By this time next week, gamers will be battling through hordes of Covenant soldiers. This might be confusing to non-gamers, but members of the Halo Nation, as the fans call themselves, know what I am talking about. On Tuesday November 6, 343 Industries will release the lasted game in the science-fiction series “Halo” for the Xbox360. “Halo 4” will continue where “Halo 3” left off in 2007, where gamers last saw Cortana and Master Chief floating on a piece of space debris from the ship Forward Unto Dawn.
The first game in the series was called “Halo: Combat Evolved” and was released in late 2001. Beginning immediately after the events of “Halo: Reach”, players begin the game with the Pillar of Autumn leaving slipspace near a mysterious Covenant space station that has been named Halo due to the station’s circular shape. The Cole Protocol is initiated when a Covenant fleet attacks the ship. The problem is that the Covenant cannot learn anything about Earth’s location. This is where Master Chief comes in. He takes the AI Cortana and escapes the ship in an escape pod because if the Covenant manage to find her, they will know all of her information about Earth. As the game progresses, Master Chief and Cortana learn more about the Covenant and the mysterious powers of Halo while fighting the Flood, a parasitic race that overwhelms and infests sentient life forms.
“Halo 4” begins with Master Chief and Cortana landing on a nearby Forerunner planet after the events of “Halo 3”. However, most of the campaign mode of the game will occur on Requiem, the artificially created Forerunner planet. Much of the game is going to focus on Cortana and her descent into rampancy, a term describing the mental state AIs experience that can be compared to insanity that occurs when they have been in service for too long. The game will explore how Halo has contributed to her declining mental state.
Most “Halo” fans know that Bungie split with Microsoft to make their own company. Microsoft, however, was still interested in the series and created 343 Industries, taking its name from the character 343 Guilty Spark. Since “Halo” is now being developed by a different company, there are going to be some changes made to this game.
Even though “Halo 4” is going to be a first-person shooter like the rest of the series, it is going to have a greater emphasis on exploration and mystery. The game’s environment is going to focus more on Forerunner elements, specifically on the Forerunner technology. Master Chief’s character is going to be explored, as will his relationship with Cortana. Not surprisingly, Master Chief’s armor has been changed, though 343 Industries has stated that the armor he is wearing in the promo trailer is not the official armor.
The popular Firefight mode from “Halo: Reach” and “Halo 3: ODST” has been replaced by a story-driven mode called Spartan Ops that can be played by one to three players. 343 has added new characters, vehicles, and weapons, but as of right now, I haven’t been able to find any more details about them.
Additionally, 343 Industries has announced that “Halo 4” is the first game in a new trilogy in the series that will be known as the Reclaimer Trilogy.
I’ll admit that I am hesitant to play this game for a variety of reasons. The series could have ended with “Halo 3”. There were unanswered questions, of course, but the game ended in a way that seemed very final. My main concern is that 343 is going to try too hard to live up to the fan’s expectations and royally screw up the series. I’m worried that Master Chief and Cortana are going to be to written out of character. I have a feeling that Cortana’s rampancy is going to be shown in an over-the-top dramatic fashion that makes it seem unbelievable.
Ultimately, though, it’s up to the players to decide if “Halo 4” lives up to the standards of the fans. The sixty dollar price-tag is a bit high, so I’ll likely be getting my copy in a few weeks once there’s a used copy available on Amazon or eBay. I’ll make my decision once I play the game, but I’m not going to get my hopes up for this one.