Written by: Brendan Nienhaus
After years in development, “Halo 4” is set to be released in November. But can 343 Industries continue previous developer Bungie’s success with the popular Halo Franchise?
The Halo Franchise has been a gaming fixture for over ten years since the release of “Halo: Combat Evolved” in November 2001, recording sales in the billions in the many gaming iterations and spin-offs that include books, an animated feature and even action figures. But the driving force behind all of this success has been the development team at Bungie, the creators of the Halo Franchise. Now, over ten years later, a new developer takes over the reigns of publisher Microsoft‘s billion dollar gaming franchise: 343 Industries.
343 Industries was created by Microsoft to take over the Halo franchise shortly after Bungie and parent-company Microsoft split after the release of “Halo 3” in 2007, Bungie going on to form Bungie LLC. Microsoft, however, did manage to maintain the intellectual rights to the highly profitable Halo franchise as well as a minority stake in Bungie, so the studio continued to collaborate with Microsoft on two more titles in the Halo Universe, “Halo 3: ODST“(2009) and “Halo: Reach“(2010), before finally handing over the Halo Franchise to 343 Industries for “Halo 4”.
343 Industries wasn’t left without a few of the original members of the Halo development team as some members of Bungie elected to join the new gaming studio to remain with the Halo Franchise, including 343 Industries’ Frank O’Connor, the franchise development director for “Halo.” O’Connor had this to say in a recent interview about 343 Industries work on the new Halo title:
” There’s a few ex-Bungie people at 343, but the vast majority of people are new, but they’re all old to Halo. Every single person came to the interview because they had some passion for Halo. Normally you can’t chose your family, but in this case, we could. And they also bring in different cultural experiences, different technological experiences, different design ethics and visions. So we have this incredible melting pot of passionate Halo fans with incredible new ideas and brilliant new approaches.”
So it appears that 343 Industries is confident that they’ve brought together a team capable of handling the pressure of creating the next installment of the Halo franchise, but what about the game itself?
Microsoft and 343 Industries have promised some exciting new elements to the gameplay of Halo in its newest title as well as brand new enemies to keep players interested in the franchise. One of these new gameplay elements is the Spartan Ops mode. Spartan Ops is a co-op narrative series that serves as a secondary campaign to Halo 4’s single player campaign, offered in weekly episodes, much like a television show.
“It is like a TV show you can play,” O’Connor said. “I’m really hoping for water cooler moments where people gather to talk about — not what they watched on TV — but what they did in the game, like plummeting to their doom. This seems like it could be an exciting addition to the Halo franchise, but the real news is about the new enemies in the franchise, called the Prometheans.”
The Prometheans are AIs of ‘Forerunner’ construction, the same beings who built the Halos present in the first games. Some of the types that have been announced are the Promethean Crawlers, Promethean Watchers and the Promethean Knights. The Crawlers appear to be the most basic of enemies, mechanical quadrupeds capable of attacking from a distance or up close, and in numbers. The Watchers are flying machines that detach from Knights and heal and augment allies, as well as deflect ordinance(i.e. grenades) using a gravity beam. Finally the Knights are heavily armed bipeds that seem to fill a similar role as the Covenant Elites, attacking from range and with melee weapons. These enemies promise to offer interesting combat situations for the gamer to engage in and hopefully offer new, exciting gameplay components.
So has 343 Industries created a Halo game that lives up to the expectations set by their predecessors at Bungie? We will just have to wait until the release of “Halo 4,” November 6, to find out.