Halo’s transition from last console generation to the current has proved to be quite inconsistent.
From the poor state in which the Master Chief Collection launched in, with its multiplayer component being all but unplayable, to the misleading marketing campaign and narrative of Halo 5, the adventure on Microsoft’s family of Xbox One systems is one that had a rocky terrain.
The franchise that once was considered the goliath of console first person shooters has watched much of its fan base transition into other areas of gaming, leaving engagement at an all time low.
Thankfully, since the reveal at E3 2018 of the next entry in Microsoft’s flagship franchise, Halo: Infinite, interest in the brand has started to trend upward at an impressive rate. Between the general aesthetic within the trailer overall, showing vibes of mystique and mystery found within early entries, to the messaging surrounding the game from developer 343 Industries, the outlook for the future of the franchise is beginning to brighten in the eyes of many.
With the Infinite team at 343 Industries already stating features such as four-player splitscreen will be making a return to the Halo universe, many highly requested features and changes could be making their way to Master Chief’s newest intergalactic adventure. With that said, here are four features or improvements that are hopefully implemented with Halo: Infinite.
Higher Average Time to Kill (TTK), Lower Gun Magnetism, and Advanced Movement
Since the release of Reach in 2010, the Halo franchise has undergone a shift from being known as a shooter that requires tactics and planning, to more of a reaction-based twitch shooter. Following in the vein of popular series of the time like Call of Duty, the fast paced switch resulted in a much lower time to kill, or TTK. Longtime fans of the series have shown criticism to the game for such a drastic decrease in the multiplayer focused metric, and it’s a result of two changes from the 2010 release: increased bullet magnetism and advanced movement. Wanting to keep up with current trends in the FPS genre, the pace of the game increased with the addition of advanced movement and sprinting. Due to this, higher bullet magnetism needed to be added to balance the quality of the game. This means more shots fired are attracted to its target (the opposing player/enemy), and paired with aim assist, more shots land. Pair this with weapons dealing less damage has made defeating an opposing player a less rewarding experience.
In turn, this has undone the original intent of balancing the experience by removing skill from the equation. By raising weapon damage, removing sprint but replacing it with a more traditional movement mechanic to the series, and lowering bullet magnetism accordingly, it will place a greater emphasis on skill and create a more rewarding experience for both returning players and newcomers alike.
A Concise, Coherent, and Chief-Focused Story
For all of the issues and backlash Halo 5 faced since its release, the criticism against its campaign may be the most damning mark of all.
Following Spartan Locke and his crew as they search for the believed rogue Master Chief and Blue Team, the story navigates through a multitude of plot points that never seem to flesh out fully. While I personally enjoyed the story more than most, many aspects of the narrative felt forced and very removed from a traditional Halo story.
Now, being different isn’t a bad thing. Change and reimaginations can result in some of the best experiences in the medium. Looking at the Halo series specifically, the change in pace and narrative from Halo 3 to ODST was quite drastic and resulted in an experience that fans hold highly. Halo 5’s campaign was littered with too many plot points and forced angles that bogged down the overall flow of the narrative. The emphasis placed on Locke over Master Chief was a risk that never paid off.
Centered around Halo 5’s marketing campaign is the theme of “finding the truth” surrounding the Master Chief, and the truth is that he was only playable in three of the 15 campaign missions. While other stories have been told in the Halo universe outside of Master Chief’s, all have been directly marketed in that fashion. Not to mention the odd direction taken with Cortana as a central antagonist aligned with the Forerunner faction, the convoluted storyline left fans sour and scratching their heads.
All Content Available on Launch
Another uphill battle Halo 5 faced was the slow drip feed of base content to the game. While it was known that split-screen modes would be absent at launch, other staples didn’t make the game until post-game content updates.
Forge mode, popular game types such as Infection, the iconic File Share system, and a buggy Theater mode top the list of omniscient missing features when 343 Industries most recent Halo experience launched. I don’t mean typical post-launch content such as map packs or DLC campaign expansions. Those would be a welcomed addition as it would hopefully fund multiple entities within the Halo ecosystem, specifically the competitive scene. What I am referring to is content that you would expect a full-priced $60 experience to have on release.
Too often are games being released in horrid states, with the mindset that through updates and patches can be fixed over time, while players are still required to pay full retail value. Initial releases are becoming betas for many multiplayer experiences, and with the financial support of Microsoft, Infinite has the opportunity to set the standard that games of its similar style should be held to at launch.
There’s no need to skirt around the subject: microtransactions will be in Infinite. In modern gaming, it’s not a possibility, but an expectation in large scale, AAA projects. A job posting from this past September at 343 Industries via Microsoft’s career portal has all but confirmed that an in-game storefront will be present, so players should be realistic with their expectations. Yet, if the microtransactions are strictly cosmetic, the implementation could be a welcomed one (to an extent).
With confirmation from 343 that Infinite will be adopting a level of armor customization similar to Halo: Reach, players will have a plethora of options available to design their Spartan to their likes. If Infinite would adopt a structure similar to Fortnite with cosmetic items available on a timed rotation, it helps appease a multitude of divisions within the player base.
At the same time, this shouldn’t eliminate the ability to acquire all items without pay. Players should still have the ability to unlock all cosmetics and skins available in game via account leveling. By providing an option to purchase select armor pieces though, it not only helps fund various facets of the brand as mentioned before, but it also provides great opportunities for community designs.
Halo Infinite has a unique opportunity ahead of it. With the idea of the game launching with Microsoft’s next generation of console, possibly in 2020, becoming more believable every day, it provides the game the ability to be front and center in the eyes of both long term fans of the series and newcomers. If 343 Industries positions Infinite properly, the series could see a resurgence it desperately needs in the eyes of many.
With the positive reaction surrounding the upcoming release so far, and 343 Industries providing a welcomed level of transparency on the game’s development, we can only hope the Master Chief will once again find himself as the King of the Hill in the realm of shooters.