Hail to the Chief
And if tonight my soul may find its peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
He sleeps in the in-between, in the space beyond time. Resting in silent vigil, his last words were "Wake me....when you need me." If he dreams of such peaceful thought, or if he even dreams at all, one can only guess. But for all the reasons that dwell upon such things, it is without doubt that, adrift in a sea of stars, beyond the reach of man, he has earned such respite. Yet there are those restless forces beyond that deem his return, to stand once again as a champion to his people. And, like seasons upon the land, winter has passed for the thawing of spring, for the vibrancy of the renewal. As his body is shaken loose from the in-between, from that place beyond in peaceful thought, a whispered wake of voice cries out to him. "John, I need you."
Emerging from his rest, as blood and bone command him to, his eyes set upon the shimmering aura of Cortana. He responds with words that both resonate and stand resolute. Words that reassure as much as reverberate across a cold, lifeless expanse. They are simple, but commanding. Harsh, but uplifting. Frightening, but welcomed.
Forward, Unto Dawn....
Set adrift in space at the conclusion to the original Halo trilogy, those who played and finished Halo 3 on its legendary difficulty got to see the story end on a cliffhanger, as the remnants of Master Chief's ship slowly drifted closer to what looked like a circuit-encased planetoid. With the original developer Bungie moving on to greener pastures, Microsoft's own 343 Industries, no stranger to the how's and why's of the Halo Universe, pick up that tale right where it ends. According to Halo 4's Director, Frank O'Connor, 343's new "Reclaimer Trilogy" begins with this end. "We called it a new trilogy, but that's really just a chronological description. It's a direct continuation and evolution of the Master Chief's story. And we're going to be pretty front and center about that. This is about the Master Chief and we're going to make him a deeper and richer character than he's been, but just in the way that I'm sure Bungie would have naturally done anyway."
But being as respectful as they can to the character (not to mention the millions of devout fans of the series), don't expect a radical departure in John-117's nature. "We're not going to do that by having him talk a lot more or do anything out of character. You're just going to learn more about him, and that's the best way to explore anybody's character. Not many people go through giant evolutions in their personality in a few months. The Chief has had a strange, difficult, and brutal life. And I think people want to know a little bit more about that...that's one of the attractions of the books and it's something that we're able to put into the games very easily, and something we've always wanted to do."
For those of you familiar with the teaser trailer that made its debut back at E3 2011, one particular element is that we got to see Master Chief flying around in what appeared to be installed jet thrusters in his armor, an element that didn't introduce itself to the series until Halo: Reach. Mr. O'Connor is aware of the discrepancy, but reassures fans that it's all part of the evolution of the character that will be explained at a later time. "We wouldn't rest on our own laurels......we have to add things to it," O'Connor says. "That's going to be one of the difficult transitions certainly for fans of the Bungie games. We had a lot of people saying, 'Why does the Chief's armor look different?' Well, the Chief's armor has looked different every single game. It's a natural evolution of trying to make your graphics better and having different artist approach it. But in the case of the trailer in particular, there's some fairly radical modifications to his armor. Some of those are definitely an artistic evolution, but some of it is connected to the story. We just can't talk about it yet. He's been in space for a long time."
From what's been leaked about the story, expect to return to a more sandbox-esque environment/exploration in which Master Chief finds himself in. And what better way to do that than to have an entire Forerunner World to explore? "You learn the sandbox at your own pace, and I kinda miss that," O'Connor says. "I sometimes feel that modern games are over-designed....they funnel you into fights when really what you want to do is smell the roses. Halo used to let you do that. As it got more modern, it tended towards more defined encounters and experiences. Reach tries, I think successfully, to make you use all the elements of that sandbox in a very certain, rigorous, action-packed fashion.......The most important thing for me in the whole series is the sense of wonder and mystery. We're definitely going back to that air of exploration, and putting in some surprises that I think people will like."
You Need A Weapon
According to various 343 press releases, Halo 4 will be offering players a sort of on-the-fly weapon modification ability, but as to WHAT exactly that means, details are a bit sketchy.
As quoted from their homepage:
"Halo 4 will expand the series trademark arsenal of weapons and vehicles beyond any other title so far. Players can expect fan favorites to return along with new additions. Halo 4 will also feature the revolutionary new Arsenal Improvisation Mechanics that allow for menu-free, creative customization of weapons and vehicles in the heat of combat. Players will take their fight to a new level by dynamically tailoring their weapons and vehicles to suit any situations or enemies."
Beyond that, expect some of the old in with the new, something that Halo 4's Creative Director, Josh Holmes says will hopefully engage fans both old and new alike. "It plays like Halo," says Holmes. "That was really important to us and we wanted to maintain that magical Halo feel. At the same time, it was important for us to take risks and evolve the gameplay so it's fresh and different. We had to maintain that commitment to the sandbox nature of Halo gameplay - making sure we're empowering players to make choices in how they approach each problem instead of giving them only one solution. That was one of the things we held at the core of everything we did."
One of these "risks" is in the nature of Cortana herself, Master Chief's stalwart A.I. companion throughout pretty much all of the original trilogy. "Seven years is the lifespan for a smart A.I. before it enters a state called rampancy," O'Connor says. "Cortana was getting close to the end of her natural lifespan at the end of Halo 3 but she has been exposed to far more information than any other A.I. in existence. She's going to develop some muscle from that process but it also contributes to her rampancy - that much information makes things worse." As to what that might entail for the duo's working future, O'Connor and team are still being tight-lipped beyond the ominous "problematic."
Slated for a November 2012 release, Halo 4 will be Microsoft's first foray into the "Halo-verse" without Bungie's keen eye overlooking the project. As to it's success, one can only guess. But so far it's shaping itself up to be yet another mammoth chapter in John-117's life. Let's just hope it lives up to the hype. Not to mention fan expectation.
So no pressure there, Microsoft.
At a Glance: Halo 4
Blog entry posted by wastelander75, Aug 15, 2012.