, the engineer would be able to build defenses, fix vehicles, or heal players, the assault would have access to heavy weapons as well as more stamina, and the pilot would have access to weapons in vehicles the other classes do not and silenced weapons.

The world itself would be set up to where you and 4 friends can jump in and run through the champagne story of escaping the Halo ring while talking side objectives such as rescuing marines (ai players), containing flood points of insertion as well as taking over control points that act as bases from the enemy, all of which would reward you with weapons and weapon upgrades. These new weapons and upgrades can then be equipped to your player along with skins for your character and vehicle. 

There is, however, an even bigger divergence from tradition as there is a second campaign thrown in the mix. Rather than the traditional 10-hour main story of Halo games or even the Battlefield 1 take of multiple mini-stories, this game takes a two-tier approach of opposing sides. As both the covenant and the UNSC are on this same ring, both have very different objectives that a player can take advantage of. In one campaign the player takes control of ODST troops to make it off of Halo and stop its activation, in the other, they take control of the Jackals to make it to the Halo Control Room and unleash the prophecy.  Both versions would be evenly matched with abilities on each side that distinguish them and both may visit the same parts of the world on opposing sides.

 

What about the competitive multiplayer? Well, there is that. The game would have to retain the traditional multiplayer modes accessed through a menu system similar to now however with a change to the existing warzone mode. This mode would retain its 24-player cap as well as ai combatants on both sides. The change would come in the form of combat zones.

These zones would have physical locations throughout the Halo world and player would be able to access them by either making their way to one of these locations or fast traveling to them after they have been unlocked. They would be incorporated into the story where a “win” of the level is not guaranteed.

As you enter this mode as a UNSC you and 11 teammates are fighting not only ai of the opposite team but players as well, who are controlling the Jackals and each team has classless along with customized weapons. With one of these battles unfolding, eventually one team will begin to dominate and the game will start to move with the flow of those winning. As this happens, there will be a few players chosen at random by the game on the losing side. Those players will no longer spawn as ODST but rather be dropped in as Spartans with abilities to match, re-balancing the game. The same can be said for the opposing team for if they begin to lose, some of those playing as Jackals will spawn as Elites.

 

To put it all together, imagine if you will, zipping through a wide-open Halo ring with a few friends in a warthog. You have one in the passenger and another as the gunner. The three of you mark a point on the map, a side mission to investigate a crashed ship. As you make your way there, you are attacked by an explosion to the side of your vehicle which throws it to the side. The passenger is taken out, he was the assault class and without him, the odds of the attackers seem overwhelming. Luckily, your pal on the gunner was an engineer and as you give covering fire, he rushes to the fallen comrade to revive him. With him back in the action the three of you push the attackers back even taking out the Hunter.

Just after this battle, as you catch your breath, a distant red flare is seen up in the air. It’s a beacon for a warzone match. The three of you flip the warthog and after the engineer fixes it up you rush over to the beacon. Driving up to the location, you enter old ruins covered in growth and within a second you are treated to a loading area where you can customize your gear and get ready for the warzone battle.

The battle unfolds as you and your teams spawn into the combat area with several vehicles to choose from. Those with the piolet class quickly grab some of them and you hop into a hornet as a passenger. The flight path pust you on course to a control point you need to capture. While flying there a missile rips through the sky from ground level and explodes at the back of the hornet disabling it. The pilot does what he can to level out the vehicle but it comes crashing down. Luckily you are able to walk away from this crash and make your way to the control point fighting enemies as you move forward. Eventually, you capture the area and as the game progresses your team is pushing back the Covenant with each passing minute.

A shadow fall over the area you’re in, you look up and see a massive convenient ship approaching from above. As this ship begins to pass you, small red dots are seen accelerating from it toward the ground. Someone yells, Elites! They smash to the ground in capsules and burst out of the smoke and debris created from the crash of the fall. Some armed with energy swords and others with various weapons changing the course of the battle.

There is no shortage of possibilities in a Halo game and this is only wishful thinking after all. What this does present though, is mystery of the universe to pull a player in through a new point of perception of a vulnerable ODST soldier as well as a Halo ring landscape filled with obstacles previously unseen in a Halo game and with gameplay from a control standpoint that is slower and more deliberate. The importance of your character which pushed the player to action is also present, even though you are one of many soldiers. You are unique in that you are trying to save your life and the lives of those close to you while wielding unique abilities and class traits. If a character leveling system is added, it would work towards this push by rewarding the player for direct action. Most importantly, this is an example of how to make a well-established franchise feel unique from its predecessors once again. Being a fan of Halo from its inception, I would love an opportunity to experience a fresh take on the series. A take that can bring back the level of excitement I felt prior to the release of the original.

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