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Bungie is gone, yet Master Chief is back. Gamers who grew up blasting Grunts and Elites on a strange ringworld have every right to be concerned that the next installment in their favorite franchise is being developed by someone other than its original creator: 343 Industries. But how is 343 Industries handling its first Halo game (put an asterisk next to Anniversary)? Based from recent reports, quite well.
343 Industries is trying to keep the feel of Halo, and that is a must. What better way to do that with the return of Master Chief and Cortana? Bungie’s first attempt at a Master Chief-less Halo game, ODST, felt too radically different (Its main character "Rookie" is just too weak), and just too dull and dark (look, I know you’re proud of your new visor mode, but do we really have to play through nearly the entire game with it?).
You know you’re playing a Halo game when you start off in a spaceship or station under siege, and with Jen Taylor telling you where to go. Halo 4 nails this right away. Yet other than a few more details, Halo 4’s campaign is still being kept quiet. A lot has been said of multiplayer, though, and this raises a question: Is 343 Industries focusing too much on multiplayer rather than single player?
This was a question that many had when multiplayer was announced for Mass Effect 3, a franchise known for its stellar single-player experience, and we all know the reaction to that game’s ending. Should gamers be concerned that the single-player of Halo 4 might be taking a backseat? First, it’s still too early to tell. 343 Industries is wisely keeping the plot quiet as a ploy to get die-hard Halo fans excited and guaranteed to buy the game (it’s working on me).
At four games into the main series, and seven in the franchise, chances are they aren’t going to attract any of those who avoided the previous games by touting the single-player story. Instead, they are attempting to attract players by focusing on a portion of the game that requires no previous knowledge of the previous games: multiplayer.
Among the many new features of multiplayer, Spartan Ops seems to be the most promising. Spartan Ops is a multiplayer campaign that is supposedly going to be linked to the main campaign. New missions will be released each week (and the “first season” will thankfully be free with the game, according to franchise director Frank O’Connor). This is a wise way to get more players online – the only way to fully experience the story of Halo 4, you must play online co-op as well.
Like I’ve said before, it’s still too early to tell if Halo 4 will live up to the hype, but the November 6 release date is approaching rather quickly. By all indications, 343 Industries is trying to capture the essence of the franchise, while making the necessary evolutions along the way.