Saturday, April 14, 2012

Halo 4 wishlist

Though we still know very little about the campaign mode in Halo 4, a few things have been made clear. The rampancy of the AIs, or the number of years they can operate for before they begin to decay and outlive their usefulness, will be important as it pertains to Cortana. 343 Industries has also expressed a desire to explore who Master Chief is on the inside, territory that has been primarily reserved for the Halo novels and barely ever been touched in the games. On the multiplayer side of things, we will learn why it is possible that some red Spartan-IVs and blue Spartan-IVs can go into combat against one another. What I have compiled below is a wishlist of things I would like to see, not just in Halo 4, but from the Reclaimer trilogy as a whole (ie - Halos 4, 5, and 6). I recognize some of these may be a bit more farfetched than others, but only time will tell if 343 Industries decides to incorporate any of them.

A longer campaign

I'm not asking for Halo 4 to be the length of Final Fantasy XIII. But I am asking that it last around the same amount of time, if not longer than Halo: Reach did. Halo 2's campaign did just about everything right, save for the rushed ending. And while Bungie promised Halo 3 would have a longer campaign, that ended up not being the case. Halo 3 had a lot of ground to cover, and while it did wrap up every loose end that it needed to, the execution of its story was weaker than those of Halo 2 and Halo: Reach because of the fact that Halo 3 rarely slowed down enough to explore who the characters were at their core. I'm not asking for elaborate, hour-long cutscenes in the vein of Metal Gear Solid. But we barely got a sense of Master Chief and Cortana's dynamic in Halo 3, something that seemed to be the focal point of John 117's story.

Greater variety of enemies

343 Industries has already stated that there will be new enemies in Halo 4. Judging from the fact that the new games are part of the 'Reclaimer trilogy', I think it is safe to assume that these new enemies will have ties to the Forerunners. But there will also be Elites and Grunts who have broken away from the Separatists, and who once more view Master Chief as an enemy. Prior to humanity's contact with the Covenant, the many colonies of Earth were plagued by rebel uprisings that, in turn, led to the training of the Spartan-IIs. In the novel Halo: Glasslands, it is made apparent that some of these rebel groups view the victory over the Covenant as a prime opportunity to refocus their own goals. How greatly the Halo experience would be altered if players were pitted against other human characters instead of the many alien species they have become so familiar with gunning down.

More Spartans

While Halo 4 is being advertised with the Chief as the main character, there are still a few Spartans left in the galaxy; most notably the Spartan-IIs Fred, Kelly, and Linda (former squad mates of Master Chief) and the remaining Spartan-IIIs that Kurt trained on the Forerunner shield world of Onyx. Granted, the games would need to provide a brief synopsis of who these other Spartans are and how they ended up in the company of Dr. Catharine Halsey, as not everyone who has played the games will be familiar with the novels. But it could present the opportunity for some rich and deeper storytelling, as the Spartan program is explored to a greater degree. Having Master Chief reunite with his comrades could also present an excellent opportunity to draw out his character.

Return of the Arbiter

Halo 2's campaign split into two separate stories that culminated toward the game's last few hours. In carrying on the torch from the original Halo, Master Chief fought the Covenant forces and the Flood, while the Arbiter provided players with a curious look at the inner workings of the Covenant hierarchy and a concrete idea of what their misguided faith was all about. Prior to Halo 3's release, there were a number of naysayers who complained about the Master Chief not having been granted the spotlight for the entirety of Halo 2. But for me, playing as the Arbiter was a big part of what made Halo 2's campaign the best of the entire series. Forcing players to take on the role of a member of the Covenant expanded the Halo universe in so many ways. To be completely honest, I always found the Arbiter to be a far more believable and interesting character than the Chief because this Sangheili was constantly forced to question the decisions of the Prophets - first in their decision to spare him and dub him the new Arbiter, and second after the changing of the guard and the subsequent schism between the Covenant Loyalists and Separatists. The Arbiter became a tragic hero, a face of liberty for his people.

At the end of Halo 3, The Arbiter and Half Jaw lead the Sangheili forces back to their homeworld to make certain it is safe. Ever since Bungie concluded the main trilogy, I have pondered what the Sangheili homeworld might look like. The Halo Legends anime presented a glimpse of a very primitive Sangheilios, but we have no idea what the planet or its culture are like as of now. In placing players back into the role of the Arbiter, I think it would present a great opportunity to once more expand the story, while simultaneously revisiting what it is that makes the Arbiter tick now that the Covenant has disbanded.

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