If like me, you’re a fan of Halo then you may have found yourself in a bit of a drought of content from this particular series of sci-fi shooters recently. It’s now over a year since Halo: Reach was released and while Combat Evolved Anniversary is only about a month away, we have up to Q4 2012 to wait for the next entirely new entry in the series. I thought now seemed like an appropriate time for some summation and speculation on the contents of Halo 4. So without further ado here’s more than you’d ever need to know about where the Halo universe appears to be going next.
Right now there’s little concrete news on anything apart from story and some visuals, but from what has been said about the gameplay we know this is going to be a Halo-ass Halo game. I doubt that comes as a big surprise to anybody, but just to emphasise what I’m talking about here, Frank O’Connor, franchise developer and director at 343 Industries, said that they had “awesome” content and/or features included in earlier builds of the game which were scrapped purely because they weren’t “Halo” enough.
About a year back Nate Walpole, an employee of 343 Industries, posted a video on the internet showing animation from what was presumably an early Halo 4 concept video, where a soldier appeared to use super power-like abilities to fight two other men. Some have believed this particular video sheds some light on the cutscene if not also the gameplay content of Halo 4, but it has been confirmed that this was scrapped and considering its nature, it certainly looks like the kind of thing that might not have been “Halo” enough to make it into the final product. What’s more, I doubt Walpole would risk his job and the secrecy of the project he’s working on by posting a video that has any real relation to the contents of Halo 4.
The E3 Trailer
In terms of character design the E3 Halo 4 trailer showed us a slightly different Chief and Cortana, with the most notable change perhaps being a jetpack inexplicably now equipped to the Chief. Both he and the Cortana have also taken on a slightly different appearance, and fans have noted that the voice coming from Cortana no longer sounds like that of her previous voice actress Jen Taylor. Again though, I think it would be overly-presumptuous to assume this is all reflective of the genuine content of Halo 4.
Firstly, it’s been announced that the Chief design seen in the trailer will not be the final design and that 343 are on about their fourth iteration of the Chief. Secondly, while Cortana’s voice does sound somewhat unlike Taylor’s, for the majority of the trailer it is muffled and we don’t really have a good chunk of speech from her to judge by. Lastly, there have been many trailers for games before now, even non-pre-rendered ones, which have shown details which were changed in the final game and this could well be another case of such a thing. 343 have shown off an all new design for the Chief’s MJOLNIR armour though, which they say they worked with the Halo community to create.
One thing that may legitimately be a clue at what we will see in Halo 4 is the Chief’s new pistol in the trailer. Don’t expect what you see there to be the final design for sure, but it’s likely that the silencer and the way the gun reloads could be a hint towards what we can expect to see in the next Halo. I wouldn’t be that surprised if we saw the Chief sporting some kind of jet pack either, especially as we have already seen such a thing implemented in Halo: Reach.
The Onyx Theory
Moving onto story, you may remember Halo 3 ended with the conclusion of the Human-Covenant War, the destruction of the Flood via a Halo array, and while the UNSC believed Chief to be dead, he and Cortana were instead stranded upon the wreckage of the UNSC Frigate “Forward Unto Dawn”, drifting towards an unknown planet (as can be seen in that E3 trailer). Fans of the Halo canon began immediately debating where exactly Chief and Cortana had found themselves and theories began flying on the online forums, two of the more bold I saw involving the idea that they’d travelled through time or teleported into the Marathon universe.
More eagled-eyed players observed that not only was the unknown planet covered with lights, suggesting it was heavily colonised or some sort of mechanical construct, but that the lights on it were forming symbols that had commonly been associated with the Forerunners throughout the series. This led to a very popular but ultimately flawed theory that the planet from the end of Halo 3 was in fact Onyx, a Forerunner construct which appeared in the novel Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. In the novel the UNSC had colonised the planet-like construct and were using it as a base to train the new line of Spartan-III super-soldiers. However, when the Covenant attacked, a group of Spartan-IIs (that’s the kind of Spartan the Master Chief is), Spartan-IIIs, Dr. Halsey (creator of the Spartans and Cortana) and an officer by the name of Mendez retreated inside the construct to find that in the centre was a slipspace rift which teleported them into a Forerunner shield world installation. Keeping up?
The shield world installations or “micro dyson spheres” are compressed bubbles of space-time which the Forerunners created to use as outer-space bomb shelters for when they fired the Halo arrays. However, the Foreunners were betrayed by an AI called 05-032 Mendicant Bias who allied with the Flood, and were forced to fire the Halos before they could retreat to the shield worlds. The plot thread involving Halsey and the Spartans trapped inside the dyson sphere was not followed up on and has been left hanging ever since. The theory that the planet at the end of Halo 3 was Onyx would have wrapped up this loose end nicely, creating a Halo 4 where Chief and Cortana would reunite with their creator and their fellow comrades in arms.
Where and When?
The only problem with the Onyx theory was that near the end of Ghosts of Onyx, the construct actually turned out to be entirely made of Forerunner Sentinels which detached from each other causing the entire construct to disintegrate, something that a surprising number of fans managed to overlook. The theory still stood up though that the planet the Forward Unto Dawn was floating towards was at least a Forerunner world if not a Forerunner shield world, and that with Forerunner technology at their hands Chief and Cortana may could be able to rescue Halsey and co. in Halo 4.
Since most of the Halo 3 ending speculation it has in fact been revealed that the planet or construct is called Sigma 7 and it has been confirmed that it is a Forerunner world. When exactly Halo 4 will take place is still something that’s unclear though, some believed that because a Halo 4 model of the Warthog had been dubbed the “2554” model it would take place sometime after the year 2554, however this was shot down when O’Connor said the UNSC actually started distributing the 2554 model near the end of the year 2552, the time around when Halo 3 ended and the exact time-frame of the upcoming trilogy still remains a mystery. What are we more sure of about where the universe is going next? Well, that’s something for next week’s blog. Thank you for reading.
Edit: As Giant Bomb user EchoEcho has noted to me, the Onyx theory also cannot work because at the end of Halo 3 the Forward Unto Down was floating somewhere near the edge of the Milky Way, while Onyx is located elsewhere entirely, in the Zeta Doradus system.