The eighth installment to the much lauded game series developed for Xbox 360 console, Halo 4 marks the return of John-117, the “Master Chief” and for the first time, will be a playable protagonist since Halo 3, Halo 3:ODST and Halo: Reach. The premise of the game will involve a shield world that is possibly set inside an artificial, hollow Dyson sphere type of mega structure. Halo 4 is set in the aftermath of the events that happened in the finale of Halo 3.
The sequel is intended to be a start of new trilogy of the Halo franchise, aptly named “Reclaimer Trilogy.” Compared to the other titles in the series developed by Bungie, the “Reclaimer Trilogy” will be developed by 343 Industries for Microsoft. It was officially announced last June 4, 2011 at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), the same time that Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was announced, that Halo 4 will be released on Holiday 2012.
After the events on Halo 3, Bungie has developed Halo ODST (formerly titled Halo 3: Recon) and Halo: Reach, creating a lull in time between the development of Halo 3 and Halo 4. These side projects were created when Peter Jackson’s Halo Chronicles video game was cancelled and the film adaptation failed in the box office.
The finale of Halo 3, which was released in 2007, Halo 4 continues on with a storyline that will start the new trilogy. Once the players achieved and beat the highest level of difficulty in Halo 3 where the finale has John-117 and Cortana sent adrift aboard the wrecked UNSC frigate ‘Forward Unto Dawn’ and found themselves near a mysterious Forerunner planet, Halo 4 promises a more mysterious and explorative plot that is enhanced by crisper and more realistic graphics.
Unlike the traditional straightforward first person shooter approach of the other Halo series, Halo 4 is focused more on exploration and the mystery about the key plot that revolves around the effect of Cortana’s operation was exposed to Halo and its evolution beyond its natural lifespan. Some very interesting characters will be introduced into the story of the game.
Halo 4 will give more depth to the relationship between the Master Chief and Cortana. John-117’s character will be much more explored and developed compared to the previous games. Both John-117’s and Cortana’s appearances will undergo some radical changes according to developer Frank O’Connor. These changes are attributed to better graphic designs and some elements from the storyline.
Kenneth Scott, the art director for Halo 4 continued on to describe that the visual style of the game will capitalize on the expanded universe fiction and it will be more evocative, more mature than before. There will also be an increased focus on the Forerunners and the Forerunner’s technology and structure.
The systems in Halo 4 are directly interconnected to the in-game experience much like Spartan IV, which deals not just on just one specific template. There will be new features including armor customization that will affect the gameplay experience. Players will have a wide degree of control over the appearance of their character. However, players are not allowed to arrive in a game session traditionally armed with “power weapons” that will give them massive advantage over their opponents.
Taking in some details from Halo: Combat Evolved, where armor abilities are based on timing and map control that eventually led to evolve into Equipment pick-ups in Halo 3 and the armor ability load-outs in Halo: Reach, Halo 4’s system will be inspired by the successes and the less-than successful details from the previous titles. There were significant changes to the sandbox, new weapons and other new stuff as well will be deleted or changed. In so doing, the developers reassures that Halo 4 will still “provide a balanced and enjoyable game for all types of players, regardless of skill or experience.”
Although a bit effectively identical, the technology employed for both Multiplayer and Campaign graphics will vary depending on the game map. Halo 4 will continue the traditional Halo design with crisp, clean lines in the environment that will have a more fast-paced gameplay and map flow. For the Campaign, technology will be infused with more cinematic experience, more layers and approaches.
Health has been changed from the health systems in Halo 2 and 3 as well. There will be no health pickups. The ranking system is also altered. The new implementation of Slayer will have a different scoring system compared to the traditional 0-50 method.
Halo 4 will also retain some of the features from the prior titles. Assassinations will return but altered. The Covenant will return with completely different graphics, sounds and other stuff. The Cyclops 2, which can be seen at the center of the War House, will not be playable but there will be additional weapons and vehicles that will surprise fans. Energy swords and gravity hammers will be possible when playing Grifball, too.
The Multiplayer will have its own story and explanations that are connected to the story and the single player campaign. Everything from the prior titles will matter in Halo 4. New players to the game series should be worried though. Each Halo story in the game franchise work as a standalone, but the more experience a player has in the previous titles will have an advantage. Halo 4’s playlist or matchmaking systems will be tightly focused, properly polished and consistent that will definitely have options and some very new experiences that will have fans be excited about.
As a tie-in, a Karen Traviss novel will accompany the release of Halo 4, possibly released before the game. However, the final Forerunner chapter from Greg Bear will arrive later. Sotaro Tojima, famous for his work in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Konami’s Castlevania: Circle of the Moon will head Halo 4’s sounds as audio director. Some of the recording sessions took place in less than comfortable places like underwater, in ice, in fire and from homemade explosives that were done in Tasmania, Australia. When asked about his approach to the game’s audio, Tojima said his intentions and vision is for Halo 4 to be clearly grounded in the Halo universe. He said he wanted the sounds to be as realistic as possible compared to the prior titles.
Hardcore fans of the famous gaming franchise will definitely look forward to the release of Halo 4 this year as developers and the marketing team promises some cool surprises that will become part of the overall launch experience that included traditional and not-so-traditional ideas that will go beyond product marketing.