By HallwayGiant 2 Comments
I feel like every time I 'check in' with 343 Industries, they have both cemented, and completely destroyed my confidence in their handling of future Halo games.
As Halo Anniversary is their latest project, I have done similar levels of flip-flop-ery there as well. You essentially have what any self respecting fan has wanted for a years, a big ol' visual update to the most well-recalled entry in the series, Halo: CE. Now, as one who played through that game hundreds of time and has played it several more since then, its interesting to see how much of a outlier Halo 1 really is, ten years later, and how this re-release is indicative of the future of Halo as a franchise.
For anyone who really played Halo 1 as much as I did, making the jump to Halo 2 felt a bit like night and day. The feel of Halo 1 would never be replicated wholly again, mostly because of the time and circumstances of its development. Many of the gameplay systems we think of with Halo today (regenerating health, dual wielding, equipment/armor abilities, lunging melees) were either non-existent or quite different. Halo 1 was so different because it didn't have the same types of ambitions. Halo 1 has a almost Star Wars: A New Hope vibe, by creating a experience with a full beginning, middle, and end (with a big explosion), all while telling a pretty straight-forwward story. No one had any clue the game would become as popular as it did, so it wasn't designed to be some kind of first entry in a long running series. This isn't me saying that Halo 1 is the penultimate Halo, no, in fact in terms of raw gameplay last years release of Reach is by far the most interesting Halo game developed (next to ODST), but again, in retrospect it stands alone in its gameplay and story.
And this is exactly why I find the upcoming release of Halo Anniversary so confounding. 343 (via Saber Interactive) has decided to painstakingly recreate the Halo campaign as it might appear today, but nothing else. You have a series that has changed a lot from a gameplay perspective over the past 10 years, yet at no point is the game updated with the clear advances that have come since then. Oh, yes, because its sacred 'classic Halo', even though 'classic Halo' is very much stuck in 2001. Part of this is a 'get-off-my-lawn' argument, the other is to say that the way Halo needs to stay relevant is to change, dramatically. We live in a decidedly post Call of Duty world where your not a modern shooter if you don't have sprinting, player progression, iron sights, and 'gritty realism'. Halo simply does not hold the cache that it once did (mostly because its not the new shit), but you can't really fight the cultural movement that is CoD. So how does Halo change? By not being Halo.
343 needs to take a page from Bungie and know when its time to leave it be, they need to have the foresight to see that what Halo needs is another Halo 1, a game that changes the way think of console shooters (in this case, Halo shooters). Now, perhaps the game that comes out of it will be a game that people do not know they want, but people did not have huge expectations for Halo: CE when it was released 10 years ago either, so perhaps 343 should try to defy their corporate ties and take a chance on Halo. Now of course, they never will, because that is essentially financial seppuku, but as stewards of the Halo series I would love them to reinvent what a Halo game is, to push the genre forward in a meaningful way, like its forerunner did (pun intended).
Suffice it to say of course I will be interested to see what the folks at 343 do with Halo. Right now they are behaving in a very Microsoft-ian way, latching into and tugging the heartstrings of every aspect of a universe that they had little to do with, but for better or worse they are Halo and are pushing Halo forward, and its a job that I do not envy in the least.