Halo 3: Recon
Following Bungie's recent deployment of the teaser trailer for an unknown Halo project, the Halo community went completely nuts. No matter how much it dissected each frame of the teaser, exactly what Bungie was planning was still a mystery.
Luke Smith and Brian Jarrard
Bungie's new Halo project was officially revealed during Microsoft's Tokyo Game Show keynote speech late last week. Titled Halo 3: Recon, we learned that this expansion would feature a new hero and campaign, and would be released in fall 2009. But we still had many questions. Fortunately for us, Bungie's Community and PR Director Brian Jarrard and Writer Luke Smith were on hand to tell us Halo 3: Recon actually is, and frankly, what it isn't.
Halo 3: Recon is Bungie's way of giving something back to the fans, as Jarrard put it. "This is a labor of love for our fan community from Bungie. This is listening to their demands to play more Halo, to have more Halo adventures."
Recon is an expansion to Halo 3, but it will be a standalone boxed product. You don't need to own Halo 3 to play Recon, but the game will include new Halo 3 multiplayer maps -- including the new Mythic map pack that will be released in the Xbox Live Marketplace next spring. Even though Recon is billed as an expansion, it's a fully featured Halo 3 title. That means you'll still have four-player cooperative gameplay, 1,000 Achievement points to earn, and so on.
Recon's new campaign will contain hours of gameplay, but it's going to be a different experience than what Halo fans have come to expect. You will not take the role of Master Chief this time, since Recon takes place at the end of Halo 2, with Master Chief, Sergeant Johnson and the Arbiter battling the Covenant somewhere light-years away. Instead, you'll actually be an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, which will offer a number of different gameplay possibilities. As a lone soldier without Master Chief's supersoldier abilities, you'll have to approach combat situations a bit more tactfully since you're more fragile. That's not saying you won't encounter some friendly non-player characters that will help you in battle.
To clear up some rumors and confusion, Recon is still a first-person shooter. It's not a third-person shooter, and it's not a squad-based tactical shooter. Even though you'll have to use your wits a bit more, Recon is still going to play like a Halo game. All the features from Halo 3 will be in Recon, including The Forge, Save Films, Screenshots and more.
Bungie is keeping most of the plot under wraps at this point, but we do know the general premise. When Regret's capital ship left Earth in Halo 2, there was a massive explosion, marking the last point at which we saw the city of New Mombasa. That's where the beginning of the Recon trailer picks up. New Mombasa has been destroyed by the slip space rupture, and you've concurrently descended into orbit in your dropship and crash-landed in a city occupied by Covenant. You're outnumbered and must figure out how to survive in your new surroundings. New enemies, new vehicles and new weaponry are all a possibility, but Bungie isn't commenting on them.
Has Recon been underway since Halo 3 was in development? Not so, according to Bungie. "The Halo 3: Recon team is actually a small team within our studio. This is the first time that Bungie has actually had multiple projects underway at the same time. Historically we've had one huge game underway every three years. We're trying something new with this. It's a smaller team, it's a much smaller timeline, and it's smaller in scope," said Jarrard. Primary development only began a few months ago, but the smaller team still comprises many core Halo designers -- including Project Lead Paul Bertone (one of the original designers on Halo: Combat Evolved, Design Lead on Halo 2 and Mission Designer on Halo 3), Writer Joseph Staton (worked on cinematics for Combat Evolved and wrote Halo 2, Halo 3 and the novel "Halo: Contact Harvest") and Halo music god Marty O'Donnell, who once again helms all of the music. While this core team is using the Halo 3 engine, Recon doesn't share too many assets with Halo 3. The new enemy types, new types of encounters and so on are still a big question mark.
Why unveil the project at Tokyo Game Show, considering that Japanese gamers are not traditionally FPS players? It's not a mystery that Bungie had originally planned to debut Recon at E3 2008 -- but Microsoft decided to focus more on this year's Xbox 360 releases, and on new casual titles like Lips and You're In The Movies. There was an air of frustration in the room when we asked the Bungie representatives if they were fans of Duffy (referencing her very long Lips performance). "I thought she did a good performance," chuckled Jarrard.
Considering that the ODST soldier has a new helmet, what about the possibility of a new special edition? "I like to collect the stuff as well. I love the art and the style of our games," said Jarrard. "But Recon is being viewed as an expansion pack." Bungie isn't commenting on the price point of Halo 3: Recon, either.
Even though Bungie is remaining tightlipped, this is an extremely exciting development -- the new perspective of the ODST soldier should make Recon's combat scenarios fresh, and expand on the lore of Halo 3. More Halo 3 multiplayer maps are delicious icing, but we can't wait to hop into four-player co-op campaign battles again. With the game's shorter development cycle, we won't have to wait too long for the game to ship next fall. Prepare to drop? We're more than ready, Bungie.
This preview is based on a developer presentation at Tokyo Game Show 2008.