Halo 5 won't be out until next year, but creator 343 Industries says Halo: The Master Chief Collection will offer plenty of information on the still mystery-shrouded shooter. If you can find it.
At a recent preview event in San Francisco I sat down with executive producers Dan Ayoub and Kiki Wolfkill to discuss what the Master Chief Collection will hold aside from the predictable stuff. Obviously Halos 1, 2 (given a fresh Anniversary Edition makeover), 3, and 4 are in, but dig beneath the surface and you'll find more than just remastered versions of musty old games.
Describing the Master Chief Collection as "a Netflix binge watch" before Halo's next season, Ayoub pointed to new cut-scenes in the graphically upgraded Halo 2 Anniversary Edition as the most obvious link to Halo 5.
"We've added bookend cinematics that start to introduce some characters you're gonna see in Halo 5 and kinda set up the story that way," he said. "The characters you're gonna see in the cinematics won't appear in the gameplay of Halo 2. They're just setting up some guys you're gonna see in Halo 5. We're gonna show the Arbiter. We're gonna show [new Halo 5 character] Locke. Characters like that. You're gonna see some old characters and some new ones."
"I would think of it as connective tissue to Halo 5," added Wolfkill.
Those cut-scenes will occur as part of the updated Halo 2's story. Harder to come by, meanwhile, will be terminals hidden in various levels. You'll have to play detective yourself to uncover them, but hopefully the reward will be worth it.
"We have terminals in Halo 2 Anniversary, and they will also give some insight into the storyline and what's coming down the road in Halo 5 for people who want to go find those," said Ayoub.
It's kind of odd, though, that 343 is plopping so many Halo 5-flavored sprinkles on top of Halo 2's by all means complete (well, aside from that ending) sundae. Yes, Halo 2 is getting the most significant upgrade treatment of all the games in the Master Chief Collection in celebration of its tenth anniversary, but I'm worried that this mish-mash of plot lines won't mix. Is there a point at which 343 risks going from teasing a new game to desecrating the memory of an old one?
For his part, Ayoub claims 343 has been ultra careful to avoid trampling all over the groundwork Bungie laid down back in the day. "We work closely with our teams to make sure we're not breaking any history or introducing any plot holes," he said. "In the case of the terminal videos, this time, we're gonna be focusing on the history of the Arbiter. It's gonna be him narrating, telling a bit of his story as it leads up to Halo 5."
To round it all out, Master Chief Collection buyers will also gain access to a Halo 5 beta, which kicks off in December. That will in turn be tied into a larger Halo Channel on Xbox One, which will offer programming ranging from live streams to live-action series Halo: Nightfall — another strand of connective fibre between the larger Halo universe and Halo 5.
Watching and interacting with that, apparently, will unlock fairly significant elements of Halo 5's beta. Don't (or do, depending on how much you want to watch a live-action series) worry: it won't just be pithy scraps of concept art or anything like that. This stuff will, according to Wolfkill, be worth earning:
"We will go into more specifics a little later down the road," she said, "but we definitely want [Halo 5 beta] rewards to feel meaningful for the player. So it's not just art [things]."
As for Halo 5 itself, 343 still isn't saying much just yet, but it sounds like they aren't planning to quit pushing the series in new directions just because aspects of Halo 4 (multiplayer especially) didn't really catch on like previous entries.
"Halo 4 was definitely a good opportunity for us to see the sort of Halo player behaviour and also to figure out a new generation of Halo players and what they liked and didn't like," said Wolfkill. "It's been intriguing going through Master Chief Collection because we're going through the entire history of the series. That's an interesting place to leave players before going into Halo 5."
"We've always tried to pull on our multiplayer legacy while at the same time trying to forge ahead. I think we'll continue to do that. Live and learn."