I promised myself that following my last blog about Halo way back in August, my next blog wouldn’t be about Halo, so here’s another blog about Halo.
It’s no secret that Halo as a whole is in a pretty sorry state. Between divisive recent entries, a poorly received TV show, and seemingly constant studio turmoil, hope isn’t high that the franchise that revolutionized shooters will ever regain its footing.
Recent layoffs, departures, and other rumors left some speculation as to how the series will be handled going forward. One interesting bit of hearsay from a historically reliable source indicated that development of Halo games could be given to multiple studios, with 343 taking on a caretaker role. This would mean several games spanning various genres. The rumor has seemingly been debunked since it emerged, with 343 Studio Head Pierre Hintze issuing an official statement assuring fans that 343 wasn’t going anywhere. However, many gamers (myself included) see that as more of a threat than a promise.
Personally, I would love to see an expanded universe of games. But what could that look like?
Perhaps the easiest genre spinoff to imagine for this series (aside from the already-existing Halo Wars games) is the isometric strategy game. Popularized by XCOM, this spinoff treatment has already been successfully pulled off by another big Xbox IP: Gears of War. Gears Tactics, though not my particular cup of tea, got great reviews from critics and players alike.
The world of Halo is ripe for this kind of genre, too. Traditionally, these games put the player in control of a handful of soldiers, each with their own specializations. ODST troopers are already known for being experts in various fields. Take Halo 3: ODST, for example. Dutch is a heavy weapons specialist, Romeo is a marksman, Mickey’s forte is demolitions, and so on. Utilizing characters like this for truly tactical Halo gameplay has incredible potential.
Space Combat Sim
Halo is science fiction to its core, and there aren’t many things more “science fiction” than spaceships. Sliding into the cockpit as a UNSC or Covenant pilot would let us see the war from a new perspective. Like Star Wars: Squadrons, this sole focus on space combat would allow the gameplay to be deep, refined, and rewarding.
Halo isn’t a complete stranger to this idea. One mission in Halo: Reach took players to space above the titular planet in a YSS-1000 Sabre to defend a UNSC station and assault a Covenant corvette. To this day, no vehicle-based mission in the series has come close to replicating that experience.
Using the battle above Reach as a springboard, the possibilities are numerous. There are several space battles already established in the lore that would be really cool to take part in. Attacking or defending Earth when Regret first arrives in Halo 2 would be a treat. Similarly, playing a role in the battle over Harvest, where humanity first made contact, would have Halo fans itching to dive in.
The variety in ships is an untapped well of opportunity, and this could be the answer. The UNSC has Longswords, Broadswords, and the aforementioned Sabres that players could pilot. On the other side of the coin are The Banshees, Seraphs, and Phantoms of the Covenant fleet. Add a customization system for both ships and pilots, and you’re got a winner of a spinoff on your hands.
More Halo Wars
The two existing entries in this spinoff series are highly regarded among Halo fans and even a good portion of RTS gamers. Intuitive, console-friendly interfaces, an original story with loose ties to the mainline games, and great use of both existing and original combat units blend together to create games that stand on their own merit. HW2 released six years ago, in February 2017. Since then, fans have been itching to find out what’s next for the crew of the Spirit of Fire.
Despite several memorable characters and an ending that left plenty of unanswered questions, there hasn’t been a glimmer of hope for a follow-up. Hell, HW2 even introduced The Banished, the main antagonistic force in Halo Infinite! It would be criminal to neglect this series. Someone greenlight this at Creative Assembly, please.
More First Person Spinoffs
Of all the possibilities within the Halo universe, this one is probably the safest bet in terms of commercial success. We’ve already seen that a spinoff can work really well, because Halo 3: ODST was an instant classic. It had a tonal shift, a scaled-back story, memorable characters, and a fantastic soundtrack. The gameplay took some risks, but still felt like the classic formula fans adored. So why haven’t we seen another campaign that isn’t focused on Chief?
There’s a seemingly endless amount of lore that could be utilized to deliver another fantastic first person shooter in this expansive world. Put us in the boots of Sgt. Johnson during the events of Harvest. There’s already a book that could be used as a template!
Or why not tell the story of the Arbiter during the war on Sanghelios? He’s a beloved character that people have been begging to see more of. Halo 5, despite its flaws, showed us some beautiful locales on the Elites’ home planet. I want to see more of that
Another fan favorite character who’s been criminally underutilized is Spartan Jerome from Halo Wars. It’s hard to visit a Halo forum without seeing him mentioned. An FPS that allows us to play as him during the events of the HW games would be a logical route, but there’s plenty more to this character that can be explored. He’s essentially Chief 2.0, so it would be a pretty safe spinoff.
And of course, simply making another ODST campaign would be a surefire way to win a little favor with jaded fans. Even if we don’t play as The Rookie, any of these troopers will do, as long as the game itself is well-crafted.
For not being a horror game, Halo: Combat Evolved was a scary-ass game. 343 Guilty Spark was a masterfully crafted mission that truly made the skin crawl. The cutscene showing the flood, followed by the tense escape from the containment facility, was the perfect introduction to one of gaming’s most horrifying enemy factions. Remember, this was when the games were rated M, and for good reason. Wherever there was Flood, there was blood. A lot of blood.
What if a game used that mission as inspiration for an entirely fleshed out horror experience? Forget Master Chief. Let’s play as a normal marine who’s just strong and smart enough to survive a sprawling underground Forerunner facility that’s been overrun by the Flood. Every encounter would be a fight for survival, all while requiring the player to be smart about conserving ammunition and using the environment to their advantage.
If you’ve delved deep enough into forums and Halo-related social media, this idea probably seems familiar. There’s currently a fan project in development that is trying to accomplish this general idea, and it looks fantastic. But we shouldn’t have to wait for fan projects to come around to fill the void left by the official developers of the franchise. Even in the film space, fans are one-upping the fuck out of 343.
I’m getting off track. Sorry. Long story short, I would love to see a horror game set within the Halo universe. The Flood are the perfect monster, and there are plenty of locales and characters to take inspiration from.
The Possibilities are Endless
See what I did there? But seriously, I’ve only listed above what I thought of in just a few seconds. The universe of Halo is sitting on an incredible amount of untapped potential, and Microsoft could make bank if they got multiple developers to flesh it out. Give us anything listed above. Give us a Rainbow Six Vegas-style squad shooter. Hell, put us in the shoes of a regular Joe trying to escape his home planet as it gets glassed by the Covenant. I would even take a Halo city builder at this point.
It’s worth noting that Certain Affinity, a studio that’s no stranger to making Halo content, is working on a substantial addition to the Halo Infinite Multiplayer suite. That’s one thing to look forward to, but this world could be so much more, and let’s be honest… Fans could really use a win right now.