While every genre of gaming these days is jam-packed with high quality properties, that doesn't mean that it's become a level playing field. Not many franchises have had their brands or characters break into larger popular culture, but one undeniably iconic gaming figure is the man, the myth, the legend - the Master Chief.
The development team behind Halo 4 is well aware of the Chief's significance to not just the strength of the Halo brand, but to the Xbox 360 as well.
Occasionally a series dealing with science-fiction that spans multiple alien species and interstellar conflicts can grow a little too big for its britches, but that just doesn't seem to be the case for Halo 4. The team at 343 Industries may not be the team that first created the character of Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, but the value of the character isn't lost on them.
Since the first look at Halo 4 story and gameplay showed how the personal history of the Chief would be taking center stage over the enemy types or weaponry, it's been evident for some time that 343 is looking to take the series in a new direction. The series may have become less of a straightforward property with spin-off titles Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach, but the return to the quintessential space marine also means a return to what first made the Microsoft Xbox a legitimate console.
In speaking with MCV, Xbox global marketing director Steve Beinner explained how Halo and its hero are in elite company in the world of video games:
"Bringing Master Chief back is huge...Honestly, there’s not many franchises that have done what Halo has. There’s not many that have broken through and sold that much. You named two of them, GTA and Call of Duty. But if you look at platform exclusives, nothing is bigger than Halo."
While some Halo fans may disagree with Microsoft in claiming that the series had "lost its way" in straying from the Master Chief, there's no denying the fact that his absence has been noticeable to say the least. Executive Producer Kiki Wolfkill also emphasized the significance of his return, and how building a new trilogy of games around his life was the right choice:
“Halo has missed Master Chief a little bit. And that’s not to take anything away from the games that were off the main line. But we’ve built so much equity in Chief and really such a strong icon in Chief, that I do think people missed a little bit not being able to see what he was doing next. He is such a strong focal point.”
With the shift from absolute mystery concerning the game to hearing that the campaign is already completed, it's hard not to get excited for what Halo 4 could bring. It's even harder to disagree with Microsoft that Halo is the king of console exclusives, so returning to Master Chief seems like a no-brainer. But even though Bungie's co-founder trusts 343 to deliver a quality game, there will no doubt be naysayers until the game is released.
Do you think the development team is right to return to Master Chief, or would you have preferred to see more of the expanded fiction incorporated into the game series?
Halo 4 is scheduled to release in 2012, exclusively for the Xbox 360.
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