Beyond Halo 4 – A Detailed Look at What’s to Come

WARNING This article contains spoilers from the Halo games and makes brief references to small plot points from various Halo books. It has been written from the direct perspective of the author and contains some personal thoughts and ideas – these are not to be taken as fact.

Halo. A franchise many of us on RUL know and love dearly. We’ve fought and defeated the Flood, we’ve vanquished the Covenant, we’ve even defeated a leading Forerunner. Cortana is lost to us, Master Chief has shed his armor, and Requiem is destroyed. What direction could the Halo story possibly take now? The answer – almost anything. That is the beauty of the franchise. Halo is such an expansive and fascinating story universe that future games could take almost any direction imaginable. It’s 2014, and we know a new game is coming this year. It won’t be long before the floodgates (see what I did there?) open and the Halo news comes pouring out.

In anticipation of what’s to come very soon, I have written a detailed summary and analysis of all the official information we have about the next Halo game, in an attempt to whet your appetite for what should be an exciting thrill-ride of a year filled with hype and anticipation for the next chapter in the Master Chief’s story.

There’s quite a lot to digest in this lengthy article, so grab yourselves a drink, put on your reading glasses and enjoy!

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Let’s go back to E3 2011, where we saw the reveal of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and more importantly, a CGI trailer for Halo 4. This was later confirmed to be the first game in a new trilogy developed by 343 Industries. Two years later, Phil Spencer reported that this trilogy has been expanded into “more of a saga” – meaning the series could go on indefinitely. This news came alongside the reveal trailer of what we still know as “Halo: Xbox One” – the working title for 343 Industries’ first Halo game on the Xbox One.

Whilst we only saw a teaser trailer at E3, it was rich with plot hints for the game – all it takes is a closer look and some background knowledge.

Halo: Xbox One – The Name

It has been confirmed that the “Halo: Xbox One” is merely a working title, meaning it’s a temporary name for the project. It looks as if there are two main possibilities, either it’s a side-game like ODST, or it will eventually launch as “Halo 5”, and in either case they simply didn’t want to give away too much that early on. The most likely of the two is that this game is “Halo 5”, given that it features Master Chief – it just doesn’t seem right that 343i would release a Halo game featuring Master Chief if it were not a main numbered sequel.

The only way it would seem probable that this is a side game is if the final name were to be “Halo 4: XYZ” (à la Halo 3: ODST), a side-game that is linked with Halo 4. The only issue that arises here is that if it features Master Chief, and follows on from Halo 4, why not make it Halo 5? It’s now a saga, so it’s not like they would be “using up” a numbered sequel. ODST seemed right as a side-game linked with Halo 3 because it took place around the same time, and didn’t feature a character from Halo 3 – meaning it could exist in a completely different area of the lore to Halo 3 whilst maintaining the link.

We Need to Go Deeper

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Whilst we’re thinking about the name, here’s something interesting that I noticed a few months back. The image shown above, found in this Halo Bulletin, is named “h5_1_660.jpg”. Go download it and see for yourself! Now, in no way am I saying this is an outright confirmation that this game will be named “Halo 5”, but the use of “h5” in the file name either means it was just quicker to type that, or that the game really will be Halo 5. Just something to think about.

Halo: Xbox One – Reveal Trailer [E3 2013]

The trailer is where we really start to get some juicy details… and a lot of questions. As the trailer begins, we see Master Chief, cloaked to hide his identity (as confirmed by Frank O’Connor on NeoGAF), making his way through an unnamed location. Looking at the environment, we can see that it is clearly a desert of sorts, with jagged rock formations protruding through the sand and that there is a bright orange planet/sun visible in the sky. We then see him hold out a chip that looks remarkably similar to the one used to store Cortana throughout Halo 4. The ground begins to shake and then rising from a cloud of sand we see a bird-like machine that proceeds to sends out a shockwave – pushing back Chief’s hood to reveal faded, scuffed armor and a cracked visor.

Delving a bit deeper at all these aspects of the trailer, we can begin to develop some ideas and theories. Bear in mind, that just as with the Halo 4 “Scanned” trailer, this trailer could be a basic concept of the game and show little resemblance of the final product. Any theories developed around this trailer could be barking up the wrong tree entirely.

The first main aspect of the trailer is the location and environment. No location has been named, so this may be a new place altogether, however the trailer’s setting does share some uncanny similarities with one place players will be very familiar with…

Theory – The Ark?

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It has been said by many people, myself included, that the trailer’s environment looks very similar to that of Installation-00, “The Lesser Ark”. There are jagged rocks, it’s an enormous structure, and there are definitely deserts covering part of it. We also know that only part of it was destroyed in Halo 3 thanks to Halo: Primordium. The Ark also has a “Foundry” planet at its core – put there to provide the materials needed to build and repair installations, including itself, so it may well be on the way to a full repair. This “Foundry” planet also looks very much like what we saw in the sky during the Halo: Xbox One trailer. We also see, right at the end when the logos are being shown, in the top-left of the sky, a clear patch forming in the clouds – as if a force is pushing them out of the way. We know that Forerunner portals are capable of creating such a force, and we also know that there are portals that lead directly to the Ark. Another theory about this dark space is that if we are simply looking through the clouds into space from the Ark’s surface, this is essentially what we would see. The Ark is located in intergalactic space, meaning we would see very few stars, if any.

Now this is all well and good, but you’re probably asking: “How could Master Chief get there?” The last place we saw Chief was in orbit near Earth, and what do we know to be on Earth? A portal that provides a direct route to the Lesser Ark. It has been 4 years since we last saw this portal, and in such a time one could expect humanity to have found a way to reopen it and/or recover the Dreadnought that can open it. Failing that, we know that at least some ONI staff know its location, once again from Halo: Primordium. We could go even further and say that humanity could have begun to colonise the installation. Perhaps that’s what we can see in the concept art released by Josh Holmes at the start of the year?

Why would Chief go to the Lesser Ark, anyway? Well, as we know from the ending of Halo 4, Cortana was going rampant, and she “died” saving John. With that said, we don’t fully know what happened to her. We do know , however, that there is a solution to rampancy, because the Forerunner AI Mendicant Bias succeeded in overcoming it by reaching a state known as “Metastability”. We also know that Mendicant Bias still exists – as part of the Lesser Ark’s systems. Master Chief also knows he still exists, because he communicated with Bias through Halo 3’s Terminals. He may well be going to the Ark in search of this AI, in an attempt to find a way to retrieve Cortana. There have also been numerous hints to the Lesser Ark being more than just what we saw in Halo 3, some of the Guilty Spark sections from Primordium point to the importance of the Ark, for example.

What’s going on?

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The second main aspect of the trailer is the Chief’s circumstances. His armor is scuffed and damaged, his visor is cracked, he’s hiding his identity with a cloak, he’s entirely alone, and he has a chip remarkably similar to the one used to store Cortana in Halo 4. Even the fact that he’s wearing that specific armor raises some questions, considering the last thing we saw in Halo 4 was him taking it off.

There are literally hundreds of reasons for the presence and condition of his armor in the trailer, so it’s not worth speculating in detail. He could have gone rogue, run away in search of a way to bring back Cortana. Run away in search of Halsey? We have to remember, Halsey is something of a mother figure to many SPARTAN-II’s, and John already started talking as if she was his only hope of saving Cortana in Halo 4. Early on in the campaign, Cortana planted the idea in John’s mind that there are ways to save her, and Halsey is the key, so it’s a high possibility that she would be one of his first ports of call. This alone would be a good basis for Halo 5’s story, considering the cliffhanger that Halo 4’s Spartan Ops left ended on. Halsey has escaped, she’s angry, she’s in possession of half of the Janus Key – and she knows that John is alive. It’s not unreasonable to say that the two will meet, and the storylines will converge.

Now, onto the AI chip we see John produce from his cloak. The music transitions to a solemn, Cortana-esque tone in this scene, clearly making reference to his now lost AI companion. This whole scene could simply be showing the effect that Cortana’s loss is having on him, with the chip being a memento of sorts. However, Cortana’s actual chip was destroyed on the Mantle’s Approach, so now we have 3 main possibilities. The first is that 343i simply made an oversight and the chip’s destruction has been ignored. If that is not the case then either it’s a new chip, with a functional purpose, or it’s a replica that John requested as a keepsake – but that sounds just a little too trivial and unlikely, meaning the chip probably has an intended purpose. Perhaps it’s there on standby, with John expecting to recover Cortana in some way; or maybe it’s there to store a different AI. Cortana MKII, anyone?

A New Threat?

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The centerpiece of the trailer was the big bird-like machine that rose from the sand at the end. The orange glowing lights on it clearly indicate that it’s a Forerunner Promethean construct, likely related to the enemies we saw on Requiem. It’s far too big to be a War Sphinx, or virtually anything Forerunner that we’ve come across in books or games – except a Seeker. These are enormous armored constructs that are mentioned in the Forerunner trilogy, but there is no known size. Some constructs are known to be able to combine with others (see Ghosts of Onyx), so perhaps it’s a combination of machines. The fact that it was buried under the sand like that suggests that it’s unlikely to be a combination, however, once again it’s simply too complex and trivial-seeming. The third option is that it’s a new threat entirely. It could be controlled by a Forerunner intelligence, it could be an automated defense, or it could have another purpose entirely. The fact that Chief appears to seek it out, and not be phased by its emergence could suggest that he knows it’s there, so it’s likely a key aspect of the game.

Maybe the Didact is involved? We last saw him falling off the platform on the Mantle’s Approach at the end of Halo 4, after suffering a direct Pulse Grenade blast. It seems a little unlikely that he’s dead; he’s one of the most prominent Forerunners in history, and possibly one of, if not the last living Forerunner. As with Cortana, it seems too soon for him to be killed off. There are also little clues dotted around Halo 4 that hint at his survival, such as the unexplained epilogue speech – was this speech given thousands of years ago, or is it something that took place after Halo 4? When we enter the Composer room in the level “Midnight”, Cortana tells us that she’s detecting Slipspace activity beneath the Composer… and where did the Didact fall? Beneath the Composer. It’s possible he’s been transported elsewhere, composed or not. His composed self may well be the intelligence in control of the bird-like construct in the trailer for all we know.

Looking Even Closer Now…

Another little observation that’s interesting to think about, this time in the logo shown at the end of the trailer. Looks closely at the letters that make up the work “Halo”. Is there an image inside them? It’s possible to make out a curve going through the middle of them, but it seems like it’s there on purpose, and isn’t a reflection of the location in the trailer. Perhaps we’re looking at a Halo ring curving from the bottom of the letters… or a spherical structure/planet coming down from the top of the letters. Perhaps it’s nothing – take a look for yourself!

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Other than this trailer, all we heard about the game at E3 was the following:

  • It will feature dedicated servers.
  • It will run at 60 FPS.
  • It will be on the Xbox One.
  • It features Master Chief.

 

That was all we heard – until January 9th, 2014. That was the day Josh Holmes put up an article on the Waypoint front page, with information on staffing changes, but more importantly, he ended the post with a piece of concept art (shown below) created by Nicholas “Sparth” Bouvier, 343i’s new Art Director. All that is said about the picture is that it is “an early exploration of a new location that features prominently in a little game project we’re tinkering with” – almost certainly Halo: Xbox One.

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There are a few things to take note of in this picture. Firstly, we can see an Infinity-class ship in the top right. I say Infinity-class ship rather than the UNSC Infinity because, whilst it’s most likely that this ship is the Infinity, Infinity is now a class of ship, and in the time since the first one was completed, it’s entirely possible that the UNSC has created more. The second main aspect of this picture is the environment below. It may look this way purely because it’s concept art, but it does appear that the city is rather small, and is located in a remote environment – indicated by the mountain-like features in the distance. The city itself is reminiscent of ODST’s New Mombasa, less of a research base/facility and more of a civilian habitat, implied by the neon signs dotted around the picture.

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However, there are aspects of the design that could suggest that it isn’t just a simple city, but more of a military/scientific facility, or perhaps a new human colony of sorts. The repeated curved buildings, one of which can be seen below the Infinity-class ship, could be ship hangars perhaps? This would fit in with the many ships dotted around the sky, including the smaller ones that, upon closer inspection, appear to be Pelicans. All we can say for certain about this location is that it must be important. Even if there are now more than one Infinity-class ships in existence, they are still extremely rare, and are arguably the most important pieces of equipment in the UNSC’s arsenal. This ship would only be there if it were important.

On a final note about the artwork, take a look in the top left corner. Is that dark space just part of the simplicity of the picture, being concept art – or is is there intentionally?

Between then and now, we have heard virtually nothing on this exciting new project. However, that will soon not be the case. In less than 8 weeks, E3 2014 will be taking place, and it has been confirmed by Phil Spencer that Halo news will be coming at E3.

In the past, Spencer has made special reference to the fact that Halo typically has two E3’s, and that much was true for Halo 4 – a simple teaser trailer at the first E3 (2011), and then a full-on reveal of campaign, multiplayer and more at the second E3 (2012). Considering Spencer specifically made this reference to Halo having two E3’s, it’s a safe bet that 343i will be pulling out all the stops in June for what is shaping up to be an enormously exciting event for Halo players worldwide! We know the game is coming this year, so you can be sure to hear a lot of Halo news between June and its release later in the year. The community has been waiting patiently for news about the next Halo, and it’s about to pay off.

That’s all from me for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this summary and found it interesting! If you’d like to see more of this kind of content from RUL, be sure to let us know!

What are you most excited to hear about at E3? Do you have any theories or thoughts about Halo: Xbox One? Tell us in the comments!