In the aftermath of E3 and the visually stunning reveal of the “Halo Wars 2” trailer and the subsequent release of the open beta, the “Halo Hype Train” is certainly chugging along once again. One aspect of the upcoming title that is most enjoyable is the unit design, which did not disappoint, much like its predecessor from the late Ensemble Studios. While the new units such as the Banished Shroud and UNSC Jackrabbit look very iconic and unique, they seem to fit in with the more classical units, which have been given a gritty and yet faithful visual makeover. Blur Studios has really outdone themselves with their work on the E3 trailer, and it fills me with anticipation for the cinematic story for the final game. The Marines, Spartans and Warthogs all harken back to the art design established by Bungie during the days of the original “Halo” trilogy, which is my personal favorite aesthetic design for the series. This is sure to catch the eyes of the older generation of hardcore fans. I absolutely love the new design for the Cyclops solely because of how its appearance fits so well into the “Halo” universe. The classic olive green color scheme with the amber visor bears a striking resemblance to the Mjolnir armor of the Spartan-II’s, and I’m willing to bet that was intentional. Sorry Mantis, you can eat your heart out.
While we are on this nostalgia trip, I figured it would be fun to discuss five species from the “Halo” universe and how their return to the mainstay “Halo” first-person shooters can mix things up into a more satisfying experience. Before we get into the details, I have to admit that 343 seems to lack that spark in terms of variety in engagements in “Halo’s” sandbox environment, possibly because they have cut so many species from the gameplay that I’m certain many players miss. Just so that everyone is aware of the guidelines I have put in place for myself, I am referencing species that have an extended leave of absence from the FPS games released post-2010, and although one species (Brutes) is confirmed to return in “Halo Wars 2,” this will be a list pertaining to species that I believe should return to the FPS sandbox. Without further ado, let’s get started.
These gentle but unfortunate creatures have a very complex and interesting history, both in the lore and in the context of “Halo 3: ODST.” The Engineers are technically biological, but they were created by the Forerunners as supercomputers capable of reproduction. Their near-instantaneous understanding of technology is astounding, and they have been documented breaking down and reconfiguring military-grade equipment in seconds! Ever since their discovery by the Covenant, they have been enslaved and repurposed as support units and living bombs by the Brutes. Their debut in “ODST” gave a nice twist to the combat, granting overshields to all other Covenant units in the vicinity. As they are unwilling participants, the player is given the somewhat humane option of eliminating the creatures’ Brute “master” rather than engaging the Engineer itself. Unfortunately, the Engineer will still self-destruct, but hopefully the player will feel less guilty inside… I guess…
If Engineers were to be reintroduced, I think it could provide a more challenging change of pace in combat. The idea of even the weakest Covenant enemies suddenly doubling in health can make most players quite nervous, and the explosive nature of the Engineers could give a satisfying surprise to rain down on the enemies below the blast. The Engineers were understandably nerfed and much more rare in “Reach,” but I think with a little tweaking, the original mechanics of the Engineers could fit well into 343’s lackluster sandbox. I think 343’s Covenant enemies are much too weak to fight, even on Heroic and Legendary difficulty. If an Engineer were to show up and grant extra shielding in the middle of a fight with some Elites and Jackals, players are sure to be caught off guard at least the first time around.
The Prophets were arguably more rare a sight than the Engineers, possibly due to the fact that the remainder of the known population were confined to hoverchairs and almost never saw combat in the Human-Covenant War. However, that did not mean they entered dangerous environments unprepared. Hopefully fans remember the boss fight against the Prophet of Regret in “Halo 2.” The religious leader’s hoverchair was slow-moving, but it was armed with an extremely powerful energy cannon and could teleport away from the player with zero warning, giving Elite honor guards the opportunity to slash you with Energy Swords. The only way to actually damage the Prophet of Regret was to board the hoverchair and pummel his face beyond recognition, and if the chair teleported, the player was not going with them. While “Halo” is not known for its boss fights, this was an interesting play on the cat-and-mouse strategy, where the player is both the cat to the Prophet and the mouse to his sword-wielding honor guards. I think this encounter could be refined for future “Halo” shooters, as it requires the player to focus on multiple threats at a time. It would also be interesting if the fight took some inspiration from the Prophet of Regret during his days as a leader power in “Halo Wars,” providing repurposed Sentinels for additional defense and a planet-glassing strike from an overhead Covenant Carrier.
It is undeniable that many fans want to see the Brutes return in a “Halo” FPS. It’s really cool to see them make a comeback in “Halo Wars 2,” but that is still a Real-Time Strategy, making their species fair game for this list. The Brutes and their inherent ferocity are natural counterparts to the Elites and their sense of finesse in combat. It was always fun to engage the Elites as they utilized speed and precision combined with fine-tuned weaponry in order to gain the upper hand in combat. But it was an equally refreshing change of pace to see Brutes going absolutely nuts and tearing apart anything in their way. Their crude weapons like the Spiker, Brute Shot and Gravity Hammer complimented their namesake and their unparalleled vigor.
Sadly, we have not seen Brutes in an FPS ever since 343 Industries took the reigns. What is worse is that the Elites in “Halo 5” behave with much less elegance than in previous games, and they are not quite so resilient as the Elites in the original trilogy. They almost seem clumsy at times, which is a word I should be using to describe the Brutes. Brutes could easily fill the combat role of the Elites in the Reclaimer Saga, hunkering down and holding a position before they go berserk and make a beeline to the player. 343 definitely should consider a return to form when it comes to Elites and their fighting style, letting the Brutes become the clumsy aggressive ones again. I should also note that I absolutely love the design of the Banished Brutes in “Halo Wars 2.” With the Covenant having seen its end in “Halo 5,” and the Banished suspected of being the successors to their role as an enemy, 343 has to at least consider bringing the art from the RTS into their next FPS.
As much as I love fighting the Brutes and the Elites in “Halo,” they are both tied for a close second, as my absolute favorite enemy infantry to fight are the Skirmishers. Before these beauties came along, I barely gave Jackals a second look through my sniper scope before I annihilated them. But when the Skirmishers arrived in “Reach,” I had to take a moment to step back and admire their design and uniqueness. I also had to take a few more steps back because they are ungodly fast! They are the fastest infantry ever encountered in the series, rivaling even the Warthog and Mongoose in terms of speed. They are also quite resilient, making automatic weapons poor choices in combat against them. One quick headshot is enough to dispatch any Skirmisher, but your aim needs to be top-notch, otherwise the whole pack could close in for the kill faster than you can say “no-scope.” No amount of Jackal Rangers could replace the challenge and the excitement in fighting these beautiful raptor packs from outer space. If future “Halo” shooters are so kind as to bring back the Skirmishers, I sincerely hope nothing changes in their design or their performance in combat. I want them to remain fast and agile, and I want their classes to remain diverse, with hologram-projecting Commandos and Shielded Murmillones pushing the front line at lightning speed.
OK, so technically the Lekgolo worms have never left the series, as they are the species encompassing the Hunters. But it's worthy of mention that the alien worms also form even larger colonies in order to produce and pilot large Covenant vehicular platforms, such as the Scarab. The Scarab walker is one most satisfying vehicle-based boss fight, if there ever was one. Normally such large platforms follow scripted paths, but this was not the case in 2007 with “Halo 3.” The Scarab actually had its own A.I., meaning it could navigate and react to the environment, and it was certainly a challenging foe to the player, reacting to his or her every move. Bungie made the Scarab a memorable experience in giving plenty of options to tackle the situation. The most reliable way to dispatch the beast was to cripple one of its four legs, forcing it to temporarily lock down and become an easy target for a boarding action. Players were given plenty of weapons to perform this task, such as Scorpions, Hornets, Rockets and Missile Pods, but knocking out the legs was not actually a requirement. Players had the opportunity to use ramps and cranes to drop down onto the Scarab without even disabling it. If players are really lucky, they could use a Missile Pod to destroy the rear section protecting the core, exposing said core and destroying the Scarab in record time. Nothing is quite so satisfying as crushing a Scarab's chassis, as well as its hopes and dreams, by blowing its core just as it makes an entrance.