[Update: Microsoft has now confirmed its plans for E3 2018 and though it hasn't given any hint with regards to the games that it'll show, a main contender is Halo 6. Now that Xbox One X has been released, Microsoft is likely to go software heavy for its show and it'll need some solid exclusives to stand up to Sony. Halo 6 would be the perfect announcement to make headlines. Unfortunately we can't tell whether or not the game will actually appear but we don't have long to wait to find out.]
Halo has long been Microsoft’s killer IP, and one of those franchises that acts as an incentive for people to upgrade their existing Xbox console. The series has had its ups and downs over the years, especially with Halo 5 proving to be a major disappointment for anyone who has a stake in the single-player campaign. Halo 6 will hopefully be a return to form, and remind people why Halo has been so highly regarded in the past.
The third instalment of the ‘Reclaimer Saga’, Halo 6, will pick up after the conclusion of Halo 5: Guardians - which saw Cortana and the other ‘Created’ AI seize control of the galaxy. The plot will likely feature Master Chief and his allies resisting the new regime, and restore freedom and liberty to humans and aliens alike.
It’s being developed by 343 Industries, the same people who developed Halo 4 and 5 after taking over the franchise from Bungie.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The sixth game in the main Halo series, and conclusion to the trilogy that started with Halo 4
- When’s it out? TBA
- What can I play it on? Xbox One, and PC (maybe, see below for more details)
Trailers and screenshots
We know the game is coming, but Halo 6 has yet to receive a formal announcement from the folks at Team Xbox, and as such doesn’t have a trailer yet.
What the inevitable announcement trailer will include has yet to be seen, and Halo games don’t have a consistent track record for this sort of thing. We could get ourselves an action-packed sequence that teases the game’s first level (like that of Halo 2 and Halo 4), or a mysterious teaser that only offers the briefest hints of what’s to come (like Halo 3 and Halo 5).
It’s unclear when we’ll actually get to see the trailer, since 343i Community Manager Brian Jarrard has confirmed Halo 6 will definitely not be making an appearance at Gamescom at the end of August 2017 after fans were surprised that it wasn't at E3 in June.
With no formal announcement, there’s no release window; not even something very vague like ‘201X’. In the past Halo games have tended to have a three-year gap between the main titles. The only exception to this was the two-year gap between Halo Reach and Halo 4, which can mostly be attributed to the fact they were both developed by different studios (Bungie and 343i, respectively).
Halo 5 Guardians came out in October 2015, and following the usual pattern would suggest a late-2018 release for Halo 6. The fact we haven’t seen anything yet doesn’t bode well for that, though games being announced and released within relatively short periods of time is not unheard of (see: Fallout 4).
News and features
There isn’t much solid information about Halo 6 just yet, and there likely won’t be for some time. That said, there are a few things we already know.
The decision to remove split-screen co-op from Halo 5, in favour of an online-only version, was met with criticism from fans, as it had been a staple Halo feature that had been around since the first game was released in 2001. Ross said Halo 5’s removal was “painful”, adding that "It erodes trust with the community. [We’ve had a] lot of learnings from that, and I would say for any FPS going out forward we will always have split screen going forward."
Despite this, Franchise Coordinator Frank O’Connor that the studio won’t be abandoning the co-op systems that were first introduced in Halo 5. These systems included the option to drop in and out of gameplay at will, four-player cooperative play, and specialised loadouts for the different playable Spartans in the campaign.
Following the troubled launch of The Master Chief Collection back in 2014, Bonnie Ross told Game Informer () that all Halo games will have some sort of beta prior to the official release. This is to ensure that many issues that plagued The Master Chief Collection’s multiplayer do not happen again. After successful betas for Halo 5 and Halo Wars 2, there’s no reason to think that the studio would suddenly change its mind for Halo 6.
It’s yet to be announced whether the beta will be available to everyone, or just those who receive a code by purchasing a different game.
Despite not knowing much, it’s unlikely that Halo 6 will be shaking up the formula in any meaningful way. The core mechanics of running around shooting things will likely stay the same, though it’s likely that 343i will be fine-tuning the mechanics to (hopefully) make for a better gameplay experience.
It’s safe to assume that there will be a wide range of multiplayer modes and maps to play on, along with a Forge map editor and a Firefight horde mode.
You can probably expect the game to run at 4K 60FPS on the Xbox One X as well, given its status as a first party title. That likelihood is increased by the fact Halo Wars 2 is already capable of running at 4K, and will be getting a 4K update in the near future.
Microsoft’s ‘Play Anywhere’ programme (launched at E3 last year) also means that there's a chance Halo 6 will be the first full main-series Halo game to hit PC since the release of Halo 2 PC in 2007. This would also mean you could pick up a copy of Halo 6 on Xbox One and still be able to download and play it on your PC without buying a second copy, or vice versa.
There’s no guarantee that Microsoft will make Halo 6 a Play Anywhere title, but Phil Spencer, current head of Xbox, confirmed to PC Gamer that there is no ‘ideological reason’ why Halo 6 couldn’t come to PC.
At the end of Halo 5, a revived Cortana and The Created (a group of AI who believe themselves to be superior to organic life) seized control of the galaxy using massive Forerunner constructs known as Guardians. The Created were determined to bring order by force, and had the tools to do it. The last thing we saw was the UNSC Infinity’s crew fleeing Cortana’s forces, heading for parts unknown, and the Master Chief regrouping with allied forces with the intention of fighting back against the new regime.
It’s not clear where Halo 6 will pick up after this, though the timeline of Halo Wars 2, and the final cutscene, indicates that Halo 6 is unlikely to be set less than six months after the events of Halo 5. It’ll probably involve humans and elites fighting together again, trying to bring down Cortana and the Created in order to restore freedom to the galaxy.
If you've been hearing rumors that Halo 6 will be inundated with Loot Boxes, try not to fret too much. On his podcast, industry reporter Brad Sams' claims that sources had told him Microsoft wanted to include loot boxes in Halo 6 but was re-evaluating its options after the controversy that Star Wars Battlefront 2 faced.
Franchise Director at 343 Industries, Frank O'Connor, however, has called the rumors "bunk." Taking to the ResetEra forums, O'Connor stated that 343 is "not reevaluating anything (significant)" before adding that "Microsoft' isn't designing anything for the next game - 343 is." O'Connor said that while the team watched the Battlefront 2 backlash "with the curiosity you'd expect", they believe that the req system currently in use Halo 5: Guardians are "player focused and well liked and unintrusive as far as these things go."
"We have made zero announcements about our next projects and continue to work on our next game and technology with player's needs and interests in mind, " O'Connor continued, "However the story as loosely presented as it is - has no bearing on or relation to any current efforts. I suppose you could say 'company x is evaluating feature y' and always have some grain of truth, but we are neither aping nor adapting an unrelated system from another game."
O'Connor finished up by stating that 343 Industries would be evolving its systems and tech "in the future" and that maybe then the emerging stories about changing systems and tech would "have brief applicability. But right now? Nah."
What we want to see
What happened to The Didact? If Cortana could survive Halo 4’s final battle, then why couldn’t the big bad?
Unfortunately the Forerunner warlord was completely absent from Halo 5, and while the immediate aftermath of his battle with Master Chief was covered in the comic series , it was implied that he would eventually return. Of course not all players read the comics, leaving his eventual fate unknown to most. This question also raises the problem of integrating the lesser-known expanded universe canon into the games, which 343i has been wont to do since it took over the franchise from Bungie.
After the cliffhanger ending of Halo 5 Guardians, and a petty lackluster campaign plot, what Halo 6 really needs is solid story with a satisfying end to the story. The Halo 3 to Halo 5’s Halo 2 if you will. A more equal approach to the campaign/multiplayer balance will also help address some of the issues people had with the previous game.
Speaking of multiplayer, the fact Halo 5 included microtransactions didn’t go down particularly well - especially since the REQ packs could let players unlock more powerful weapons that gave them an unfair advantage. While a lot of games have a lot of success selling cosmetic items (Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch come to mind), players are less enthused about Pay-to-Win systems.
A link to Halo Wars 2 would also be welcome, and finally bring the story of the UNSC Spirit of Fire back into the mainstream canon. That’s not that much out of the question either, given the RTS sequel’s final cutscene.
More time playing as the Master Chief. Spartan Locke might have been an interesting character, but players buy Halo expecting to play as their favourite super soldier - not a low-budget knock-off.
- If you're looking for something to play right now, here's a guide to the best Xbox One games