I’d like to push back against the assertion made during this pod that the Halo aesthetic is outdated.
The issue with how the Halo aesthetic looks in recent Halo games has more to do with how 343 has chosen to blend the distinct stylistic elements of the Bungie Halo games with the modern graphical techniques that have been making the rounds this generation (programmable shaders, reflective surfaces etc.)
Basically, the Halo games mix the aesthetics of military sci fi and science fantasy together in a way that really complemented the technical limitations of the 6th and 7th gens. Over the course of the Bungie games there’s a fairly linear progression from blocky, ethereal science fantasy architecture and alien technology designs to the more drab, realistic designs and models of ODST and Reach. The issue the 343 games have is they don’t have a clear aesthetic goal relative to the Bungie games. They have then gone and compensated for that by making it all shiny and shit and now we have Halo Infinite which looks like they microwaved Halo 4.
Halo 4 is certainly much more military science fiction in terms of how Master Chief looks and how much more detailed and recognisably militarised the human tech looks, but it also has glowing orange orbs and nice, clean alien architecture. It’s the best looking of the two 343 games. Halo 5 is a real mess in terms of its aesthetic priorities. It leans into science fantasy in terms of the locales and architecture, but it also wants to have gritty battle-scarred armour and real ass people faces.
People have said that if you modernised the Halo aesthetic you would get Destiny, and while they are wrong this isn’t a bad way to think about what could be done to make Halo look and feel contemporary to modern audiences. Bungie went hard on science fantasy in Destiny, drawing on classic sci fi art to create are really tremendous aesthetic (that they’ve gone ahead and watered down with videogame-ass shit imo). The opportunity for 343 is that they can also take the same route without looking like Destiny because Halo has a lot of recognisable symbols and imagery in its back catalogue.
Rather than try to split the difference between Reach’s basically Call-of-Duty-but-there-are-Elites-here look and CE’s sparse but striking architecture, they should try to make Halo look like it used to sound. Lean into the ethereal, other-worldly vibe that the old music used to communicate even when the rest of the game was an awkwardly bump-mapped mess of blurry textures and character models that looked like plasticine. They’ve even approached this with the Halo 5 reveal trailer. Remember when Master Chief was in the desert with a nice cloak and suddenly there was a big angular sandworm thing? Make your Halo game look like that!! You had it right there!!
What I’m trying to say is: 343 call me, I can consult.