Halo 5 is coming. We'll probably have to wait until 2015 if the rumour mill is anything to go by, but as longtime fans of the series, we can't wait to see how 343 Industries push Bungie's legendary brand into the new console generation.
Actually, we do have a few ideas of our own - and some criticisms of Halo 4 to boot.
10: Sort your QTEs out, 343
Halo 4 deserves to be studied in game design courses over the next few years, since it featured both the best and worst QTEs in recent memory.
The first level challenged us to climb up a collapsing superstructure in the most immersive QTE ever implemented by a videogame. Master Chief glanced left or right instead of relying on silly button prompts, allowing us to unconsciously make the right move without breaking the first-person perspective, to the extent that I had to replay the scene and intentionally fail just to convince myself that it wasn't a cutscene. It was utterly masterful (no pun intended) and we'd be happy with more of that - even in other games. Plagiarise the heck out of it, everyone.
However, we want none of the other kind of QTEs in Halo 5. The bad kind. The lazy kind. The immersion-killing kind. The 'press RB to kill the Elite' or 'hammer X to win the game' kind. No. Bad 343. Bad. Don't make me roll up a newspaper and bonk you on the nose.
9: Grifball: The eSport Of The Future
eSports are all the rage these days, and Halo 5 is already perfectly placed to turn the best of its gametypes into a sensation. Grifball. Rooster Teeth's joke became a deadly serious mode, one that's as tense and tactical as it is ludicrously fun and riotously ridiculous.
So not only do we crave Grifball at launch, but we'd love loads of rotating championships and tournaments built directly into the game, supported by robust stat tracking, then perfectly accompanied by Xbox One Twitch streaming and DVR. See you in pre-season!
Oh, and we're looking for a fourth team-mate. We're undefeated in 2014. Sort of.
8: SWAT at launch
Speaking of gametypes, SWAT is amazing. Make sure it's in day one this time, please.
7: Brand new engine & netcode
Halo has always looked amazing. After Combat Evolved became the last word in console graphics for an entire generation (its gratuitous sparks, lighting, luminescent blood and eye for fine detail still looks fantastic), the series focused on the big picture rather than the micro-scale, providing ambiently pretty and holistic environments to gawk at.
But we're in a new console generation now and it's time for the next big leap. To do so, we feel that 343i will need to deliver a totally new engine as opposed to gussying up the old one.
The creaking netcode also deserves a major overhaul, seeing as it's still the same ancient and idiosyncratic beast held together with duct tape and bits of string. Even after some patching that let us join games in progress, matchmaking can be painfully slow and finicky (especially when partied up) - so we'd love to see some of Microsoft's 'cloud power' thrown Halo's way. You know, that thing they keep bragging about. That does sweet bugger all.
6: Arcade scoring
Whether cooperating in the campaign or throwing down in Firefight, we've always been huge fans of Halo's arcade scoring system. Co-op players were rewarded points and medals for taking down targets and pulling off ridiculous feats of heroism, which then let us dissect each match and chat about our accomplishments afterwards, either over VOIP or around the water cooler with Waypoint support.
"You legend, I can't believe you killed that Wraith with a Grav Hammer!" "Well yeah, but your sword spree saved our asses, and look at those awesome wheelman medals, dude! You're our designated driver from now on." "Hell yes... whoa, Jon, you sucked that round. Maybe you should try shooting some enemies next time." "Shut up: look, I got 30 assists. Stop stealing my kills!"
It added a new layer of cameraderie and competition to the experience... that Halo 4 stupidly forgot about. Sort it, Halo 5.
5: No messianic prophecy nonsense
We saw the cloak. We heard all the blabbering about becoming a higher being and all that rot in Halo 4. It'd be so easy for Halo 5 to fall headfirst into "you are the chosen one from the prophecy" silliness, or turning a perfectly brilliant soldier into some sort of poorly handled pseudo-religious messiah instead of grounding the series in hard sci-fi.
Fun fact: prophecies are dumb, mysticism is trite, there's no such thing as "the one," the Messiah is a very naughty boy and being an awesome space marine is good enough for us. Unless you're pulling off a Marathon Infinity gambit and are planning on letting us become a God at the end of the universe at the whim of a mad computer (please, please be a tie-in!), leave well alone.
Halo 4 wasn't short on vehicles, from stalwarts like the mighty Scorpion and legendary Warthog to the menacing new Mantis. Unfortunately it was a little light on interesting ways to use them. Vehicles need room to manoeuvre, and better yet, room to experiment with different combinations each time in environments wide enough to support them. There's always a place in our hearts for a crazy linear run - notably the very end of the game (we love it!), but we'd like to see more of Spartan Ops' highlights bleed over into the campaign proper. Respawning Mantises against an entire Covenant task force in an enormous map? Yes please.
We'd also like to see more aerial combat - which doesn't have to be delivered via a linear trench run with a set of bespoke mechanics. Remember that sequence in Halo 2 where we flew around a collapsing installation in a crazy dogfighting Banshee run, all while insane electric fiddle music blared out in the background? Or the Pelican section from Reach? Or Two Betrayals? Or ODST's Kikowani Station? Just let us use the planes you already have, but in creative and interesting ways!
Better Music Can we have a theme please?
Halo 4's sound design may have been top-tier, but its soundtrack was limp and flaccid, wilting in the background rather than raising the hairs on the back of our neck and stirring up our blood. More than anything, the reclaimer trilogy needs a theme; not some occasional tribal tootling, but an emphatic anthem that elevates the biggest moments into unforgettable memories.
Or, you know, you could use the seminal theme you already have. Marty. Hire Marty!
2: Tougher Chief means bigger battles
The switch from medical kits to regenerating HP in Halo 2 essentially invented the 'regenerating health' model we know today, but it came at a cost that we felt throughout the later games. Because Master Chief could take less damage before having to turn turtle, the encounters and set pieces had to scale back somewhat, leading to less of the enormous set pieces we loved in the original (such as Two Betrayals' massive 3-way battles) even in the likes of Halo 3. A survivability buff wouldn't make things easier, rather it would allow 343i to throw more at us and sustain its biggest engagements for longer, with more momentum.
Oh, and seeing as Spartan 117 is a highly conditioned genetically-engineered cyborg encased within armour that's more main battle tank than battle dress, a little more melee oomph wouldn't go amiss. Even in Halo 2, we were able to punch through the armoured hull of an enemy tank and murder its pilot, which is 100% appropriate in canon. Make us tougher and more durable, then up the ante considerably!
Mind you, this would have to be rebalanced for multiplayer. Details, details. That's what the Spartan IIIs are for.
1: Wider, longer, taller, bigger!
Halo 4 was a corridor.
There's no two ways about it. Even in comparison with Halo 2, hell, even compared to some of Combat Evolved's more restrictive (or library-themed) levels, the campaign was tight and claustrophobic; forcing us down a strict path that rarely opened up the way we'd like - even when we were allowed to clamber into vehicles. The Scorpion and Mantis had to trundle down a path that was barely wider than the vehicles themselves!
I hate to keep bringing up the original game, but CE's corridors worked because they opened out and gave us room to breathe, and room to experiment with all the toys and tactics at our disposal. The second level was a sandbox that let us choose our own route; hooning around in Warthogs, sniping, sneaking, needling and trying our different strategies each time. The big set pieces are still the highest points of the franchise: those massive open plains that arrayed multiple tanks, aircraft, Hunters, squads of infantry against huge hordes of ravening Flood, then sat back and said "right then, player, your move." Do we punch straight down the middle with a rocket launcher? Slide a Ghost into the mix? Flank around with stealth camo? Snipe? Or all of the above and more as plans went to hell, forced to improvise on a second-by-second basis.
Halo 3 and even Spartan Ops' stronger missions did this well, providing combat sandboxes rather than combat corridors. And Scarabs. Halo 5 needs to go even further, allowing us to take part in an actual war with massive forces on each side, with us as able to act as the precise application of military force capable of turning the tide on our terms.
We've got the toys and we've got the tools, so it's time that 343i gave us the big, wide, tall and open canvas to paint on. With death.