Halo Infinite was a polished and well-received game at launch, but has since been under fire from fans. Studio 343 Industries positioned Halo Infinite as a live-service game, but the lack of new, compelling content since launch has not lived up to that description for many players. It’s been a bumpy road for 343, as every Halo game under its wing has come under some form of criticism from the Halo faithful. The franchise that defined shooters on console needs a win, and a change of developer could provide exactly that.
It’s no secret that Microsoft has been acquiring game studios more aggressively than Thanos searching for Infinity Stones. As a result, talented first-person shooter studios like id Software and MachineGames now reside under the Xbox umbrella. Letting one of these teams take a crack at a new Halo spin-off could allow 343 time to regroup and improve Halo Infinite while giving fans a fresh take on the series to boot. Halo spin-offs like Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Spartan Assault have already succeeded at telling new stories and changing up the gameplay. With that in mind, what could some of the most acclaimed FPS developers in the industry do with the Halo IP?
id Software played a crucial role in defining the FPS genre. Its design philosophies have evolved and been refined over time, resulting in games like Doom Eternal. What seems chaotic at first glance is actually a fast and carefully orchestrated ballet of destruction as players weave through multi-tiered environments, prioritize enemies by danger, and use every weapon in their arsenal to emerge victoriously. Despite the on-screen madness, these games are very readable and create a gameplay flow unlike most other shooters.
The Doom formula shares similarities with Halo, and not just because both series feature green armor-clad space marines. Halo is defined by a gameplay sandbox in which guns, melee, grenades, and vehicles can be mixed and matched as much as players like. Intelligent AI powering a variety of reactive behaviors create enemies that can be genuine threats, while distinct and colorful weapon attacks are instantly recognizable. It’s combat with a more measured pace than Doom, but the similarities are there.
A Halo title made by a studio like id Software could push its formula to the extreme. Halo fans have joked about how ludicrously strong Spartans are in the established lore, and this power fantasy could actually be realized in a game like this. Faster movement and more aggressive enemies would push players to improvise and make use of every tool in the sandbox. Giving players more visceral attacks would allow id to explore the true strength of Spartans in the lore, and perhaps the team could tell an original tale about a Spartan stranded in Covenant territory to do this. Halo fans who were underwhelmed by the presentation of Halo Infinite would also be pleased with how beautiful id Tech 7 could potentially make the world of Halo look.
It was natural to assume that a series as old as Wolfenstein couldn’t be modernized, but MachineGames emphatically proved that notion wrong. The once simple FPS series about killing Nazis roared back to life with a fresh twist and spectacular storytelling. B.J Blazkowicz now has more depth than ever before, and MachineGames successfully told a compelling human story amid a dark war. Halo has a fantastically rich sci-fi world to explore, but much of it is fleshed out in media outside of the games. 343 has tried to implement lore into its games, but at the expense of creating a disjointed experience that sometimes suffers for people not caught up with the external media.
The MachineGames studio could flesh out the unexplored characters and lore of the Halo universe with an intriguing spin-off. The missions of Master Chief’s Blue Team have been a true highlight of some Halo novels. Giving the squad their own game with excellent writing would be a dream come true for Halo fans. Alternatively, the game could be a sequel to ODST and follow the newer adventures of Spartan Edward Buck and his reformed Alpha-Nine team. Buck has been up to a hell of a lot outside of his limited appearance in the games, and his stories are ripe for exploration in a new spin-off.
When it comes to gameplay, MachineGames would undoubtedly excel. Modern Wolfenstein games offer a nice balance between stealth mechanics and guns-blazing approaches. That flexibility means players can stealth kill Nazis in one moment, and then ludicrously let loose by duel wielding almost any pair of weapons the next. Halo fans who have bemoaned the lack of dual-wielding in recent entries would appreciate that. Melee-focused weapons and gadgets could play a greater role, and since MachineGames also uses the id Tech engine, the game would be no slouch in the technical department.
Arkane Studios has developed a pedigree for being a studio that creates critically acclaimed immersive RPGs. In an immersive RPG, almost every object can be manipulated, and a combination of unique mechanics, physics, and AI allows for truly creative approaches to gameplay. Arkane has mastered this formula with hits like Dishonored, Prey, and Deathloop. It’s a far cry from what Halo is known for, but it could be just the change of pace the series needs.
With an immersive RPG, Arkane could delve deeper into the lore than any studio before it and create a mechanically satisfying Halo spin-off. The premise could center around an Elite assassin who is hunting human targets on planets that have only received passing mentions, such as Harvest. In such a game, UNSC soldiers or Insurgents would be the main opposition, while ODSTs and Spartans could be mini-bosses and bosses respectively. It’s exactly the kind of radical change in perspective that made the Halo 2 Arbiter levels a breath of fresh air.
Collectible trinkets could flesh out the finer details of Sangheili history and the outer colonies. It could even introduce new canon heroes and villains in the same vein as Halo Wars 2 introducing the Banished. Meanwhile, the stealth-focused premise would let players experiment with Energy Sword assassinations, Active Camouflage, and perhaps new gadgets that haven’t been seen before. Arkane has proven that it can match creative gameplay with world-building, and much like ODST or Halo: Reach, this game would be an exciting new direction for the series to take.
Halo spin-offs are nothing new, and we’ll likely be seeing more in the future. We only hope that Microsoft allows its talented FPS studios to put their spin on the legendary series.