Jumping through 10 years in the Halo universeS

Members of 343 Industries and authors of the Halo novels joined forces at Comic-Con to tell us what lies ahead for Halo — not just in the games, but the expanded universe as well. The panel opened with comments that 343 Industries had been secretly working on Halo 4 for the past few years, and with a story of team members lying to their family members and saying they were developing a side-scrolling shooter. Halo 4 will be released in 2012, beginning a new trilogy of Halo games.

It was also announced that Karen Traviss will be forging a new part of the universe, with the only guidelines called for were that it be set in the year 2553 and Master Chief is missing. Traviss hinted that the darkness within Catherine Halsey, Chief Scientist of the UNSC Office of Naval Intelligence and invaluable contributor to the SPARTAN program, would be expounded on in the series.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary quickly became the subject of the panel, with a live play through of the re-mastered version of the level Silent Cartographer performed on stage. Frank O'Connor noted that the changes from newer incarnations of the Halo video game series would not be put back into the game. No armor abilities will be present, vehicles will not suffer damages, and best of all the Magnum, possibly the most beloved weapon in the Halo universe, will be back. O'Connor expressed that the fidelity in gameplay to the original version of Halo: Combat Evolved was obtained by using the original Halo: Combat Evolved code to run the game engine and layering new code to improve the graphics.

One key feature of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was also explored – the ability to switch back and forth between the Anniversary edition and the original version of the game with the push of a button. O'Connor noted that this feature started as a "pet feature for the (development) team." The evolution of the series over ten years, and gaming in general, was particularly evident using this feature in a display of the water effects in game while a Warthog sat parked in a shallow end of the beach of the level. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will also have multiplayer capabilities and online co-op.

The question of whether additional map packs for Halo Reach would be released arose during the panel, and it was confirmed that no new map packs for Halo Reach will be made available until at least after the release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, if at all. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will be released in November 15, 2011, ten years to the day of the release of Halo: Combat Evolved, with Halo 4 scheduled for an undisclosed quarter of 2012.

Image courtesy of Microsoft and 343 Industries.