E32018, Xbox announces Halo Infinite (But what is taking so long?)
(Click Above for Halo Infinite Announcement Trailer)
Does it feel abnormally long since there was a new halo game? Well, that's because it has been. Halo used to be a gaming religion. Halo was WHY you bought the Xbox and Xbox 360. I cant express enough how important the Halo franchise is to me. I love the stories, characters, and the lore. Halo 2 was the first game I played on my first console back when I got my Xbox 360. I still remember going over to my friend's house next door to play Halo on the original xbox. Halo parties and midnight release parties at Game Stop, eagerly waiting for my new copy of Halo, became a highly anticipated tradition. For Halo 4, I showed up several hours early for the release party, ate pizza and played Reach with strangers. I already had my Halo 4 shirt on ready to go. I had my raffle tickets for the prizes and had my spot in line. It was a good thing I showed up early because unlike the pathetic casuals behind me, I was near the front, while the line extended all the way outside the store and down the strip mall and around the building. That was HALO. We were the gamers lining up outside in the cold like a bunch of iPhone fans. Today. Where is Halo? Halo 5 launched way back in 2015. And to be honest, Halo 5 was just ok, slightly below average, not the master piece it could have been. But I will circle back to that. Let us look at the launch history of Halo.
Three years before Halo 5 we got Halo 4 in 2012. Just two years before that we got Reach in 2010. Three years before that we got Halo 3 in 2007. Now admittedly, Bungie handed the torch over to 343 Industries who became the new devs behind Halo, giving us Halo 4. But we have seen a pretty standard pattern for Halo to be a 3 year cycle. Now, in an era of annual blockbuster releases like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and various sports titles, three years is on the upper end of franchise rotation. Even major titles like Battlefield only now do two year cycles thanks to Star Wars. Halo was huge, it could easily have been turned into a annual money making cash cow like Call of Duty (thankfully it hasn’t been destroyed that way), but three years is a long time by today's gaming block buster standards.
Here we are, E32018 at an end. Halo 6 should be here and ready to go. Instead, we get something unusual: Halo Infinite.
I always cringe a little when Developers arbitrarily abandon numerical sequences in games as I feel it is short sighted and is always at the risk of “WiiU Syndrome” (or when gamers are unsure if a product is a sequel, spin off or something else, I’m looking at you Doom Eternal) Several of the comments I read in the reveal of Halo Infinite is “Is this Halo 6?” “Is this some kind of Halo MMO?” Rest assured Halo Infinite is Halo 6 with a fancy name. If you have to explain that a game is a sequel, you named it wrong.
Last year when Halo (main Halo games) was sadly absent at E3, (especially when Xbox could have used a Goliath to promote the new (and admittedly amazing One X) we were told Halo 6 was going to take a little longer because they wanted to make improvements based on feedback from Halo 5. Now, what was wrong with Halo 5? Well for starters, it dropped one of the staple features that made Halo well known: Local Co-Op. Microsoft and 343 greatly underestimated how many people want to have their friend over and play Halo together. Local Co-Op may be all but dead in 2018 for everyone else, but that doesn’t mean it is dead for Halo. However, that was far from all the feedback. The game was way too short, but the real deal breaker was the game only features a few levels with Master Chief. The majority of the game was played from the perspective of new character, Spartan Locke. Now, I didn’t mind Chief sharing the spotlight with a new character, and Locke was actually really cool and well done. But, it’s Chief. You can't shove such a beloved character aside. If they had equal screen time, with more time to get to know Locke and build his character it would have helped. Halo 5 made the gamble of sidelining our favorite Spartan and it backfired.
Lastly, the marketing on Halo 5 was… Odd. I say odd because to this day I can’t decide if I think it was genius or insane. You see, the marketing for Halo 5 completely lied to us. And when you lie to your customers in your marketing, that’s about the biggest risk you can take and if you don’t stick the landing it can backfire like crazy. Halo 5 sold us on this: Halo 5 is a versus story. Master Chief has done this unspeakable secret thing that has made him an outcast, a traitor. Locke is hunting him down with orders to kill. They are shown at odds in cinematic trailers with Locke hunting Chief down to point where each got a trailer where the other is short of killing the other. I still have a shirt that shows Locke and Chief on a “fight poster” claiming to be the fight of the century. Here’s the thing. None of that happened. In the actual game, Chief simply goes off on his own, goes lone wolf. This isn't really anything unusual. Anyone remember, he went rogue in 4? Chief is a lonewolf. He would have to do something pretty bad to turn a multiple time galaxy saving hero into a outlaw. In game, Chief isn’t guilty of some traitorous crime. Locke isn’t even given orders to hunt and kill chief, he is given order to bring him in alive. There is no blood bathe, they exchange ONE fist fight. By the end of the game Locke and Chief are working together to bring down the real unspoiled unexpected villain, Cortana. In a day where it felt like half the games at E3 2018 were spoiled ahead of time, (I’m looking at you Walmart…) It’s kinda impressive that Cortanta being the true villain instead of Locke remained a secret. The idea that all the marketing acted like a smoke screen to protect that reveal is kind of impressive to me. Whether they meant for that or if they just had bad marketers who never read the script, I to this day do not know.
Had Halo 5 been great in the other areas, and 343 and Microsoft openly said they manipulated the marketing to hide the surprise villain, I think it would have been better for Halo.
So the question remains, what is taking so long? Well while we did get told Halo “6” would take longer, I just didn’t think it would be this long. The trailer for Halo Infinite was actually more like a tech demo for the new engine. On top of making improvements to Halo to overcome the feedback, they are building the sequel on a brand new engine. I can only imagine the challenge behind this, but it really pains me to say we are probably far off from Halo Infinite. What we saw probably didn’t contain any in game assets, just Halo “stuff” being rendered in the new engine. The biggest clue to this was the old school design of the armor. The game will probably look like Halo 4 and 5 as far as art style. This empty tease (although not as bad as Respawn’s Star Wars game getting a meer mention, or Elders Scrolls 6 getting a logo) tells us the game is in early stages. We probably won’t see more of a full reveal trailer with actually gameplay or in game assets until E3 2019. Even with that, being on a new engine, I think we would be very lucky to see a Holiday 2019 release date. I am predicting that we won’t see Halo Infinite until 2020. I'm just concerned that 5 years is a very long time by todays Blockbuster standards, and after following a mediocre game gamers don't have much to keep them occupied. I don't want Halo to be forgotten. Let’s just hope Infinite doesn’t stand for the amount of time it will take us to get the next Halo game.