It's hard to overstate the impact that the Halo franchise has had on the games industry, and popular culture as a whole, over the last decade. The original Halo is widely acknowledged as the game that launched Microsoft's entry into gaming with the Xbox, and for years it remained one of the system-exclusive titles that simply had to be played. With every new entry in the series, sales records were obliterated and reviews skyrocketed. With the recent success of Halo: Reach, it became even clearer just how close the series has become to the hearts of fans.
Now the little developer that could, Bungie, has left the series that helped take them from being a well regarded developer of computer games (Marathon, Myth) to a household name. With Microsoft's 343 Industries taking over the helm of the Halo franchise, gamers don't know what to expect. Given the modest success of alternative Halo titles (Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST), it's safe to assume that the next game in the series will likely be a first person shooter.
It's hard to think of experiences we have yet to see in Halo, but we've put together a list of stories and mechanics we would like to see employed in Halo 4.
#5. Halo 4: First Strike
Why not let the new game pick up where Reach left off by taking on the next book in the Halo novel series, 'First Strike.' This would answer the questions of just what happened to the other Spartans when Reach fell. This book introduces several new characters, but would also leave room for a customizable player like Reach's Noble-6. The story begins slightly prior to where Reach ends, with a second team being sent to protect the planetside weapons and military brass. This new group of Spartans would eventually take on skirmishes, space combat, and the game could culminate in an infiltration of a Covenant Fleet advancing on Earth prior to the end of Halo 2. If nothing else, a First Strike game would determine if Reach's focus on periphery events in the Halo universe would be something that fans would like to see more of.
#4. Halo 4: In Space
Simply put, a Halo game with far more space combat. While many players found the space flight mission from Reach a welcome change, it may surprise them to hear that about 30-50% of every Halo novel deals heavily with the operation of a variety of warships and battles. It's been a while since a ship-to-ship combat game was a real success on consoles, and getting to take on the Covenant in a familiar universe could change that. Such a game would also offer an opportunity for interesting mechanics, such as balancing weapons, maneuvering, managing power, and tactical strategy against more formidable alien vessels. An element of multiplayer thrown in could result in the kind of incredibly deep game that players deserve.
#3. Halo 4: Tales of the Covenant
For those unfamiliar with the Tales series, imagine playing a large-scale RTS game like StarCraft II with the ability to move into the boots of a soldier on the battlefield to try to turn the fight to your team's side. A star system-sized battle between the UNSC and Covenant forces, with the ability to step into a FPS or space combat stage at any point, is a mash-up we'd love to see. Halo: Wars didn't reach the same heights as other entries in the Halo series, but perhaps fans would be more welcoming to mechanics from other genres if the shooter roots of the franchise were given just as much time and attention. It would also give players the ability to take sides in the battle between humans and Covenant, which could lead to some interesting online multiplayer.
#2. Halo 4: Ghosts of Onyx
While Master Chief has generally received the title of 'greatest leader' among the Spartans, there is one other Spartan who might compare. Kurt, Spartan-051, was hand-picked to disappear from existence so he could covertly train a new generation of child Spartans. The training grounds on the planet Onyx share a unique connection to the story as a whole. When the system of Halos is activated during the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, it quickly becomes clear that Onyx is just as connected to the Forerunner legacy as the Flood.
Without giving spoilers, the squad-based game would follow the remaining soldiers under Kurt fighting the all-too-familiar Forerunner Sentinels as they attempt to understand how Onyx is meant to act as 'a shield' from the Halo's destructive power. The Covenant are just as interested, giving players a brand new opportunity to take on machine and alien as they explore the rich Forerunner mythology of the Halo franchise.
#1. Halo 4: The Cole Protocol
The story of the Halo novel 'The Cole Protocol' takes place in a man-made city inside of hollowed-out asteroids connected by tunnels and lifts collectively named 'The Rubble.' The human refugees there have managed to negotiate a peace with a nearby faction of Covenant Jackals, trading weapons and supplies. The story follows the Spartan Gray Team, a squad of Spartans whose entire mission is to covertly wreak havoc on the Covenant behind enemy lines. When the secret gets out that the humans possess the coordinates to Earth, the entire reason behind the Cole Protocol, the Jackals attack. The player would step into the role of a member of Gray team, attacking the Jackals on their ships, in the Rubble, even planet-side, to destroy a Covenant breeding facility.
While this version of Halo 4 would cling to the shooter tradition that fans have come to love, the Rubble would be the star. As Rapture loomed ever-present in Bioshock's narrative, so too would this floating city take on a life of its own, and get players just as excited about exploration as clip-emptying.
So there you have it, five out of the hundreds of places we here at Game Rant would like to see 343 Industries take the story of Halo in the next game. Details on Halo 4 have been kept extremely quiet in the wake of Halo: Reach, so we may prove to be closer with our predictions than even we might think.
Recent news might imply that Halo 4 won't be arriving in 2011, but that gives us all even more time to think of all the new characters and storylines that we would love to see in action. Let us know how close we came to your own ideas, or if you've got a game that would blow our suggestions out of the water.