Master Chief is returning, and he’s more conflicted than ever.
“Halo 5: Guardians” will be coming to Microsoft’s Xbox One in fall 2015, 343 Industries — the tech company’s in-house studio for all things “Halo” — confirmed Friday morning. The game will be set after the events of “Halo 4,” the first-person sci-fi shooter that was the No. 3-selling video game of 2012, according to the NPD Group.
“Halo 4” served as one of the final major titles to be released for the Xbox 360 console before Microsoft introduced the Xbox One late last year.
The studio is revealing little in the way of specifics, but “Halo 5” will find its technologically enhanced super soldier Master Chief at a crossroads. “Halo 4” ended with the franchise’s hero mourning the lose of Cortana, a nearly sentient artificially intelligent computer program who would appear in holographic form.
Although the core “Halo” games have all explored man’s relationship to machines, as Cortana grew more lifelike — and less interested in wearing clothing — the focus of the series shifted to take on broader existential and emotional sci-fi narratives.
“Halo 5: Guardians” was introduced by 343 Industries’ general manager, Bonnie Ross, at a press event Tuesday in Santa Monica. Only one image of conceptual art was shown, portraying what appeared to be a female super soldier standing in the center of a sun-scorched atmosphere with a mirror-like image of Master Chief below.
Ross and Microsoft executives did not elaborate on the character in the image or the setting.
“I think most of you know what happened at the end of ‘Halo 4,'” Ross said in introducing the next chapter in the “Halo” saga. “Master Chief lost his best friend, and he’s in a very different, challenging place. He’s questioning everything. He’s questioning his past, his purpose, what he’s fighting for, why he’s fighting.”
“As we look on Xbox One,” she continued, “we wanted to be very deliberate with the story we told with Chief. This is about his journey — it’s about his past and it’s about his future.”
Since Microsoft’s 343 Industries inherited the franchise from “Halo” creator Bungie, 343 has placed a large emphasis on expanding the narrative aspects of the universe. Two different live-action series are in the works, one a television series to be executive produced by Steven Spielberg and one a digital series to be executive produced by Ridley Scott.
The Spielberg series has been projected for a 2015 release.
“Anytime you transition to a new platform it gives you an opportunity to kind of take a step back and take a broader perspective, almost like a blank canvass,” Ross said. “At 343, when we’re thinking about Xbox One, we’re thinking about what stories we want to tell, how do we want to tell those stories and how do we use the ‘Halo’ experience to push the platform forward.”
The “Halo” announcement comes weeks ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the largest video game trade show in North America. The industry-only event is set to officially begin June 10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and in a letter posted to fans on the Xbox website, Ross hints at further “Halo” information to come at Microsoft’s pre-E3 press event June 9.
Fans will no doubt recall that Microsoft showed a “Halo” teaser at last year’s E3, one that indicated a “Halo” title would land in 2014.
After showing a brief trailer of Master Chief walking alone in a snowy landscape, clutching in his hand the data disk the was used to transport Cortana, Ross took the stage to say, “In 2014, ‘Halo’ combat will truly evolve, and your journey with ‘Halo’ on Xbox One begins.”
She clarified her statement in Friday’s blog post. “I spoke about a ‘journey,’ rather than a destination – and that journey definitely begins in 2014 with a giant leap, rather than one small step,” Ross wrote, saying the studio does indeed have 2014 plans for “Halo” that will be revealed June 9.
As for “Halo 5,” 343 Industries’ development director, Frank O’Connor, said the game is being developed on a new engine and will run at 60 frames per second.
“The games are there to serve a couple purposes,” O’Connor said. “The main purpose is to entertain the audience and make sure that people are having a great game experience. The other purpose is so that we can help build and support the platform. That’s a big part of this challenge.”
The games of the “Halo” franchise, which collectively have generated sales of well more than 50 million units, is crucial to the long-term success of Xbox One.
Although the Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 are each off to a stronger start than the prior generation of consoles, according to the latest data from the NPD Group, the Xbox One so far has lagged behind the PlayStation 4 in terms of overall sales.
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