A lot of companies try to create a universe, but there is a gold standard for how it’s done – Halo. The team at Bungie and now 343 Industries have built a comprehensive, believable, and compelling lore that appeals to one of the largest audiences I’ve seen, gamer or not. We sat down with Kiki Wolfkill and Dan Ayoub of 343 to see what’s next for the world of Halo.
Before we dug into the improvements coming in Halo: The Master Chief collection, we got a good look at some of the webbing that will be tying all every bit of media together. Meant to blend all of the experiences and ecosystems together, the Halo Channel came about when the team was thinking about how they could bring the universe together in one easy-to-use gamespace. Sidebar chat, intel, voting, a full imdb-esque info system, twitter feed, and far more, it is very clear what the team is building – a premium TV experience like ESPN or HBO Go for Halo.
The team at 343 are aiming for a place where gamers of all playstyles will be able to customize their own Halo Channel to deliver anything and everything they might want. Popular web series Red vs. Blue, video of the E3 trailer, queueing up downloads, putting up sidebar twitter feeds, or dropping into a Twitch match is a seamlessly integrated with a single button press.
Naturally, viewers will be able to easily watch the eagerly-awaited Halo Nightfall, and integration of information layovers wasn’t a big surprise, but what if you could unlock additional story elements and a branching story element for the show? Yea, that’s a thing. At moments during the show, a symbol will pop up on screen, giving viewers the chance to check out elements of the show from a new perspective. Examples include viewing the scene from the eyes of another character, or even an entirely different parallel story. Watching these side story elements unlock in-game rewards, encouraging players to fully explore the universe. Tie it all together with the second-screen experience and you have a complete package.
Before checking out The Master Chief Collection, we briefly touched on e-Sports. The team is looking to bring Twitch events directly to the channel with overlays to give you every bit of information you could possibly want. Filters to see your friends, pros, popular shoutcasters, specific modes, maps, k/d ratio, and more are all tightly integrated into the sidebars, but with a single button press you get full screen immersion.
If you are inclined, you can also play the game directly from the Halo channel. You know…if you are into that kind of thing.
At this point in the presentation we were all chomping at the bit to check out Halo: The Master Chief Collection. With Halo 3 and 4 being the most recent, they received a good bit of upgrades to textures, and of course the push to 1080p and 60fps, but nothing compared to the incredible work 343 has put into Halo 2: Anniversary. Blur Studios has rebuilt all 53 minutes of the Halo 2 cinematics, and the trailer we saw whet our appetite for the transformation to come.
Dan Ayoub gave us a quick demonstration of the ‘classic’ versus updated switch. Like the mode switch in Halo: Anniversary, with a button press you can switch to the original graphics from 10 years ago. Unlike that previous effort, you also get the audio from the original this time around. It is absolutely amazing how much impact the team has put into the weapons, bringing them up to full 7.1 surround sound and adding a robust body to each weapon’s report. Toss in a completely revamped lighting system to bring Covenant dropships, adding sheen to Elite armor and the game is ready to move forward to Xbox One. See for yourself:
Rounding out the day, we finally got to put some shots downrange at our fellow friends in the press. The two maps we got to tackle were fan favorites Zanzibar and Shrine. The first and most noticeable change is a renewed fluidity of motion. Characters didn’t turn at obtuse angles to talk to face one another, instead gliding like you’d expect out of a modern title. This fluidity informed the motion on vehicles as well, giving them a feel of real traction and power as they roar through the landscape.
Playing through both maps I felt an immediate nostalgia, but the upgrades were more than a coat of paint. Rather than describe it further, I have a quick video to show you what’s in store.
Look for our continued coverage of the Halo universe as it unfolds leading up to the Halo Channel and Halo Nightfall debut this fall.