Fans of Halo know that the world is a different place without Bungie steering the franchise. 343 Industries are not to be underestimated, but it remains to be seen if the magic and fan loyalty the series has enjoyed will continue into the next installment, or fizzle out entirely. Rumors have been spreading since reports surfaced in Games Master magazine that 343 wouldn't be taking their chances with Halo 4 after all. Instead, the team is currently hard at work on an Xbox 360 remake of the game that started it all, Halo: Combat Evolved.
The magazine reports that "industry chatter" points to an HD remake of the game being developed for a release during holiday 2011, a full year ahead of the sequel to Halo 3 that the team had been assumed to be working on. If that's the case, then fans not only have Halo 4 to look forward to, but a re-treading of Halo: CE to whet their appetite.
The game being released in November of 2011 would fall on the tenth anniversary of the game's original release, and would definitely go a great distance in alleviating the pressure on 343 Industries' 2012 title. The Corporate VP of Microsoft Game Studios, Phil Spencer previously quieted the demand for HD remakes in the wake of the Team Ico Collection being announced, but never said it wasn't something the company was thinking about.
The proposed game would be a full HD remake of the entire first game, built in the advanced Halo: Reach engine. Since Bungie has made it clear they're building a new engine of their own, it's nice to think the previous ones will still be put to use. It may still be just a rumor, but it certainly makes sense financially. Microsoft has already stated that they want shorter development cycles between Halo releases, and it wouldn't hurt to get as much out of the franchise name before 343 Industries puts their necks on the line with Halo 4.
CVG asked the man in charge of all things Xbox in the UK, Stephen McGill if the rumor was true. While he neither denied nor confirmed it, his comments do seem to be more encouraging of the idea than Spencer's:
"I imagine it's a good idea... I think some people want to go back to older games and see them revisited and I think a lot of developers want to see that too,"
A healthy debate could be had over whether or not it's a good thing that developers apparently would like to revisit old properties instead of create new IPs, but that's another topic entirely.
Rumors that 343 Industries were not looking like they would have a finished product for holiday 2011 began circling when Microsoft pushed the release date of Gears of War 3 from the spring into the winter to become the "marquee title for the holiday season." If the rumor proves to be true, it will be interesting to see how Epic reacts to finding out they've been moved to go head-to-head with Halo.
The main storyline of Halo: Reach managed to depict the events leading up to the first Halo game with a great deal of drama and story, so it makes sense to continue the tale into the first game itself. Having the game continue into a new Halo: Combat Evolved would also take the Master Chief easter egg to a whole new level of awesomeness.
We spent a lot of time thinking about what may be in store for Halo 4, but none of us thought it would be something both as surprising and obvious as simply remaking the first game. We're all for remakes and reboots, but Halo: CE is only ten years old-- does it already need to be remade? That game is still fresh in the memory of thousands which means that the slightest adjustment, even to fix old errors or redundancies, would inevitably be met with fan backlash. Although, the idea of starting the story over with Reach's engine is compelling enough to give the game a fair shot.
We'll keep you posted on any and all details surrounding the remake, but for now it seems that fans of the old-school (and Xbox 360) can hold out hope for a next-gen version of Halo: Combat Evolved.