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XDefiant: Why Microsoft Should be Inspired by Ubisoft's Throwback Shooter

Ubi's frenetic free-to-play FPS may not be incredibly original, but it's good old fashioned fun and runs with a concept Microsoft desperately needs to capitalize on

XDefiant: A throwback FPS from Ubisoft

Ubisoft has turned into a puzzling and frustrating company that's becoming as easy to hate as Electronic Arts.

The French gaming giant is of course known as one of the biggest videogame publishers on the planet, with a healthy stable of major franchises both past and present, boasting hit series like Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six.

Unfortunately in recent years it has been plagued, like many entertainment sectors, by its dedication to DEI bullshit and an increasingly "woke" agenda, not to mention its many bug-riddled launches and blatant cash-grab attempts such as Rainbow Six Siege's "premium" monthly subscription for a game that released nine years ago.

Just a few weeks ago, what Ubisoft expected to be a big moment for them caused a rather large blow to their stock thanks to the trusted slogan "go woke, go broke" as they unveiled Assassin's Creed Shadows.

Ubisoft's flagship franchise has long had fans begging for an AC title set in feudal Japan, so one would think that its unveiling would be a major boon for the company, yet instead, their inability to read the room bordered on EA-level incompetence.

The game takes place in feudal Japan and, like only AC: Syndicate did before it, features two protagonists - a female shinobi (ninja) and a samurai named Yasuke...who is black.

To make matters worse, Ubisoft boasted about the inclusion of Yasuke, who marks the "first playable historic character" in the series' history, and claimed Yasuke was the "first black samurai in Japan".

The problem of course, is that it is revisionist history and an absolute insult to Japan and the Japanese culture.

Yasuke was indeed a real person that existed in feudal Japan, but there is absolutely zero evidence to support the claim that he was a samurai - historical accounts depict him as a tall, imposing figure who was hired by a daimyo named Oda Nobunaga to serve as a retainer (essentially a bodyguard).

While Nobunaga was indeed an important historical figure in Japan's Sengoku period, Yasuke was a footnote that was mentioned due to his unique size and the fact that black people in Japan were a rarity during that time.

Revisionists claim that because retainers were often samurai, this means that Yasuke was likely a samurai, yet the few historical records that exist of Yasuke would indicate that this was simply wishful thinking - records state he spoke only a little Japanese, was there for a very short period, and to make matters worse accomplished nothing noteworthy during his time in Japan despite the pop-culture love he now receives.

In reality, just 15-months serving as one of Nobunaga's retainers, Nobunaga was betrayed by another of his vassals, Akechi Mitsuhide, an actual samurai.

Shortly after, Yasuke was captured, and Akechi, who as another of Nobunaga's retainers, would certainly have known if Yasuke was a samurai, is recorded as saying "A black slave is an animal (bestial) and knows nothing, nor is he Japanese, so do not kill him, and place him in the custody at the cathedral of Padre in India."

Following his capture he was sent to Jesuit missionaries, and it is unclear what happened to him after that.

The chances of Yasuke having been accepted as an actual samurai are effectively zero, with historical records affirming that fact; in a period when plenty of Japanese warriors and samurai did plenty of noteworthy things, he was noteworthy (according to these records) almost exclusively for the colour of his skin.

That hasn't stopped pop culture from lionizing him as this fearsome and brave warrior who became the first black samurai and earned the respect of Japan (ironically, had he been an actual samurai, he'd have been expected to commit seppuku ("honourable" suicide) after failing to stop his lord's assassination and subsequently allowing himself to be captured).

In the name of "anti-racism" and "representation", Ubisoft has set a game in feudal Japan and decided to make one of the only two playable characters, and the first ever "historical figure" playable in the series, a black man who accomplished nothing of any significance during a historically significant period, effectively "blackwashing" the role of a heroic samurai that should have gone to an actual samurai (of which there were many, many historical figures from that era that could have been used and actually had an impact on Japan's history).

Unfortunately it's not surprising given Ubisoft's recent plunge into discriminatory "DEI" hiring practices and its slowly-increasing insertion of bullshit agendas into their games, as the company seems determined to go the Disney route and sacrifice quality for praise from the woke crowd, even if that means sacrificing its own profits (which is a gross dereliction of duty by executives against their own shareholders).

The lead writer on Shadows, for instance, is a woke white woman with pronouns in her X/Twitter bio who is all about inserting sexuality and "trans" idealogy in her work, an increasing trend when it comes to high-level positions on entertainment projects. When those projects underperform, they of course blame the fans for being "mysogynists" or "racists" instead of themselves for creating woke trash the fans aren't interested in.

The comments and dislikes on the Shadows reveal trailer show exactly what the majority of people are thinking when they see such ridiculous and insulting historical revisions, and it's why Ubisoft won't be getting a dime from me (and many others) until they get rid of their rainbow and DEI-pushing writers and executives.

Just a week after the disappointing reveal, Ubisoft released a free-to-play shooter that, quite frankly, was made the way multiplayer games used to be made - focused on getting people into the game for quick, fun action that isn't manipulating the player or pushing an agenda down player's throats.

XDefiant has had some issues (most of which seem to be centered on PC, at least from my experience playing on an Xbox Series X) during its launch like virtually every live service game has, but at its core it is effectively a throwback to the classic Call of Duty games that so many gamers spent thousands of hours playing back on their old Xbox 360 or PS3.

It may not be very original, but XDefiant features smooth gunplay, vibrant and well-designed maps, a variety of classes and playstyles to choose from, and unlike virtually every PVP game made in the last few years, it doesn't use the predatory "skill-based matchmaking" (SBMM) that often ruins player's experiences.

SBMM has been widely condemned by fans over the last few years for making matches overly competitive and sucking the fun and variety out of simply playing a game online.

It's also been exposed for being manipulative - instead of teams being as close to evenly-matched as possible based on skill level which is what SBMM is claimed to do, games nowadays can pretty effectively predict which team is going to win and even how well each player will perform given their opposition - but instead of balancing teams accordingly, it's designed to basically stack teams in order to manipulate the player into playing more.

It's a bit more complicated than this, but essentially, it will purposely match players multiple times in a row against teams that are supposed to win, and unless you or your teammates have an extremely exceptional performance that isn't your norm, you are almost guaranteed to lose.

This tends to make games frustrating as it seems like it's impossible to win, and for good players, it will often feel like you're being punished by being matched up with teammates that aren't anywhere near your level while you face off with more competent opposition.

After a few games like this, it will then stack the team in your favour - letting you dominate and have a great game, so you feel like the tide is turning and you're now firing on all cyclinders, encouraging you to play another match.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Frankly, it's annoying and makes many games far too intensive as you desperately try to overcome the odds or struggle just to have a decent showing, and then when you do well it diminishes it because you know it's from the algorithm pairing you with opposition below your or your teammates' abilities.

XDefiant gets rid of this ridiculous system that has been widely adopted by virtually all PVP games and it's a refreshing change of pace, allowing players to simply enjoy the game without it always turning into a hyper-competitive sweatfest or constant one-sided trouncings.

Ubisoft's Call of Duty-inspired shooter (by inspired I mean it's pretty much a ripoff of older COD titles) smartly gets rid of killstreaks which, while they can be fun to use, incentivize players not to properly go after objectives in objective-oriented gametypes and frankly encourage being shitty teammates.

Instead, it adopts the use of "abilities" that refresh with a timer alongside an "ultimate" ability which is slowly built toward by scoring points in a match (whether they be kills, assists, scoring objectives, etc.) which grants a more powerful ability.

XDefiant's unique aspect is how it weaves together its "Factions" - you can choose to play as a character from one of five (for now) factions, which are essentially classes that are inspired by different Ubisoft franchises.

The Cleaners, from The Division, feature fire-based abilities and perks; Echelon, the covert spy group from Splinter Cell, boast cloaking and scanning capabilities; Libertad, the band of freedom fighters from Far Cry, are the healers of the game; and the Phantoms are defense-specialists from Ghost Recon.

Each season, which like most free-to-play games will last for three months, also includes an additional faction to unlock (either by playing the game for a decent chunk of time, or by dropping a few bucks to access it earlier), starting off with Dedsec, the hacker group from Watch Dogs which of course features hacking-related abilities and gadgets.

The game also features a variety of maps inspired aesthetically by the different factions, adding some visual flair and diversity to the mix.

XDefiant's factions are a fun twist that, alongside the games' dedication to creating a throwback arena shooter experience, should serve to inspire other publishers, Microsoft in particular, to properly leverage the now massive portfolio of gaming brands they own.

Halo Infinite: A great game and spiritual reboot despite its mismanagement

The Halo Universe

I'm sure if you've read more than one of my articles then you're probably sick of me talking about Halo, but don't blame me - blame Bungie for making the best videogame series of all time.

Halo is one of the biggest multimedia franchises to ever spawn from gaming, with a plethora of games, novels, toys, collectables, and even live-action adaptations set in its expansive universe over the near two-and-a-half decades it has been around.

Yet Microsoft has still barely scratched the surface of its potential, and particularly over the last few years, it has been extremely mismanaged.

Microsoft and the executives at 343 Industries' mismanagement of Halo Infinite has now been well documented and though an executive cleanup at 343 has hopefully righted the ship when it comes to the mainline Halo games in the future, Microsoft has been doing a terrible job of Halo's extended universe lately.

The last non-mainline Halo game, the excellent Halo Wars 2, released way back in 2016 and a sequel has still yet to materialize - in fact the only Halo game to release in the last eight years is Halo Infinite, which is borderline criminal for such a massive franchise.

The once flourishing expanded universe outside of the games is now only kept alive by the Halo novels, which have continued to be excellent, but are accompanied by shockingly little else.

In the golden years of Halo there were several smaller-budget short films, a collection of anime shorts, and even a decent low-budget live action movie, with the hopes of a major film someday to kick off a proper cinematic universe for the legendary sci-fi franchise.

Unfortunately, no proper Halo movie has ever materialized - instead, 343 farmed out Halo's first trip to television to the geniuses at Showtime, and with the brilliant executives like Kiki Wolfkill (thankfully she's now gone) at 343 giving them the green light, they've produced two seasons of absolute dreck for Paramount Plus using the Halo brand.

The producers and writers of the joke that is the Halo TV show have openly stated they didn't play the games and absolutely butchered every storyline and character they've "adapted" for the silver screen; it's no surprise the horrendous series still hasn't been renewed for a third season, with its first season likely only "earning" a renewal because of how many Halo fans checked it out to see if it was watchable.

Fingers crossed Showtime's painfully terrible "Halo" show never returns.

The fact that such a bastardization of the iconic characters and entire franchise that they reign over was ever allowed by executives at both Microsoft and 343, is a clear indictment of the head honchos of the gaming division at Microsoft and how they've utterly failed to capitalize on their flagship franchise in recent years.

It isn't all bad news of course - with most of the execs at 343 Industries getting canned last year and the improvements to Halo Infinite, the next mainline Halo game will hopefully not be a clusterfuck like the last one was.

There's no indication however that the execs on Microsoft's end have learned anything or made any changes, and if comments from past developers who worked on the last few Halo titles are accurate, much of the mismanagement was thanks to Microsoft, not just the higher ups at 343.

Highlighting those poor executive decisions by Microsoft, they had tasked Certain Affinity, another talented development studio that regularly assists with the mainline Halo games and in particular its multiplayer components, with developing a Halo version of the battle royale craze that has been all the rage in recent years, as if that's what most Halo fans really want.

That game was unceremoniously cancelled, but if leaks are to be believed, the project wasn't totally scrapped - instead, it was re-organized and will be launching (possibly this fall) as a standalone multiplayer Halo game.

What exactly it will look like is unknown besides the fact that it isn't a battle royale, but fingers crossed it is something like what the fans were asking to be added to Halo Infinite - a new and expanded iteration of Halo 5's Warzone.

If we're really lucky, perhaps they listened and have added different playable factions so one can progress through the ranks of the Covenant or Banished or even the Flood as a match progresses...just like I hoped for here.

Even if, fingers crossed, the multiplayer game Certain Affinity is rumoured to be unveiling soon is everything we're hoping for, the Halo universe in gaming is still criminally underutilized by Microsoft, which has shot down various spinoff ideas from 343 in order to focus on the mainline games.

Outside of Certain Affinity's title, Microsoft has added no other teams to work on expanding their (up until the Activision acquisition) biggest brand, nor have they expanded 343 to be able to handle a smaller project while the core team focuses on the mainline games.

On the other hand of the brand utilization argument, one can certainly claim that Activision has been milking their biggest franchise a little too much with their annual Call of Duty releases, although they still rake in ridiculous amounts of money even when it's a rushed-to-shelves, under-cooked cash grab like Modern Warfare III.

The key difference between a smart expansion of the Halo universe, and what Activision has done with Call of Duty, is that not every title in the franchise needs to be the exact same genre with almost the exact same gameplay and mechanics.

Call of Duty is limited to its genre, as its universe is entirely built on relatively modern (whether that be current settings, the WWII era, shortly in the future, or somewhere in between) military aspects and is much more limited in scope in terms of their characters and lore. Their entire brand is being a first-person shooter - anything else simply wouldn't be Call of Duty.

Halo on the other hand, is already an expansive sci-fi universe with extensive lore that has already delved into other genres in the past, specifically the great Halo Wars titles which are real-time strategy games - even its lone spinoff FPS title, Halo 3: ODST, carried a very different tone and more narrow scope than the mainline Halo games, yet was still excellent and fans have been begging for a sequel for nearly fifteen years now.

Despite their forays into spinoffs in the past, Microsoft is still nowhere close to utilizing what could be the biggest brand in gaming; with the company's current profits and their dedication to buying shit over the last couple of years, Microsoft has no excuse for not positioning Xbox's most legendary franchise for success in the future.

They should be assigning other studios to create new Halo experiences, either picking from their now-lengthy list of acquired developers or forming new ones from those resources - Halo has the potential to be a Star Wars-level franchise, and I mean back at the height of Star Wars before Disney (and EA's exclusivity deal, when it comes to games) took over and became hellbent on running it into the ground.

There are loads of great ideas that fans and developers have come up with for games set in the Halo universe, and Microsoft should certainly be taking some of those ideas and running with them - and that doesn't mean every one has to have the ridiculous budget of a major AAA release.

Just look at Helldivers 2, which essentially delivered the ODST co-op game fans have been asking for but did so for Playstation - Arrowhead Game Studios managed to deliver AAA (or better, considering the state of many AAA titles nowadays at launch) quality at a "AA" cost.

A former 343 developer claimed that among the many pitches 343 tried to sell to Microsoft over the years, a co-op shooter that sounds almost exactly like what Helldivers 2 ended up being, was indeed rejected by the Microsoft execs - somehow great ideas like those get squashed, yet they were perfectly fine signing off on the filth that is the Halo TV show.

Particularly with the Forge tools that 343 has crafted with Halo Infinite, spinoff content should be getting churned out by small teams or studios for the Halo franchise on a regular basis, yet even with fans doing the heavy lifting and creating epic experiences, 343 is so hamstrung by Microsoft's lack of vision they take ages to add that content into matchmaking and get it out to players, something that if they had done much earlier in the game's lifecycle, Infinite's player base wouldn't have dwindled and Microsoft would have been making much better returns with very little investment of their own.

As for the other spinoff and offshoot possibilites, well, the possibilities are nearly endless, but there is one that really seems like a no-brainer...

Halo x Call of Duty - the crossover that Microsoft can't afford not to do

Years ago, after Bungie famously left the Microsoft stable and moved on from Halo in order to pursue other ventures, 343 Industries was formed (which included a large number of Bungie employees that chose to stay and continue their work on Halo).

With the newly formed studio in control of the Halo story, Microsoft decided to add conflicting requests to the developer's already monumental task - they wanted Halo to become a Call of Duty killer, implementing many of that series' popular features while living up to Bungie's incredible trilogy and the expectations fans had for the continuation of Master Chief's journey.

343 had massive shoes to fill and thanks to some misguided direction from Microsoft executives (which is annoyingly typical nowadays - any time a game sees huge success, executives are quick to instruct their studios to copy those other titles, even when it doesn't fit with those games or takes away from their own appeal - see the rush for battle royale clones in recent years for example), Halo 4 wasn't quite the home run 343 was hoping for.

To be fair, it was an excellent game with superb graphics, great gameplay, and a good story, with a level of polish that befits a major release such as Halo, and it did turn a profit.

The problem was, it veered a little too far from what was the core of the Halo experience.

First was the shift to a more hardcore "sci-fi" aesthetic, which, granted, looked extremely impressive from a graphical standpoint - even today, some 12 years later, Halo 4 is a beautiful game. But it just looked off from the other Halo games, and looked more like a typical sci-fi aesthetic than the simpler, more unique style Halo was known for.

The bigger issue was the switch to implementing COD-style mechanics, such as loadouts for multiplayer and the implementation of abilities that simply didn't fit Halo's classic arena shooter style.

It may have still been a great game, but it wasn't a great Halo game.

Halo 5 made things worse in many senses - again, it was a well-polished, impressively put together package chock full of content and even came with a highly underrated new mode, Warzone (not to be confused with the newer Call of Duty: Warzone, the free-to-play battle royale game).

The problem was they went even further down the special abilities rabbit hole and made it feel more like a hero-shooter than a classic Halo game; not to mention the very lackluster story, which had normally been such a strong point in previous Halo titles, even in 343's Halo 4.

Of course, those problems would be addressed and overcome with Halo Infinite, which offered a spiritual reboot of the franchise - the hard sci-fi look was thrown out and instead 343 built upon the original trilogy's aesthetic, retaining its more simplified and streamlined style while still evolving it and making it unique.

The storyline likewise returned to its roots and what made it so popular in the first place, and the classic multiplayer style made a triumphant return, this time utilizing an evolution of Halo 3's equipment which can be picked up just as a power weapon can be, rather than having armour abilities or loadouts which defeat the concept of a proper arena shooter - that everyone starts on a completely even playing field, and weapons/equipment are picked up and fought for on the map itself rather than on a loadout screen.

What Microsoft executives didn't realise years ago, and what they still seem to not realize, is that fans would be fine with a crossover between Halo and Call of Duty, or any number of other games - but they don't want that instead of having the main games.

That is where Microsoft's direction really failed with Halo 4 and 5, and perhaps now that Microsoft owns Call of Duty, they'd rather not create a COD-killer - but if they are wise, they'd realise that a crossover would certainly still be very popular if done well.

That's where the inspiration from XDefiant comes in, and with three major studios dedicated to Call of Duty already, it would make sense to take a small portion of those teams and their expertise to work on something that could see great success - a Call of Duty-style shooter set in the Halo universe.

First off, while fans of course want the mainline Halo games to focus on Master Chief and move his story forward (part of what made Halo 5 so hated was the extensive use of Spartan Locke, who wasn't a particularly compelling character in his own right, not to mention setting him as opposition to the Chief which was handled very poorly especially by the game's marketing), that same restriction does not apply to everything Halo - just see the abundance of Halo novels which have nothing to do with the Chief, or the successful Halo Wars games.

It also doesn't require a game to be centered on the Spartans - see Halo 3: ODST, which fans still love and beg for a sequel to.

Part of COD's appeal is its very fast-paced quick-twitch gameplay, which is of course at odds with Halo's more deliberate, more tactical approach to combat, particularly given the implementation of shielding and thus a far longer time-to-kill value in Halo than in COD.

For a COD-based Halo spinoff, there's an easy solution to this without making the Spartans seem like ripoffs of their normal selves - instead of playing as a Spartan, you play as a regular ol' marine.

Another problem would be the inclusion of the Covenant, or even the Banished or Flood, as the opposition forces - this can easily be fixed by focusing instead on the UNSC-Insurrectionist war which preceeded (or more accurately, was interrupted by) contact with the Covenant.

Using this as the setting, developers eliminate any problems posed with balancing teams and character models, and it would also serve to explore a period of Halo lore that is almost completely untouched as of now, giving them the opportunity to flesh out the Insurrectionists along with some variations or entirely new weapons.

Imagine a Call of Duty-style military shooter, where you play as either a UNSC marine or an Insurrectionist, utilizing earlier versions of Halo's iconic human weapons, from the classic MA5B assault rifle to the criminally absent-since-Halo-3 SMG to the iconic BR-75 Battle Rifle.

In typical COD fashion, these weapons could be customized with different barrels, scopes, stocks, grips, etc. that would be unlocked through use of the weapon, and loadouts would consist of a primary and secondary weapon (which could be variants of the Halo pistol, and perhaps unique sidearms used by the Insurrectionists) along with an equipment slot for frag or flash grenades.

The shift to a loadout system would of course make power weapons, such as the SPNKR rocket launcher, unfitting for such a title, and adding power weapons to a COD-style shooter wouldn't fit either - and that's where ultimate abilities come in.

Rather than implementing killstreaks or the like which typically make players less focused on objectives, an ultimate ability, like in other hero shooters and hybrids such as XDefiant, would be the defining characteristic for your chosen "class". But instead of being an "ability", it would simply have your character pull out one of Halo's legendary power weapons.

An "engineer" class for instance could call in the classic Halo pump-action shotgun as its ultimate ability; a sniper class would of course get an SRS-99 sniper rifle; an explosives class would rock the iconic SPNKR rocket launcher; and an assault class would boast Halo 4/5's SAW light machine gun.

Maps would consist of a variety of human Halo battlegrounds, from more natural areas on planets such as Reach or Earth, to space stations or sections of spaceships, or even sections of a city or its outskirts like New Mombasa or Voi.

Assuming the content is of high-quality and not just a thrown-together cash-grab, a free-to-play model could certainly prove fruitful following such a plan, but its in expanding this core experience where the true money would be made.

Like XDefiant does with its "factions", new factions from other games could be added into the mix, and given Microsoft's now massive portfolio of franchises, it could turn into a sprawling battleground filled with a massive variety of weapons and locales.

Of course various Call of Duty forces could be added that feature soldiers from say Task Force 141 or OpFor, and their arsenal of modern weaponry - or instead, COD's futuristic factions like the United Nations Space Alliance or the STF and their associated weaponry, which would more closely match Halo's futuristic arsenal.

Classic Call of Duty maps, or new creations inspired by those maps, could then be added to the rotation, alongside equivalent classes so each faction has a similar range of ultimate abilities (or perhaps we should call them "ultimate weapons").

Then comes Doom, with the UAC marines joining the fight along with Doom's iconic arsenal of weaponry, which would of course have to be scaled to balance with the other forces in the game. Similarly, maps set in the Doom universe could be added to the fray.

As time goes on, more and more factions from Microsoft's portfolio can be added, from the likes of Wolfenstein, Fallout, Starfield, Perfect Dark Zero, and more.

Similarly, and perhaps more ambitiously, comes a PVE component where each faction's opposition can be fought against in waves, a variation of horde mode Microsoft's Gears of War franchise made popular.

That's where a wider variety of opposition can come into play, given there is no balancing requirements that would make a PVP experience utilizing them so difficult/impossible.

Imagine forces from the UNSC, UAC, Brotherhood of Steel, and Crimson Fleet all uniting in a battle of survival against hordes of Covenant forces, Doom's demons, or a Flood-infestation.

Perhaps even a Battlefront-style implementation of "Hero" forces in the PVE component can be added, replacing the ultimate abilities of the multiplayer portion, and instead allowing a player to call in Master Chief, or the Doomslayer, or a suit of Fallout power armour, to tip the scales in their favour for a short time.

The possibilities are near endless and as time goes on, more and more variety and unique experiences can be added to shape a proper live-service game unlike any other.

This is the kind of game that the "games as a service" genre was meant for, and one in which could not only be successful, but would actually make players excited for such a crossover rather than groaning about another quick cash grab that gets the "live service" label slapped on it.

If Microsoft really wants to leverage their now massive portfolio of brands, this is the kind of project that they should be pouring resources into.

That said, there are also plenty of other Halo games (non-crossovers) that should be explored, even if at a smaller scale.

Halo Wars was a great game along with its sequel and a third entry was rumoured to include space battles which would have been great - with how good Halo Wars 2's story was, a third game would be more than welcome.

There's also of course plenty of potential for an ODST sequel, but moving on from already established spinoffs, there are tons of viable and exciting ideas for a game set in the Halo universe that could easily be explored by one of Microsoft's numerous studios.

A space combat game featuring UNSC forces in Broadswords and Longswords in dogfights with Covenant Seraphs and Banshees and aiding in attacks on Covenant frigates and other ships in the same vein as say Star Wars Squadrons certainly has potential.

A 2021 game that was recently on Game Pass and featured excellent space combat, Chorus, was a highly underrated and entertaining title developed by Fishlabs on a AA budget and looked great too thanks to the Unreal Engine; perhaps Microsoft could outsource production to Fishlabs to create a similar title set in the Halo universe?

A horror spinoff has always been on the table thanks to Halo: Combat Evolved's introduction of the flood and some rather horror-infused levels midway through the iconic original game; a horror game featuring a lone marine on a Flood-infested ship for instance would be a fun and interesting experience to say the least, and really flesh out just how horrifying the franchise's Flood can be.

To explore another area of Halo lore that the games have never touched on, a title where the user plays as a Grunt during the Unggoy Uprising could be a blast, fleshing out more of the Covenant's story as well as one of the most beloved characters in Halo, the humble Grunt.

Their short but impactful uprising against the brutal conditions the Covenant forced them to live under not only shocked the Covenant thanks to the Grunt's tenacity and courage, but led to the Grunt's improved status and respect from the Elites (despite the Grunts still being used as cannon fodder, they at least had a path to upward ranks and prestige) and a game could even explore both sides of the conflict by having missions set both as a Grunt soldier fighting for their respect as well as an Elite tasked with putting down the violent uprising.

It also has plenty of comedic opportunity given the Grunt's often hilarious dialogue, which has become an honoured tradition over the years across the Halo titles.

Even other FPS spinoffs featuring other Spartans, such as Halo War's Jerome, or a game exploring a squad of Spartan III's that would culminate in that batch of Spartan's fateful suicide mission, would be more than welcome; as long as the titles maintain a high level of quality and fit into the Halo universe, fans will definitely come out in droves.

That isn't all that Microsoft should be focused on however, as another of their biggest franchises has just as much potential to support an evolving multiplayer experience...

Halo x Gears of War: Another cash cow that just makes sense

Gears of More

Sitting atop the Xbox mountain of brands alongside Halo and Forza is Gears of War, the popular cover-based third-person shooter franchise that revolutionized third-person action games. Its original trilogy is still held dear as one of the greatest in gaming.

Even after Microsoft's acquisitions of Bethesda and Activision-Blizzard, Gears of War is still one of the biggest franchises Microsoft owns and is a series synonymous with the Xbox brand.

Similar to how Halo's development shifted hands after Bungie opted to become independent and focus on new IPs, the Xbox-exclusive Gears franchise was developed by a third-party in Epic Games, but was later acquired by Microsoft as Epic opted to move on to other projects.

The company assigned one of its new first-party studios at the time, then known as Black Tusk Studios in Vancouver, to take over the Gears of War universe.

Rebranding the studio as "The Coalition", the new home of Gears had a much less rocky-start than the folks over at 343 Studios did - first came the excellent Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, a beautifully done remake of the iconic Xbox 360 title that launched the series.

Then came Gears of War 4, which while it didn't quite reach the heights of the original trilogy in some aspects, was still an excellent entry that added fresh new faces to the fold without leaving out the grizzled vets fans know and love from the original trilogy.

Dropping the "of War" from its title, the simply named Gears 5 was another confident and well-received entry in the series, one which cleverly incorporated some semi-open world segments into its campaign and boasted a ton of content for players to dive into.

Although on a smaller scale than Halo, the Gears franchise also has an expanded universe, with eight excellent novels fleshing out the franchise's story. Before the Coalition was formed, a spinoff created by the developers of Bulletstorm called Gears of War: Judgement, a prequel that followed Damon Baird and Augustus Cole alongside their old squad and effectively had the same kind of gameplay as the original trilogy, was released.

The Coalition has also delved into a spinoff, co-developing Gears Tactics alongside British developer Splash Damage, which saw the series take on a top-down, turn-based approach to combat which saw great success with critics and fans of the genre alike.

With Gears Tactics releasing back in 2020 and Gears 5 coming a year prior, The Coalition has been hard at work on Gears 6, and it's believed the title will be officially unveiled this Sunday during Microsoft's Xbox Showcase event.

If rumours are to be believed, the next entry in the Gears franchise will raise the bar with what's possible on consoles in terms of graphical fidelity and is expected to be a show-stealer for Microsoft, though past rumours have pegged its release date for 2026, which would be unfortunate (especially given that the last main Gears entry released five years ago already).

Given their track record, regardless of when it releases, Gears 6 will undoubtedly be a superbly polished, high quality game chock-full of content.

Like Halo however, it could be more.

With how much money and effort goes into developing and finishing an engine for a game's release, and just how long a modern AAA game can take to develop (Gears 6 for instance is at 5 years and counting already), it seems very silly to release a popular game, support it for a while and perhaps get some revenue off of skins or other cosmetics, and then move on to the next.

If the engine is polished and facilitates high-quality gameplay, it makes a lot more sense to let smaller teams continue to create new content for that title, whether in the form of standalone campaign experiences, new co-op modes and maps, or crossover multiplayer content.

With Gears 5's excellent platform, Microsoft missed an opportunity to dive into the "live service" model in a way that would have really excited fans, and with Gears 6, especially now with Microsoft's expanded portfolio of franchises, it would really be dropping the ball if it doesn't shake things up when it comes to multiplayer crossovers.

I'm talking of course about a Halo crossover.

We've already seen characters from Halo: Reach feature in Gears 5 multiplayer as bonus skins, and The Coalition did a wonderful job making them fit in the game so seamlessly aesthetically.

But why stop at a few character skins?

Of course add more Halo characters to the multiplayer suite, but more importantly, let's turn that up to eleven: add weapons from the Xbox's other biggest shooter to the Gears of War sandbox.

Whether it be the classic Halo assault rifle as a rival to Gear's legendary Lancer, the SPNKR rocket launcher squaring off against the Boomshot, or a good ol' Battle Rifle vs. Hammerburst showdown, seeing squads of COG soldiers square off with Spartans, each equipped with their own assortment of weapons, would be absolutely awesome.

Halo Infinite showed what Microsoft was thinking in regards to its Game Pass service model - release the campaign/co-op on Game Pass (or gamers can buy it outright), then offer a free-to-play multiplayer suite to get players buying cosmetics to cover the costs of creating new content and make a buck along the way.

Thanks to their mismanagement however, that model utterly failed when it took about a year for content that should have been there at launch to finally release, and as we know now about live service games, once players have moved on, it's extremely hard to get them back, even if you finally produce the content they were looking for and fixed the issues they were complaining about.

With The Coalition, those mismanagement fears are luckily abated, and that's why they should be given the resources to make their next multiplayer offering not just a showcase for the franchise, but for several of Microsoft's biggest franchises.

Over time, the crossover can be steadily expanded - the Gears multiplayer suite will of course feature COG and Locust forces, and in addition to the Spartans to represent the UNSC, Brutes could represent the Banished forces and bring with them more weapons from Halo, given that Brutes would also fit pretty well into Gears' universe.

Each of the weapons would of course feature unique execution animations like all of Gears' weapons, and unique skins for the weapons and character models could of course be unlocked through gameplay or purchased, like any free-to-play model - though hopefully Microsoft won't go down the pricey route like Halo Infinite did, and would offer plenty to be earned for free (and some skins should only be offered by being tied to specific achievements, such as a certain amount of kills or getting to a certain level, that way it feels earned and not cheapened by the model).

Maps inspired by Halo, which obviously can't simply be recreations of existing ones given the cover-based system of Gears, but would instead occur in environments and settings from the Halo universe, would also be a great addition and make things feel fresh and unique.

Since Gears of War 2 brought Horde mode into the fold, it has been a staple for the franchise and inspired plenty of similar modes in other games - and that's another area that The Coalition should embrace for a crossover.

With the character models and weapons added to the multiplayer suite, it's simple enough then to add them to Gears 6's Horde mode, which undoubtedly will have some interesting changes or improvements when it releases. But again, why stop there?

This is where Microsoft should see massive potential - adding enemy factions from other franchises into a single unified Horde mode (and perhaps one that leverages the power of current systems, with more enemies and co-op partners in one game at once).

Imagine playing as the Master Chief, taking cover alongside Marcus Fenix as waves of Flood-infected Covenant and human forces bombard your position. Or playing as Halo Reach's Emile as he carves up an Elite using the Lancer's iconic chainsaw bayonet, while the Cole Train lays down covering fire with bursts from the BR-75 Battle Rifle.

The Banished, the Covenant, and the Flood could all be added over time as factions to face off against in Horde mode, and once again, more franchises can be leaned on over time to create a sort of multiverse of bloody, gory fun.

id Software's legendary Doom franchise would fit into the Gears of War universe perfectly; players would choose their own variant of Doomslayer armour and enter the fray with id's epic arsenal, from the vicious sawed-off Super Shotgun to the impaling Ballista, on Doom-inspired maps crafted with The Coalition's care.

A variety of the series' legendary demons can be added to Horde mode, again offering plenty of variety along with a fun crossover for fans that goes beyond simply throwing in a few skins for a quick cash grab - the key to success is adding this content with the same level of quality that the base game provides.

The Brotherhood of Steel from Fallout would fit in aesthetically as playable characters in their Power Armor, with a wide variety of enemies from Bethesda's crazy world being possible to add to Horde, from ghouls to any number of Fallout's bizarre creatures.

The possibilities here are abundant, and Microsoft could not only bolster the success of the next Gears title, but position it as one of the premier multiplayer and co-op experiences in gaming that can lure fans of other popular franchises to the table.

With the now massive umbrella of gaming franchises Microsoft controls, there is so much opportunity to build its biggest brands into something more and to offer fans things they once could only dream of. After all, if that isn't what Microsoft's gaming division is striving for, then what's the point of it even existing?


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