New Delhi: Everybody knew that Microsoft wasn’t going to be done with the incredibly successful Halo franchise anytime soon, and they were right. The excitement of millions of Xbox 360 owners around the world now has a tangible focus: November 6, 2012 is when Halo 4 will be released, marking the start of the new ‘Reclaimer Trilogy’.
This time around it's being developed by 343 Industries (or 343i), not by Bungie, which developed all the previous Halo games except Halo Wars. Gamers can expect to take command of a leaner, meaner looking Master Chief to once again fight the zombie-like creatures known as The Flood, along with whatever new threats to humanity the writers have thought up. The previous threats, the Covenant, being defeated, may possibly be sidelined in the new trilogy, although not much at all has been revealed about the setting or story of Halo 4.
We know that it’ll probably take place in the Forerunner planet the Master Chief discovered at the end of Halo. In addition to that the story will centre on the enigmatic Forerunners, and that Cortana (the Master Chief’s AI- sidekick) may be dying, going insane, or both. Beyond these sparse clues, the developers have remained as silent and mysterious as the Forerunners themselves.
Single player, however, is only a part (and some would argue, the lesser part) of the Halo experience. Few multiplayer games – and certainly no PS3 exclusive that I can think of – manage to receive the amazing level of response from players that the Halo series has. Luckily 343i has been more forthcoming on that front.
Gameplay won’t see a dramatic shift from what fans of the series have come to know and love, but it will see an evolution keeping in mind the lessons learnt from how people played the previous Halo multiplayers. For example, the developers noticed that in Halo: Reach, players overwhelmingly opted for the Sprint ability over everything else, so in Halo 4 it’s enabled by default for everybody. Every player will now also be informed of weapon drops through the HUD, rather than having to memorise the spawn points and drops for each map. They’ve also introduced something called Forerunner Vision, which allows players to track the location of enemies, at the cost of reduced visibility.
Besides these small changes, Halo 4 will also have an evolved version of the Firefight co-op multiplayer mode. It’s now called Spartan Ops. The missions will be set on the UNSC ship ‘Infinity’, will be closely tied in with the story, and will focus on co-ordination and teamwork rather than on simple gunfights. 343i also claims that new levels will be made available to players after the game’s release, and, allegedly, they’ll be free.
There are, of course, occasional voices that accuse Microsoft of churning out sequels just to milk its cash-cow, and some others that lament the inevitable decline of the series now that Bungie is no longer developing it. But each of the games in the series has so far been very well produced and received, and it wouldn’t be outlandish to expect something of the same calibre this time as well. Plus, on the bright side, Halo hasn’t reached that annoying frequency of one title per year so well exemplified by games like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. You can expect Halo 4 to make Xbox Live players go crazy as well as to make Microsoft a ton of money come this winter.