Halo. When people think of the Xbox brand most people think of the longest running franchise on Xbox. Originally launching on the original Xbox from developer Bungie on November 15th, 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was a massive game changer, especially in terms of the FPS (first-person shooter) genre on console. The series only seemed to improve with Halo 2, and then became an absolute monster with Halo 3. Halo 3 was the peak for many fans, with an amazing and dramatic campaign, combined with one of the best FPS multiplayer experiences of the generation. Halo 3: ODST was a shorter more compact Halo experience, though it missed the mark with some fans it still found an audience especially with the addition of the Firefight mode, an absolute staple of the franchise now. The last Halo game Bungie made was Halo Reach, which in my own personal list of favorite Halo games it is right at the top. It featured a great campaign, with my favorite online multiplayer of the 360 generation right beside Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. When Bungie split off from Microsoft to then go on to create the Destiny franchise, 343 Industries took the reigns of the Halo franchise officially in 2007 with Bungie finishing development on Halo: Reach before moving on.
343 Industries was founded by Bonnie Ross in 2007 and the studio was in charge of overseeing the development of the Halo franchise. During 343 Industries almost 13-year tenure with the franchise they have released 11 games. From mainline games like Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, to spin off games such as Halo Wars 1 & 2, Halo: Spartan Assault and even an arcade cabinet with Halo: Fireteam Raven. While under 343 Industries Halo has managed to reach a wider audience than before with the sheer variety of all the different types of titles they have offered. (My personal favorite being Halo Wars 2 an absolute must play for RTS fans.) The mainline games have missed the mark for some fans and this became especially apparent with Halo 5: Guardians.
Halo 5: Guardians Launch Trailer
While the online play for Halo 5: Guardians has been fantastic, and 343 Industries has been working tirelessly on keeping updates rolling out to the multiplayer. Having a host of new modes, and bringing back fan-favorite modes and events has been a high point for the Halo community. However, the main critic that many people had with Halo 5: Guardians was the lackluster campaign. I can remember back to pre-launch trailers showing off Locke versus Chief as the most epic battle for our times. Our favorite hero has gone rogue, with Locke having the task of bringing one of the most legendary characters in gaming history. It was safe to say that hype for the campaign was off the charts for longtime fans of the game. However, what players actually got was a very middle grounded story not nearly as full of risks as the trailers would have you believe. The campaign was short and left a sour taste in many peoples mouth. The fact that its pretty basic public knowledge that in terms of campaign Halo 5: Guardians is most likely the least memorable in the franchise. Which is a shame with the amount of missed opportunities within the already established rivalry between Locke and Chief.
One of the biggest blemishes as well as highlights of 343 Industries time with the franchise would be Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Originally released back on November 11, 2014, Halo: The Master Chief Collection brought the classic franchise to Xbox One with Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, and Halo 4. With the addition of Halo 3: ODST on May 30th, 2015 and Halo: Reach joining the collection later this year coinciding with the launch of the game on Steam. The games were beautifully remastered and looked amazing, they were mindblowing beside lazy “remaster” ports we were getting a TON of in 2014. One of the most impressive features was being able to toggle between the original graphics and then being able to switch to the upgraded graphics in real time. While it is something very minor, it showed absolutely how much effort and detail went into the remake. Halo fans celebrated being able to play their favorite Halo games with a fresh coat of paint.
However, the multiplayer in Halo: The Master Chief Collection was an absolute disaster. The launch was filled with server errors, people spending hours and not being able to find a game. This continued for some time and didn’t get better for many until it was too late. With some issues not being fixed until 2017, almost 3 years after launch when the team began working on the collection for Xbox One X enhancements. Now as Halo: The Master Chief Collection is on its way to Steam later this year, the game is in the best shape it has ever been, with a reliable multiplayer and a truly focused, detailed telling of the classic campaigns from over two decades of games.
Many fans have doubted that 343 Industries has the ability to deliver a complete experience at launch the same way Bungie did. I truly don’t believe this, while as I have detailed the struggles that the company has had in its learning curve of the franchise. There is a quote from Frank O’Connor who is the franchise development director for Halo and has been involved in almost every Halo project since Halo 2.
“Every angry mail I received, I took to heart. I felt like I had personally let our fans down. I have not spent a single day since the night the game fell down in matchmaking where I didn’t think about it,”
I sincerely believe that the passion and love for the franchise are very much alive at 343 Industries. It can be seen with some of the choices that have been already made with Halo Infinite. The biggest step forward is taking the extra time and building a whole new engine. Making a brand new game engine from the ground up is not easy, or cheap. This is a huge leap forward and a very ambitious move by 343 Industries. A new engine truly could open a new doorway to design choices within the game that could have been held back by an older, and patched together engine. Seeing the developers take risks would be a huge win in my book and after 2018’s God of War, honestly anything feels possible.
Halo Infinite has the potential to be the biggest game in franchise history due to a few major factors. The first is that Halo Infinite will be a day one launch title on Xbox’s next-generation console Scarlett. To put this in perspective, the last time Halo launched alongside a new Xbox console was during the release of the original Xbox all the way back in 2001. Launching a brand new console generation, alongside your biggest franchise which is being built in a brand new engine with a “soft” reboot? Even if you are not a huge fan of Halo you can understand the sheer magnitude this could bring to the market. Add in the fact that Halo Infinite is launching simultaneously on Windows 10 and Steam as well Xbox this could bring Halo to an even larger audience. This could truly be a massive step forward for the Halo franchise after a series of setbacks.
With the extra development time, a more focused vision, and from lessons learned from previous titles, Halo Infinite is on the brink of glory. Now it’s all up to 343 Industries to truly show that they can knock the ball out of the park, and only time will tell if that can happen.