Analyzing the ‘Halo 5’ Announcement

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Halo 5: Guardians
343 Industries
Microsoft Studios
Xbox One

At long last, 343 Industries has revealed the next, new entry in the Halo franchise, Halo 5: Guardians.  Last Friday, Bonnie Ross, the general manager at 343, took to xbox.com to unleash in blog post the first news of the next “Halo journey” coming to Xbox One.  Ross took some time detailing what 343 is trying to achieve with a next-gen Halo entry.  “‘Halo 5: Guardians‘ is a bigger effort than ‘Halo 4.'” She continues to claim, “That applies to the content and scope of the game,” as well as the technology the game is being produced on and for.  Ross clarifies that the game “runs at 60 frames per second, on dedicated servers, with the scope, features and scale we’ve been dreaming of for more than a decade.”  November 2015 is the only date given for the anticipated release of the game.

The launch is set to coincide with the long anticipated Steven Spielberg Halo TV project announced last year at E3.  Recently it was revealed that Microsoft and Showtime were negotiating a partnership for the show, giving it a premium cable premiere as well as being viewable on the Xbox One.  Ross here clarifies that the show will standalone, leaving it as an entry point for newcomers to the series, but will “complement and enrich the game experience.”

A lot of questions remain after the announcement, including who the mysterious Spartan is alongside the famous Master Chief in the Halo 5 promotional artwork.  Twitter and forums were abuzz with speculation that perhaps the newcomer was, in fact, a pre-existing character, such as Sarah Palmer from Halo 4, or a robotic Cortana.  343 executive producer Josh Holmes was quick to hint via twitter that “He’s a NEW character.”  After some time analyzing the picture, it’s clear that his weapon and armor might not be all new, the weapon looking like the series faithful Battle Rifle and the armor appearing similar to some of the customization options available to players in Halo 4.  The locale raises some questions as well.  Featured in the announcement artwork, some concept art published shortly after, as well as in the trailer from last year’s E3, the Chief finds himself in some sort of desert setting.  Where in the world (or worlds) could this be, and how does it pertain to the story’s continued plot?

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Perhaps more importantly, why the subtitle “Guardians?”  Excluding the anniversary remake of the original game, the last entry to receive one such attachment was Halo 3: ODST.  The “ODST” there was to distinguish it from the main entries while still linking the spin-off to the previous game, Halo 3.  This goes without mentioning that the only main series entry with a subtitle is Halo: Combat Evolved.  So why include one now when Halo 2, 3, and 4 were all lacking subtitles?  If it was included to signify a new saga in the Halo series, why wasn’t Halo 4 given a subtitle when it initiated the post-Halo 3 “Reclaimer Saga?”  One potential answer is that it pertains to the “scope” of the game that Ross continually mentioned in her post.  “Certainly there are some core elements carried over from prior games,” Ross claims, but continually cites the scale and scope the company has dreamed of but has never been able to achieve.  Already the rumor mill is producing claims that the game will be “open world,” unlike the guided level design of previous entries.

Perhaps this is only 343 Industries further shooting down the notion that the Reclaimer saga will be a trilogy, like the Halo or “Covenant Trilogy” (Halo 1-3) was.  As Microsoft’s Phil Spencer claimed in June of 2013, “While we originally said trilogy, we’ve actually expanded this to more of a saga,” he told GameSpot.  Maybe we’ll see more than one Halo 5 entry.  Only time, and hopefully E3, will tell.

That’s a lot to look forward to for Halo fans in 2015, but what about the 2014 “journey” promised us at last year’s E3?  Ross notes on that as well in her post, claiming that her language was very intentional and that more will be revealed at this year’s E3 conference.  “‘Halo fans will be pretty excited about the special plans we have in store,” she promises.  Perhaps “your journey begins 2014,” refers to an often alluded to but evaded Halo 2 Anniversary, remastered for Xbox One.  However, if recent rumors are to be believed, “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” might be the “journey” here referred to.  According to Engadget, The Master Chief Collection will include all of Master Chief’s previous exploits, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 remastered and playable for the first time on Xbox One.  This would give players another opportunity to relive Halo and Chief’s history before the next entry, while simultaneously building a case for the purchase of an Xbox One.  That would be one overkill of a collection, even while lacking the Chief-absent Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach.

In any case, big things are coming to Halo fans in the near future, and I for one am ready to continue the fight.

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