After several months of unplanned silence ("This was the project we originally were intending to announce at E3," they say), Bungie finally revealed Halo 3: Recon at TGS. We had an opportunity to talk with Luke Smith and Brian Jerrard during a group meeting in Tokyo this morning and Jerrard briefly addressed some of the more obvious questions we were bound to have:
"It will be a standalone disc sold in stores in boxes next Fall. It's also going to include some multiplayer maps."
"It is a first-person shooter still ... It's not a squad-based shooter."
"As an ODST, compared to playing as in invulnerable Spartan, you are going to have to sort of pick and choose your encounters a little bit differently."
"It is going to very much feel like Halo. Full feature parity."
That out of the way, Jerrard explained that Recon isn't the only thing Bungie's been up to since jumping off the Microsoft Express this time last year: "This is one of a few projects that we're currently working on. This is the first time at Bungie we've actually had multiple things happening at once and not just, every three years, doing the massive game release." In order to develop Recon, Bungie used a "small agile team" made up of a "bunch of elders" who started the Halo: Combat Evolved franchise some seven years ago (that doesn't sound like ex-GRAWer Christian Allen to us). Who better than to deliver a "bit of a departure" from the last three titles?
They're not revealing much in the way of story, but Smith gave us a short primer: You play a lone ODST soldier in the now Covenant-occupied city of New Mombasa. The story begins just after the Prophet of Regret disappears through a Slipspace portal en route to Delta Halo, with Master Chief & Friends in hot pursuit. The portal's closure destroys the city of New Mombasa and then, enter stage up: your character. When asked if the mysterious "superintendent" spotted in all the teases leading up to the game's announcement would play a sort of Cortana-esque role and serve as a guide (note the messages displayed on the screens at the end of the below trailer), Jerrard told us "I think your observations seem pretty spot on. It certainly seems like there's a guiding hand of some sort there."
While Jerrard is quick to point out that Recon is a fully featured campaign experience, it's tough to hold it up against Halo 3, a project that required the whole of Bungie's development team over a three-year period. "This is definitely a subset of [Halo 3]," Jerrard explains. "I think this is going to be a good value and a lot of content but we're not viewing this as sort of a full game release in the sense of Halo 3." When asked about the potential future pricing of the "expansion pack" Jerrard said it was too early to say for sure, but that they were leaning towards something a little more "value-oriented."
Though Recon shares the Halo 3 engine, with all new assets – think new textures and models for the new, darker urban environment – the team at Bungie would have been hard-pressed to cram the entire experience into a downloadable content wrapper (although they certainly would have an easier time explaining the product that way). "This is going to be a pretty huge file. The amount of content alone is probably bigger than anything that's ever been released as a DLC." On the other hand, the standalone model gives the team at Bungie another 1000 Achievement Points to distribute, sure to please the hardcore Halo fan.
If this all sounds straight up your alley, don't get too excited: This is "definitely not a new franchise" they say. It's "an exclamation point" on the end of the Halo trilogy while the rest of the team is hard at work on something that is, it would seem, not a part of the Halo trilogy.