Move out of the way Luke Cage, Master Chief is stepping back into the spotlight for the next iteration of Halo. The mighty Xbox exclusive shooter franchise will re-focus its next story campaign around its faceless franchise poster boy Master Chief in Halo 6 according to 343 Industries boss Frank O’Connor.
O’Connor, who made headlines recently for claiming Xbox’s Project Scorpio console is even “beefier” than he and his dev teams thought, spoke with Games™ magazine in its latest issue about the feedback and learnings of Halo 5.
With a new Xbox console on the way this holiday season and the platform still losing out on the sales front to rival Sony PlayStation 4 while bolstering a much smaller 2017 games lineup, there’s still a glimmer of hope that at E3 2017 this June Microsoft will have several big surprise game reveals. If anything should launch alongside “the most powerful console ever made” it should be that platform’s killer app in Halo 6, right?
Related: Microsoft Reveals Xbox Scorpio Specs
That’d only be a two-year dev cycle though but if it did, what would be different this time around? Players who stuck with Halo 5: Guardians saw how much work 343 put into the game post-launch, adding in missing features, content and modes all for free, making it so much better, but too late for early adopters and casual gamers who bailed on the boring story or slim offerings of its multiplayer suite at launch. Halo 5 just didn’t have the presence of the earlier Halo games and part of the reason is its narrative losing focus, telling half its forgettable story through the eyes of Spartan Jameson Locke, squad leader of Fireteam Osiris, who’s mocapped and voiced by Mike Colter, Marvel’s like-action Luke Cage himself. Even Nathan Fillion returned to play Edward Buck, a member of that team, but players apparently just want more Chief says O’Connor.
“We took some digs for storytelling in Halo 5, but they were absolutely merited. We very much realized that people wanted Master Chief’s story of Halo 5.
We definitely marketed in a way that we hoped was going to bring surprise, but for some fans and certainly fans of Master Chief, it was a huge disappointment because they wanted more Chief.
They loved Blue Team, they liked Osiris, but they wanted Chief. And that has been a big learning. Chief we tend to think of as kind of a vessel for your adventure rather than necessarily this major character in the universe. He’s really just your entry into the universe.
But people have become attached to him over the last fifteen years and they’ve started to sort of fill in the gaps that the character deliberately has for gameplay reasons with a genuine emotional attachment. We certainly underestimated that with Halo 5.
The effect that the character has on his surroundings and ‘the fate of the galaxy’ has had a resonant effect on fans over the years. It wasn’t that surprising to me, but the volume of ‘give us more Chief’ at the end of Halo 5 was significant and so I think if anything he’s slightly more important now than he has ever been, certainly to our franchise. Instead of focusing on bringing new characters into the world and expanding the playable characters we’ve sort of shifted the focus a little bit to making the world a little bit more realistic and compelling and, I would say, more fun for players who get to inhabit the Chief in the future, pretty much as they demanded.
There’s always a call and response element of shipping a game, you have to ship improvements, you have to ship tweaks and you have to ship changes and sometimes you have to walk some of those back.
Doubling down on Master Chief story and the amount of focus on him was probably the easiest learning from Halo 5. That was a really simple thing to absorb and embrace.”
Maybe this is all true, but regardless of who took center stage in the latest entry of “Reclaimer Saga” that begin with Halo 4, the enemies and story are all still forgettable. Visually beautiful, but forgettable. The real problem is how Halo 5 despite its polish, was just missing too much at launch in an era when there are so many other sci-fi shooters. There were no Forge, Spartan Ops, and Firefight modes and in the traditional competitive section, all sorts of key modes including King of the Hill and Oddball were missing. Much of this came via free DLC and updates later.
343 Industries is the first-party Halo developer for Microsoft so them taking feedback and continually improving Halo 5: Guardians while also being able to build Halo 6 for Scorpio is exciting. And Xbox needs that and fast! Even looking the big third-party shooters coming this fall, all of them (Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Destiny 2, and Call of Duty: WWII) have some sort of partnership and/or timed exclusivity deal for PlayStation 4.
No pressure, 343.