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  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Collection will include Ridley Scott produced live-action short series and HD makeovers of Halo 1-4

Fans of the "Halo" video game franchise received some good news at the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) -- a high-definition makeover for nearly the entire library of franchise titles.

I. The HD Box

New Xbox chief Phil Spencer told assembled gaming fans on Monday:

Today we're dedicating our entire briefing to games.  The goal is to make Xbox One the best place to play games this generation... The Halo franchise is the reason Xbox is here today.

For the asking price of $59.99 USD, fans will be treated to high-definition Xbox One ports of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 as part of the Halo: The Master Chief Collection.  The Master Chief Collection is admittedly a stop-gap release.  Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) told Xbox One gamers that what they most want -- a truly new Halo release -- won't arive until late 2015, with the release of the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians.

Halo 3
Halo 3, prior to graphics makeover

You may recall that Bungie slowly parted ways with Microsoft, starting in 2007; Microsoft retains rights to the Halo franchise.  The work on the HD makeovers is being spearheaded by 343 Industries, a division of Microsoft Studios.  This isn't 343 Industries' first rodeo; it first cut its teeth with 2012's Halo 4, the first major entry in the franchise to be developed by someone other than Bungie.

Austin, Texas-based Certain Affinity is also participating in the work for The Master Chief Collection.  The company -- heavily staffed by ex-Microsoft Studios and Bungie employees -- made its first mark on the franchise, developing many of the Halo 2 multiplayer maps.  Its experience should come in handy as Halo 2 is expected to get a full-fledged makeover with all new HD art assets, new gameplay episodes at the beginning and end (to tie into Halo 5), and brand new cutscenes.  Given that Certain Affinity also produced the Halo 4 multiplayer content, it would not be surprising to see them onboard for multiplayer for Halo 5, but Microsoft declined to confirm that possibility.

In an attempt to stir interest in this stop-gap release, Microsoft is promising "some big surprises" are coming with the Halo 2 multiplayer overhaul, courtesy of Certain Affinity.  It declined to get into any further detail, for now, as to what those surprises were.

Microsoft is bringing in Saber Interactive to help with The Master Chief Collection, as well.  Based in Millburn, New Jersey, with development offices in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Saber Interactive is best known for the title Timeshift, which was a modest cross-platform success.  Since then, Saber Interactive got involved with the Halo franchise, helping to produce the graphical makeover anniversary edition of the original Halo title -- 2011's Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary for the Xbox 360.

II. New Digital Series Produced by Ridley Scott

While HD makeovers -- regardless of their "completeness" -- may seem a bit stale, Microsoft isn't stopping with its additions to Halo 2.  It's also planning a weekly series of videos called Halo: Nightfall, which will be exclusive for buyers of The Master Chief Collection.

The new "digital series" of live action shorts will be directed by television director Sergio Mimica-Gezzen, who is known for directing popular episodes of a number of hit Sci-Fi, drama, and comedy TV shows, including the new Battlestar Galactica, HeroesInvasion, Prison Break, Saving Grace, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Falling Skies.  The series is being produced by Ridley Scott, whose iconic works include AlienBlade RunnerGladiator, and Black Hawk Down.

Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott will direct the new Halo digital series. [Image Source: Movie Cricket]

Halo: Nightfall will tell "a specific story that connects the past to the future" -- basically traversing the timelines of the first four entries in the series, connecting them to the upcoming fifth flagship title.

The digital series will be an independent work, and is not the Halo TV series.  The Halo TV series will be a full-fledged storyline for cable TV and is being directed by Steven Spielberg.  It, however, isn't expected to debut until 2015.

For fans, the disappointing news has been known for some time now: the two biggest ticket items for the popular Halo franchise -- the Steven Spielberg live-action television drama and Halo 5: Guardians -- won't be coming until 2015.  The other sort of disappointing news is that even this stop-gap release won't be available until the holiday season.  It's expected to ship in November.

Sources: Polygon, The Hollywood Reporter





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