Halo is a Bungie game no longer. The beloved studio has parted ways with its greatest achievement, setting sail with Activision for a new adventure. As such, Halo has taken up residence with step-father Microsoft, who've set up a brand new home for it, 343 Studios. Made up of some of the industry's sharpest tools, it's a fitting place to begin an all new trilogy and take Halo to the next level.
But with a new home comes a new beginning for John-117. The story picks up two years following the climactic events of Halo 3, but should the fourth game follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, or a forge a path all its own?
Iron Sights, Por Favor
While a select few weapons in the Halo armory - the original Magnum, Battle Rifle and Sniper Rifle, among others - feature a scoped reticule, Halo is predominantly a hip-fire shooter. It's no bad thing, and Halo has built its ever-evolving, adaptable gameplay style on the ability to wade into the fray, firing in each and every direction while leaping in the air or strafing right and left.
We're not calling for a revision to Halo's fundamentals, but an iron-sights mode would be a welcome addition in 343's game. Imagine creeping up on a bunch of Grunts - or whatever we're fighting in Halo 4 - and carefully lining up headshots, even if you're not equipped with a scoped weapon.
Sadly, Call of Duty has changed gamers' expectations when it comes to the FPS genre. I have numerous fans I once played Halo with each and every night - ah, schooldays - who now play Call of Duty almost exclusively. Reach felt dated to them, and I feel the lack of iron-sights was a major benefactor. It's a divisive suggestion, sure, but one we stand by.
While Reach's campaign was often pitch-perfect, a culmination of Bungie's ten years spent developing Halo, I did feel a little letdown by the glaring omission of vehicle on vehicle carnage. Halo is renowned for its sprawling battles, with Warthogs careening across the map, spraying shells, Ghosts boosting here and there, and Scorpions and Wraiths lobbing destruction from afar. Who can forget emerging from the Forerunner facility in 'Assault on the Control Room', stumbling on a massive encounter between UNSC and Covenant forces on the frigid ring's tundra.
For Halo 4, we want 343 to embrace the utter anarchy of vehicle on vehicle combat. Sweeping battlefields, strewn with Covenant forces, both on-foot and aboard vehicles - I love running over hapless Grunts in a Warthog - chock-full of variety and excitement. In the concept art video 343 has released, you can clearly see a human carrier, suggesting Master Chief regroups with UNSC forces. As such, we expect the full roster of UNSC vehicles, not to mention a few Forerunner variants.
However, a key component to Halo's vehicle-heavy scenarios is choice. While it's advisable to hop in a Warthog or Ghost, it's entirely your choice whether to go it on foot or not. While I'm a huge fan of Reach's 'Long Night of Solace' level set in near-orbit aboard a Sabre spacecraft, the fact that you couldn't simply hop out - even Spartans can't survive in a vacuum for long - contributed to it feeling like just another vehicle level you often see shoehorned into shooters.
Again, we're back to Reach. It was the last Halo game, after all. So, Armor Abilities. I think we can safely say they were a well-implemented success. Rocketing into the sky like an armored stalk on Jetpacks, soaking up damage like a Hunter with Armor Lock, creeping around like the Predator with Invisibility. It was all good fun.
However, we're of the opinion here at Dealspwn that Armor Abilities should be removed in Halo 4. In our opinion, the best Halo title since the first - still the reigning champ - is the jazz-infused noir spinoff, ODST. Returning to the ideals of the first game, ODST was a riveting, compelling experience. You had your gun, a few grenades and your wits. That was all. In Reach, you feel like a superhero, less like the super-soldiers Spartans are.
Halo 4 should return to the basics of Combat Evolved. It is, after all, the start of a new trilogy, with the Chief once again woken from cryo-sleep to find himself crash-landing on a Forerunner construct he has no knowledge of. It's almost poetic how we've come full circle, and the gameplay should reflect this. That said, the teaser trailer shows the Chief escaping from the fiery hulk of Forward Unto Dawn via zero-g thrusters on his back. Perhaps he'll have new abilities inherent to the armor?
A Sweeping Mystery
Remember crash-landing on the first Halo ring? Emerging from the ruined pod, your squad-mates splattered across the grass. You look up, and a giant waterfall is crashing down before a sloped ridge. Behind you, a sheer drop, the landscape carved in crude, rough angles, like a child's drawing of what a world should look like. It was enthralling stuff, and we clung on to every story-thread with rapt attention in Combat Evolved. Sadly, the quality of storytelling diminished with each and every game - bar ODST's novel approach - culminating in Reach's shockingly forgettable tale.
In Halo 4, Chief once again finds himself crash-landing on a mysterious Forerunner outpost. He's alone - for a while at least - and must contend with an 'ancient evil'. While I'm all for furious action and spectacle, I'd like to see Halo 4 return to the sweeping mystery of Combat Evolved. For every epic encounter, a lull, where you'd wander the alien landscape, dumbstruck by the sheer beauty and craft of artificial islands like The Silent Cartographer or the disused spires still firing long-forgotten ammunition into the sky.
We're quietly confident 343 will deliver on this. The concept art video we mentioned earlier has numerous passages of Chief standing alone on an outcrop of rock, overlooking a vast landscape. It's classic Halo, and the tone - even in the art alone - is quintessentially Combat Evolved. Mystery, wonder and invisible menace all wrapped into a single image. Bring this back, 343; please!
What do you want to see from Halo 4, Dealspwners? Should Armor Abilities in fact return? Is suggesting an iron sights mode tantamount to heresy? Tell us! We'd love to hear your thoughts.