One of the biggest draws to the Halo series is its multiplayer. It’s one of the reasons why so many people bought Halo: The Master Chief Collection – it gave fans a chance to carry Halo‘s multiplayer modes over to Xbox One and it provided people with access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta. It’s also why so many fans were upset by The Master Chief Collection‘s matchmaking issues at launch, which weren’t solved until last month’s patch.
The interest in Halo‘s multiplayer is also why a free-to-play multiplayer-only Halo game has now been announced for PC. The game is called Halo Online and it puts players on a top secret UNSC (United Nations Space Command) space base called Anvil. Here, players will be duking it out as Spartan-IV soldiers who are using Anvil’s facilities to train their abilities and test experimental technology.
We also know that Halo Online is heavily related to Halo 3. Not only is Halo Online set right after the events of Halo 3 but co-distributor Microsoft, along with developers Saber Interactive and Innova Systems have explained that Halo Online runs on a “highly modified version” of the Halo 3 engine. That will be a welcome throwback for long-standing Halo fans but the use of the engine also allows the game to be optimized for lower-end PCs, which will hopefully ensure decent graphics right across the board.
In terms of actual gameplay, we know that Halo Online‘s skirmishes will involve between 4 to 16 players and that each player will be able to customize their Spartan-IV soldiers as well as what guns they use. Once player soldiers are all kitted out, they will be able to play on a range of multiplayer maps including a few fan favorites. Players will also get to travel around in classic Halo vehicles, which is a nice touch.
Sadly, although Halo Online would surely be a hit wherever it’s released, the game is exclusive to Russia and there are no plans to bring it to Xbox One consoles either. This is likely a strategic move from Microsoft, who are looking to tap into the large Russian PC market. 98% of Russian gamers play games on PCs (about 45 million people) and if Microsoft introduces them to Halo, this may encourage them to buy Xbox One consoles for more Halo action. Recently, we saw Microsoft partner with Asian gaming company Tencent to help them expand into China, so we know that the company is looking at entering new markets.
Halo Online heads into a closed beta later this year and it’s possible that if the beta and the full launch goes well, they could decide to release the game stateside. However, as Microsoft says, it would have to go through “region-specific changes to address player expectations”, so the chances are incredibly slim.