Wednesday, July 18, 2012

He's Back...

Microsoft is working on the next Halo game, Halo 4. (Depending on how you count them, this is the sixth or seventh game in the series.)

Now, as a bit of explanation that won't mean anything to those of you not into console games, at the end of Halo 3, the Master Chief (the player's character and the main hero of the Halo universe) and his AI companion Cortana had escaped from the Ark (a giant alien space station/factory), in the United Nations Space Command starship Forward Unto Dawn. During the escape, the Forward was basically cut in half, and the half that our heroes were in was left adrift in deep space somewhere.

This fate had been engineered by Bungie Studios, the original creators of Halo. Microsoft kept the Halo franchise when they spun Bungie off. Deciding that the Master Chief and Cortana were to valuable to not be used, Microsoft decided they had to come back.

So the backstory for this new game is that the Master Chief and Cortana find themselves on an artificial planet called Requiem (how it received this name is currently unclear). At the same time, back on Earth, the UNSC has commissioned a massive new starship called the Infinity. Now, the Infinity was originally laid down to help defend the Earth against a coalition of hostile aliens (the Halo series, if you're not in the know, are first-person shooters). But that war ended with at the end of Halo 3, so the ship was converted into an exploration vessel. And guess what it finds? A new hostile bunch of aliens! And, of course, Requiem! Thus giving the Master Chief another opportunity to be the baddest dude in the valley, and for game players to play him again.

I get that Microsoft sees the Master Chief as the center of the Halo franchise, and thus the cash in the cash cow. But this seems like the beginning of what many people predicted when Microsoft took over from Bungie - the milking of the franchise for every dime that could be wrung out of it, until it had been driven into the ground. Like Hollywood, there is an aversion to mess with something that has been shown to work in the past, and so Microsoft can be expected to return to the well over and over again until it runs dry. While I didn't buy into the "revolutionary" hype that surrounded the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, its transition from typical FPS adventure game to survival horror was actually something different. Let's hope that this new game manages to avoid being simply more of the same.

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