The biggest weapon in Microsoft’s console war arsenal is locked and loaded but gamers with itchy trigger fingers will have to wait as Halo 5: Guardians was confirmed today for a Fall 2015 release. Though teased as far back as the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and the fact that a new Halo game for the new Xbox One was going to be as inevitable as the sunrise, this summer’s E3 will be a “giant leap,” as the official Xbox Wire press release calls it, in the “journey” that will be Halo 5.
An early step on the marketing of that journey was the release of the game’s box art, depicting two characters in the franchise’s SPARTAN space-marine armor in an alien desert landscape, one unfamiliar to fans of the franchise, but, standing as if the first’s reflection in a mirage, is the familiar form of the Master Chief.
Speculation as to the unfamiliar character’s identity began instantaneously. Was it Halo 4’s deuteragonist, the SPARTAN VI commander Sarah Palmer? Was it the ‘dead’ Artificial Intelligence Cortana returned in the form of a ‘possessed’ SPARTAN armor? Most worrying to fans: are they being setup for a dreaded M-style protagonist-switch? Most of these rumors were quelled right away by tweets from 343 staffers (including Halo Executive Producer Josh Holmes tweeting his account: @joshingtonstate), who fans know that the new cover boy is in fact male and a new character, leaving open speculation that he might in fact be the villain.
As for the ‘book’ rather than the ‘cover,’ Bonnie Ross, the General Manager of current Halo developer 343 Industries informs, “'Halo 5: Guardians is a bigger effort than Halo 4.’ That applies to the content and scope of the game, as well as the technology in what’s now a brand new and more powerful engine. Certainly there are some core elements carried over from prior games, but we’ve invested a huge effort in retooling our tech to take full advantage of the Xbox One’s hardware and ecosystem to create worlds and experiences worthy of next-gen.
It’s a game that will hopefully demonstrate the talent, learnings and abilities of the 343 Industries team. A game that will incorporate the things we learned from Halo 4 about technology, aesthetics, performance and scale – and perhaps more importantly, understanding and embracing a community of gamers who love what lies at the heart of this game, and the limitless potential of the Halo universe.”
Ross also took the opportunity of the announcement to remind fans about the Steven Spielberg-led Halo television series that will somehow both “stand alone, as well as complement and enrich the game experience.”
For two console generations so far Halo has been Microsoft’s killer app, with stronger-than-ever completion from Sony, a perfectly executed Halo could do the trick for them again.