It’s been nearly five years since fans last saw Master Chief helm the "Halo" saga, but things have sure changed since then. Bungie, the original creators of the franchise, are no longer working on the game. 343 Industries is now helming the project and is shaping the next generation of "Halo" saga with all the games shifting from the Forerunner saga to the Reclaimer saga.
I recently got to talk with Kiki Wolfkill who is the executive producer on the game. She is responsible for the overall product and making sure the game hits its release date as planned. She as been part of the Microsoft game studio. She previously has helped develop the "Forza", "Project Gotham" and most notably the "Crackdown" series. Why do I bring this up? Is because it all comes back to the "Halo" series.
Throughout "Halos" life span, Microsoft has used the "Halo" brand to help promote its exclusive tittles. "Crackdown" was the first to do be promoted alongside "Halo." If you pre ordered "Crackdown," you earned beta access for "Halo 3." "Crackdown" was a great game, but many bought the game because it was associated with "Halo." The "Forza" motorsports series also had a "Halo" tie-in, but it was more of an Easter egg. You could have the UNSC Warthog in your garage, but you could not race with it for some odd reason. The series is more than just game to Microsoft and you can bet this pattern will continue.
Bridging the gap between the Forunner saga and the new Reclaimer trilogy is the most daunting task. How do you please the hardcore fans, while introducing casual fans into the world? that is the biggest task that 343 Industries is going to have to overcome. Lucky, "Halo 4" is in the right hands. “Halo 3 ends with Master Chief and Cortana entering a cryonic sleep after they wiped out the flood and defeated the covenant," Wolfkil said. "It picks up where the series left off five years later and Chief awakens to continue the saga. This gives us enough time, to develop a new universe around Master Chief and while respecting what happened in the previous games. ”
"Halo: Reach" was the swan song for Bungie, as it was its last "Halo" game and its send off to the series it created. By far "Reach" is the best in the series, but since there's such a huge time gap between pre "Combat Evolved" and "Halo 4," I asked, will we see Reach in the upcoming installment? “Well, 'Reach' was obliterated by the covenant," Wolfkill said. "It’s a place in the 'Halo' Universe that we may or may not revisit. You might see it in future graphic novels and possible novel tie-ins.”
The Forge system has been a key part of the franchise success ever since it was integrated in "Halo 3." It has evolved over time to become a great party tool and has helped form indie machinima developers on the Web. There hasn’t been any news on it yet, but Wolfkill helped assure that the forge system will make its way onto "Halo 4." “Um… What I can say is that 'Halo 4' community involvement is still a core part of the Halo experience," Wolfkill said. "Continuing to developing tools like the Forge mode, are key for us.”
The switch from Bungie to 343 industries is without doubt one of the biggest stories surrounding the series. Bungie is now working with Activision on another IP that we haven’t heard much about. “When we took over the 'Halo' series, we took a deliberate approach," Wolfkill said. "We wanted to keep the strengths that made 'Halo' while cutting out the weakness. We really wanted to improve on telling a better story that surpasses what we did in the Forunner saga.”
The biggest reveal at the event, was the reintroduction of the deadly fan favorite weapon, the battle rifle. I didn’t get a chance to get hands on with "Halo 4," but right away you can tell that the BR is a more improved version than its predecessors. It looks more deadly and is vastly different since the last time you saw Master Chief use the battle rifle.“ We wanted to give familiar grounds to fans," Wolfkill said. "Even though it’s back however, we wanted to give the battle rifle its own distinct look that separates it from previous games.”
Martin O’Donnell, the original composer, will not make the jump to "Halo 4." There is no word yet on what his next project is, but it’s safe to say that he is scoring the next Bungie project. Replacing Martin O’ Donnell is Sotaro Tojima. This news saddens me because of how iconic Martin’s work on the "Halo" series is, but this offers a wide range of possibilities and chance to bring a new vision to "Halo" that fans have never seen before.
"Halo 4" is quite possibly, the most important game to be released in this decade. If "Halo 4" is a great game, then it will reach out to the next generation. But if "Halo 4" turns out like the Star Wars prequals, it could damage the repuation that it has today. I can't wait for "Halo" to return with a new bold vision, but I'm going to remain speculative until I get hands on with the Chief.
Writer for GamerLive.TV