Halo: Reach is one of the most anticipated games of the year. Let's be frank: That pesky Kratos fella aside, it's the most anticipated game of the year.
CVG recently sat down with the game's creative director Marcus Lehto and community boss Brian Jarrard to get the full story behind the mammoth release.
In this first part of our interview, the pair discuss the legacy of Halo - and whether Reach can match up to its classic predecessors...
What makes Reach not just a sequel? Why isn't it 'Halo 4'?
Marcus Lehto: When we were coming up with ideas and dreaming up what we were going to do after Halo 3 ended, we had a team break off. They were working on ODST and I took the other team and we started conjuring up all of the possibilities set in front of us.
Sure, we could have continued on with the series and thought of some other crazy paths, but what we really wanted to do - and this was an idea that came across the plate early on for us and that we immediately fell in love with - was the idea of going back to before the first game.
We wanted to make a prequel to the original series, back to the time before Master Chief, back to the origins. And Reach, as a fictional planet, was just a great candidate [to] play around with. It's such a rich world, with such a great fiction surrounding it. We were like: "Okay, that's it. We've just got a lot of things we can do there so we can build an immense story with it."
Does it feel different than any other Halo game? Is it scarier?
ML: Sure. I mean at the core it's a Halo game. We're not going to disturb the foundation of what's so good about Halo and what our fans have come to love - but totally this is different.
We're telling this story about the fall of a planet with 700 million people that died. It's a scary story overall, with the Covenant having come down on you and blasted the entire place. From the beginning you know the end. That's part of what's so intriguing about the story within [and] what's going to be interesting about all the characters on each side, what's going to be interesting about the things that they dealt with, the things that they were faced with, the troubles and the horrors that they saw during the fall of Reach.
And we wanted to take it, visually, just a little bit darker, you know. We don't want to go like, saturated in darkness and warring worlds - it's still vibrant and light.
But we want people to fall in love with the planet and make it feel like, this is a real place, people really live here, there are actually cultures that live on this planet.
By the time you make your way through the campaign and unveil the story you actually have a sense for what this planet was and actually care about it more. Things you see along the way are pretty scary as a result.
So it is a darker tone overall, absolutely. We're taking a more serious approach with how we handle our dialogue and how we handle the Covenant itself - to make it kind of fresh and new and terrifying. It's definitely one of the major roles of the game.
You came out earlier and said this is going to be your last ever Halo game, is that correct? Does that put you under added pressure?
Brian Jarrad: Yeah. I mean, officially we can say that our next game after this is not a Halo game at all. It's going to be a brand new world a brand new experience from Bungie, something that, when the time comes, we're going to be super excited to talk about.