Microsoft’s legendary Halo franchise returns, but will you? After Bungie lost Halo to 343 Industries, fans became skeptical of the new developer’s capabilities. Halo: Reach, the last Bungie developed Halo game was greeted with negative feedback, claiming it lacked individuality; some missions were practically identical to the first games’. Then Halo 4 was released, which had creative weaponry, new enemies, and beautiful visuals, but the story, while good, was paired with an average campaign. Mixed feedback aside, 343 Industries is shooting for the moon with Halo 5: Guardians. There’s a strong focus on bringing the gameplay back to the original titles, while the narrative is meant to be the darkest in the series. The question is: with such a large franchise are we only excited for the name, or for the gameplay? Let’s find out.
Since this is Halo’s debut on the Xbox One, 343 Industries has made it their goal to squeeze every last bit of capability from the console’s technology. They’ve created a brand new engine in order to render the most massive and realistic 60 fps environments available. Admittedly, the developers kept a lot of core elements from the predecessors, but why fix what’s not broken? With the arrival of the multiplayer beta, however, came a mountain of skepticism. The beta ran at 720p in an age where 1080p is the standard. Fans were worried the final release would also be at a gauged resolution, but 343 promises the final product will run at 1080p. We’ve heard promises like that before, so only time will tell.
The story will feel eerily similar to Halo 2, in that the player will control two different characters: Master Chief and Agent Locke. It seems like 343 really wants to combine everything players loved from the original games and bring it into their new, yet similar, take on the franchise. This is yet to be seen in gameplay, but Halo fans can rejoice if Halo 5 is the combination of everything good throughout the series.
There are a few new mechanics in Halo 5: guardians that make the player feel more mobile, like they aren’t wearing a suit of armor. Mobility was apparently a very important focus for 343, in both single player and multiplayer. Although the game won’t actually play much differently, the freedom to roam and strategic creativity are at an all-time high.
Although Halo gameplay is unique in its own right, it seems that 343 Industries took some mechanics from popular titles like Call of Duty. In Halo 5: Guardians, every weapon has its own aim down sight mechanic, even if it doesn’t have a scope. So, for example, you can zoom in with the assault rifle. The magnum, which had a 2x zoom in Halo 4, has a reduced iron sight zoom and fires much faster. Every weapon in the beta could best be described as crunchy; they were incredibly satisfying to use. Powerful and sharp audio mixed with violent animations and recoil put the feeling of each bullet leaving the barrel in your hand.
In line with the focus on mobility, there are plenty of revamped abilities, as well as new mechanics. Thrust, which used to be a customization option, is now innate. By holding the L-stick in any direction and hitting the thrust button, the player performs a short lunge. There’s a small cooldown on this ability, but it’s amazing for avoiding gunfire, diving into cover, and closing the gap with short range weapons. Sprint is also innate and unlimited, which makes sense for future soldiers in high-tech combat suits. You can also slide while sprinting to reduce your profile when finding cover… or to look like a champion as you mow the enemy down with a shotgun blast. If you feel like finding a sniper’s nest or a hidden crevice in a high spot, you can now clamber up ledges should you get close enough. Just hit the jump button a second time as you reach the destination and you’ll climb up. All of these tweaks and additions give a heightened sense of freedom while exploring or maneuvering.
343 Industries is being peculiarly conservative with their leaks of Halo 5 narrative. What little we know is taken from the 2014 E3 trailer. One of the new playable characters, Agent Locke, is searching for the AWOL Master Chief. Jameson Locke is the new character joining the Haloverse, but you can find him in the Halo 2 anniversary edition and Halo Nightfall, a digital feature aired on the Halo Channel. Locke’s motives are left vague, so we aren’t sure whether or not he wants to capture or save Chief. We also know that Cortana’s chip plays an important role in the Master Chief’s motivation, but it’s yet to be revealed how.
Halo: Combat Evolved was the sole reason many people bought the original Xbox, inspiring a community of fans that would follow the saga for over a decade. Halo 5, in all its mystery, looks to broaden the universe in which Halo exists while giving the fans exactly what they love. Let’s hope that 343 Industries can keep the magic alive and prove they have what it takes to carry Bungie’s torch.
The release date is still TBA sometime in 2015, but you can already pre-order the game. Check back at OnlySP.com for any Halo 5: Guardians news and updates.