Microsoft On Halo: 'We Kind Of Lost Our Way'

First, some disclosure. I may or may not be a teensy bit of a Halo fanboy. I thought (and still think) that Halo: Reach was an awesome game. I even enjoyed ODST! Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Games Studios, feels a little differently - he thinks the franchise lost its way with those two games.

“The key question for me in managing the studio and the creatives is ‘what is Halo?’" Claimed Spencer, speaking to OXM UK.

"What does that mean? Playing Master Chief," he continued. "We kind of lost our way a little bit, I'll say. And that's why I wanted to make sure that at the unveiling of Halo 4, you knew you were playing Master Chief, that John was back. Because Master Chief is the John Wayne character of that universe, and that's who you want to play."

Personally, I really enjoyed playing the back story that was Halo: Reach, but I'm also willing to admit that is most likely because I'm a fan and therefore well-versed in the Halo universe. For new players, however, Halo: Reach may not have been as mainstream friendly as other titles. That seems to be the point Spencer is getting at.

"If you were a Halo fan for Halo 1, 2 and 3, Reach made sense to you," he said, "but fundamentally there are a ton of players on our box right now that didn't start with Halo 1. What we said was: 'let's get back to what Halo is about'."

Ultimately, I'm keen to see what a fresh set of eyes will do for the Halo franchise - even if I am a little cautious.

E3 2011: Halo 4 will "get back to what Halo is about" - Microsoft [OXM]


    So the fact 3 led directly on from the end of 2 is more accessible than a prequel to the Halo universe? Hmmm.
    I think Mr Spencer is more interested in the marketability of the iconic Master Chief than accessibility issue.
    With the departure of Bungie, Microsoft need to do something to draw people back to the series and he obviously thinks John can do that.

      I did not own an Xbox and didn't play Halo 2.

      That made Halo 3 particularly jarring because it clearly assumed that you had played Halo 2. Not a horrible assumption to make, but the game is on a different platform and was bound to pick up more than a few new players.

      Then again, I was playing that game during an all-night co-operative marathon. Plot didn't matter, just blowing shit up.

      Halo Reach was a much better game in that regard, it was welcoming to new players and blowing shit up felt more enjoyable for some reason. Maybe it was because I knew why I was blowing shit up.

    Mark, I'm with you there on the Halo fanboy-ism.

    It's a good thing when a developer is on top of keeping their 'way' and tries to fix this.

    At least Microsoft isn't pulling an Activison on them yet.

    Is that you John Wayne? Is this me?

    Did everyone claim your blue flames armour effect on Bungie Day?

    look, there's a reason why they were called halo ODST and halo Reach, and not halo 2.5 or halo 0, because they didn't have master chief, they were side stories, and i also much prefferred reach with my customisable spartan, just made the game that more adaptable, and made the ending much more great!

    but anyway, i know i'l still get halo 4, i know 343 will probably do a good job, just please don't be like "WERE MAKING IT EXACTLY LIKE HALO 1" because when you look back, even that has some flaws in it, i'd still rather play reach over any other halo!

    Halo ODST was the only game I didn't really enjoy. Halo Reach was awesome, not the best in the series but still an outstanding game and I liked Noble Six as a character!

    Halo 2 was the most fun imo!

    "...there are a ton of players on our box right now that didn’t start with Halo 1..."

    Hence the remake - get more people hooked on the start of the story. Loved all the main Halo games, and the side-stories of ODST and Reach were amazing.
    I'm sure the remake will be amazing, and wondering where they're going to go with Halo 4+ (story-wise).
    (And yes, that's probably the fanboy speaking :P)

    Like Lone Wolf said, I think it boils down to a marketing thing. Master Chief is an iconic character, almost the face of Xbox, and Spencer probably felt like Halo needs to continue that.

    I disagree, though. ODST is my favourite Halo game and I thought the series benefited from exploring stories without the Master Chief.

    I picked initially hated ODST. I guess I was expecting too much from it at the time... but a year or so later, I started the experience again without the massive expectation, and had probably my best experience with the Halo franchise (aside from Halo 1). I felt the tight storyline, and system of progression was pretty artistic. It has a style all of its own which helps to separate it from the other Halos. In my opinion, Halo didn't lost the plot because of who you were playing as, it lost the plot because it literally lost the plot. It was impossible to make sense of the storyline in Halo 2 and 3. It still sold millions because of the epic gameplay, but the story was horrendous. Even reach, with such a fantastic novel to draw inspiration from, felt really impersonal and stark. The characters in ODST were more believable than the group from reach. I thought the other Spartans were meant to be as epic as the chief. Didn't get that at all. They seemed disinterested and forgettable. I'm all for chief returning in Halo 4, but seriously guys, can we please mop up the horrendous storyline. I mean, how strange and badly executed did those Cortana slowdown moments feel in Halo 3, when she blathered on nonsensically and screwed up the screen? To be honest, I'm so much more interested in Bioshock Infinite right now. Now that's a game that looks to be heading in the right direction!

    eh it all went downhill after number 1

      Halo 1 was amazing.

      I never played 2. 3 bored me senseless and I did buy the Halo Reach LE but I'm not particularly dying to play it.

      To be honest, its just another FPS to me.

        +1 to it being just another FPS. I think the only thing that makes it "different" is it being a Microsoft exclusive.

    I'm a big fan of Halo, loved all of them (including ODST). ODST tried something different, and Reach I believe had more atmosphere then the previous iterations (the new engine helped). I think bringing back the chief is a good idea, but I would also like to see the continued development of the atmosphere and immersion in the story. I mean look at the Bioshock IP, it doesn't have to be a clone, but just borrow some ideas.

    Resistance 3 looks like it is attempting to bring more atmosphere, more immersion to its game, and that just helps sets up the more desperate fight, the more dire my opinion of course.

    Like COD, I'm just over it. I'm all halo'd out. Enjoyed Reach, but its just too much of the same thing for me. I keep going back because they make such solid games, its rare that'll you'll be able to play a game (both online and off) on day 1 without finding a million bugs

    I read that as "To our fans: Sorry we tried to innovate, enjoy the cash-in cookie-cutter shooters we'll be making from now on."

      PS: What's the Master Chief attraction? The guy has the personality of a cardboard cutout (on a good day). I'd rather play just about anyone else.

      Yeah that's pretty much what i heard too.

      I'm almost exclusively a PC gamer with the exception of two franchises; Halo and Dynasty Warriors..

      I thoroughly enjoyed Reach and think its my favourite of the series.. I'm not attached to Master Chief sorry, I have more emotional attachment to covenant jokes.

    What MADE Halo 1 for me was that MC had NO personality, therefore he was the perfect avatar. The other games gradually got less interesting as they tried to give personalities to cookie-cutter space marines.

    Still, great games all of them - especially ODST. Reminds me of the ghost recon franchise: in the first game you were a nobody soldier dropped into random encounters... And then in GR:AW you're a ludicrously pivotal war hero. The first games lack of story made it much better.

    I preferred Reach's story to Halo 3's.

    There I said it. Halo has such an awesome mythology but H3 barely scratched the surface and presented what it had in what felt like a pretty half-arsed manner.

    I mean come on! There was so much potential with the possibility of Cortana going rampant (Marathon links FTW), and in the end all she did was block your screen a few times with poetry and then everything was back to normal.

      Excuse the rant,
      I just got sucked right into the Halo backstory and mythology prior to the H3 launch, so I had some big hopes for the story.
      H3 isn't a bad game by any means, I just feel that Reach hit the mark a lot better.

        Agreed. I thought Reach was a tremendous game. And I love the multi.

          Mark, I agree! Although I haven't really played Reach multi that much, I found the single player story to be awesome! And what MADE the limited edition for me (and the best LE of any game I have bought to date) was the diary. The level of detail and care put into fleshing out the back story and the mythology was very welcome and truly amazing. I ended up reading the whole thing back to back, pulling out all the little bits and pieces (newspaper clippings, ID card etc etc) and really enjoying the story a lot more.

          Same here man.
          I still play Reach online to this day, and a lot of that is thanks to the CoD-style experience point system, because even if you lose you still get something for your troubles.
          I pretty much quit Halo 3 the day I got bumped down a rank for losing a match, that system was WAY too unforgiving.

            Halo 3 was punishing in multi. 1 point for winning/scoring in the top half and zero for everything else is a grind!

            Love me some Reach and I like the cosmetic unlocks far better than the CoD weapon/ability drip feed.

    Ugh, sounds like the start of a buzz word laden marketing speech to a board, "what is Halo? ...synergy ...confidence, today we're going to reimagine a Halo that appeals to our core, demo, but speaks to a wider appeal group-tistic. Also we're going to 10% rastafarian Master Chief'.

    I'm suddenly concerned for the Halo game franchise. Come back Bungie.

    “What does that mean? Playing Master Chief,”

    Shame no one told Bungie about that when they decided to make you not play as the Chief for half of Halo 2.

    For me, ODST and Reach were the most entertaining, partly because they didn't have the Chief. All the Halo games have had relatively silent protagonists, empty shells for the player to fill with themselves. I personally don't see what's so special about the Chief as a character.

    Spencer may have a point in saying that no Chief made Reach less accessible. However, I see no harm in a player new to Halo playing Reach first, then the Halo 1 remake. After all, that's the chronological order now.

    I think the Covenant, the weapons and the vehicles made Halo what it was; now that Halo 4 is all Chief and (presumably) little to none of the above, I'll be giving it a miss.

    I find the Reach multiplayer much better than Halo 3 (having played the beta and the demo), but I'm holding out for Halo CE HD which apparently may include the Reach MP much like ODST included the Halo 3 MP.

    Reach was the best of the series, but it's not because of the story. All the Halo games are weak sci-fi shlock filled with precursor alien artifacts, space marines and laughable Cortana dialogue.

    They attempted to make Reach some sort of gritty space opera but it was still campy as hell. Every character was some one-dimensional archetype: silent sniper, action girl, lovable big guy, straight man etc. And then they started trying to one-up each other in the heroic death category.

    I love Halo: Combat Evolved and I really enjoyed ODST. Halo 2 was boring and Halo 3 was 'Halo 2x100' for me... I haven't played Reach and I don't really see it happening anytime soon.

    I think what I liked about Halo:CE was the sense of the unknown and the feeling of relative isolation. ODST brought a smidge of that back... but Halo 2, 3, Reach all threw that feeling/ambience out the window in favor of some CoD-type 'Big-War-Butter-Battle-Set-Pieces' that I wasn't nearly as interested or engaged in.

    I can't see myself playing Halo 4-6 because apparently the "2/3/Reach" formula is what Microsoft thinks that Halo is... Though I'm fairly certain I'll be trying out that re-make of the first game just to see if it's even close to how awesome Halo:CE is/was.

    The expanded universe of the Halo franchise is what I think is best about the series, and I find the Master Chief to be the most dull and uninterested aspect of the series... so I'm obviously not in their target demographic here :-P

    Here's hoping the Chief-less Halo game is not going the way of the Forerunners.

      Damn my chubby and ignorant fingers and their endless typos!

    Ah, Halo. You introduced me to both Sci Fi and Gaming (I'm a youngin', so shoot me), yet you are so terribly CAMP. *sigh*

    I, for one, am a huge fangirl. Unfortunately, the story telling has always been subpar. I read the books, and that lets you have a really small peek at what Halo COULD be... and what I have a horrible feeling will never happen.

    Halo was never about MC. NEVER. Only the first game really was, because they hadn't fleshed everything out. Microsoft doesn't understand this, and I can only hope 343 does. Spencer isn't really a game designer, however, so I can't see him understanding.

    Maybe that /is/ what most consumers want, and I'm just left behind in my pool of comic writing and GDD writing up.

    But, if, in 4-6, they don't have Elites anywhere... I will die inside and probably stop playing. I understand Brutes, Grunts, Hunters... I assume The Convenant collapsed in on itself, but the Elites just kinda... left at the end of the rather confusing mashup of cutscenes that was Halo 3.

    Yeah, y'know what? I actually loved the Arbiter. So while part of this is my inner fangirl screaming for more Arby, most of it is mere confusion.

    I thought they set off the Halo array at the end of Halo 3? No? YES? NO. YES. THIS IS CONFUSING. I'LL PLAY THE GAME AGAIN.

    Regardless, they were on the shield world, right? Arby just kinda goes "We'll be returning to our home planet now" and leaves. Firstly; What? Is your home planet still THERE? Everyone would have been destroyed, right? Secondly; No. You don't fight an epic war against, then with, another intellegent species without forming SOME sort of bond, hostile or otherwise.
    I would expect they would set up some sort of trades, or at least the humans would ask for some technology and translating help. Jeesh.

    ...TL;DR, it's hyper-unrealistic and non-sense making for Elites to just not be in contact or around the place anymore, so they better pop up /somewhere/, and Halo needs to change it's format to something more entertaining rather than point and shoot with no strategy.

    Want to know why those 2 games didn't sell plain and simple? Multiplayer. ODST, which sold less then Reach had no multiplayer at all, while Reach just had shitty multiplayer. i.e. they added aspects to the game that could easily be seen as unfair, whether or not it actually was fair. For example, jet packs, flying around going into little sniper hiding spots, was always called cheap. The loadout where you can be surrounded by an impenetrable bubble shield at any point in time was called cheap. Pretty much anything that took away from the "skill" aspect of the game and added to different, though they may be balanced, advantages. It seems like they tried to make it a lot more complicated than Halo 3's multiplayer, when it was the simplicity and overall "fairness" that sold Halo 1-3 from the multiplayer aspect.

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