Old soldiers never die, they just switch developers and continue on. When Bungie ended its tour of duty with the Halo franchise that it created, and headed for the greener (and more lucrative) pastures of Activision, the developer left one of the most iconic characters in video game history in something of a precarious situation. Halo 3 ended the trilogy of games with a definitive conclusion to the Earth’s war against the Covenant and battle against the Flood, but the cost to Master Chief and his AI-companion were high.
If you have not played Halo 3, beware spoilers–but in that case, to be fair you probably shouldn’t be reading an article about Halo 4 anyway. The series ended with Master Chief in stasis, floating in the wreckage of a ruined space ship, and Cortana watching over him, waiting to awaken him when he is needed. It was a bittersweet ending, but a satisfying one.
Bungie, of course, went on to close out its run with the prequel Halo: Reach, but 343 Industries were left to take the character of Master Chief in a new direction. It has already been announced that the next Halo would be the beginning of a new trilogy unofficially dubbed “The Reclaimer Trilogy,” and now we have a few more minor—but important–details about the game.
In an interview with CVG, 343 Industries’ Frank O’Connor discussed a few of the things we can expect. For those that have been worried about what the change of developers will do to the careful crafted universe that Bungie created, you can relax. The franchise is in good hands in O’Conner, who was hired away from Bungie to oversee Halo.
O’Conner claims that there are a lot of changes coming for the character, both aesthetically and in play, but the game will still feel fundamentally like a Halo game. The first difference we can expect is in how Master Chief looks.
“There’s some fairly radical modifications to his armor” says O’Connor. “Some of those are an artistic evolution, but some are connected to the story. We just can’t talk about it yet. He’s been in space for a long time.”
The game will begin when Master Chief awakens just as the remains of his ship arrives at a mysterious new planet. Those that played Halo 3 and beat it on Legendary (spoiler) may remember that the Chief was heading for what appeared to be a planet covered in some form of technology, possibly circuitry. Assuming that 343 retains that bit of canon, the glimpse was saw was actually the shell of an artificial planet.
Earlier this year at Halofest, the new developers revealed that the new game will take place in a forerunner shield world—an artificially constructed world that the forerunners designed to survive the firing of the Halo rings, which were created to destroy the now extinct Flood by eradicating all organic material in the galaxy.
Perhaps more importantly to the story though, is that the years have not been as kind to Cortana, who is facing the end of her life cycle.
“Seven years is the lifespan for a smart AI 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 AI 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.”
O’Conner also stated that the trilogy will get much worse before it gets better, meaning Halo 5 will likely be a fairly bleak affair before Halo 6 resolves the coming conflict.
Halo 4 does not have an official release date, but it is scheduled for Q4 of 2012.