Halo 5: Guardians’ executive producer explains Master Chief’s arrival on Xbox One

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Halo 5: Guardians’ is good fun, but it’s better with friends.

As such, it’s somewhat appropriate that a preview of Halo 5: Guardians was my introduction to the series — it’s the first Halo game for the Xbox One, and it’s undoubtedly a title that Microsoft is looking at as a system seller. The Chief is now only half of the single player experience (and is conspicuous in his green-hued absence from the game’s opening cinematic), with players taking up position behind the eyes of Luciferian good-bad guy, Spartan Locke.

Led by the legendary Master Chief, Blue Team boards a derelict Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) research facility to ensure its contents don’t fall into the hands of a renegade faction of Covenant zealots. At a media-only event in San Francisco last week, I played through two single-player missions of Halo 5, but they weren’t consecutive, nor were they the missions at the start of the game. He’s been through a lot: fought a few intergalactic wars, staved off an ancient biological threat that would have wiped out every living being in the universe, and lost a few dear friends along the way. There’s a huge amount of story lore to know about Halo at this point — and, perhaps more importantly, the fifth game in a series probably assumes some gameplay and story knowledge on the part of participants. And when humanity’s greatest hero goes missing, Spartan Locke is tasked with hunting the Master Chief and solving a mystery that threatens the entire galaxy.

It’s a refreshing move that builds on developer 343 Industries’ previous major entry in the franchise, 2012’s Halo 4, in which the Chief was humanized in ways the original Halo trilogy didn’t have the capacity or time to achieve. The goal is to turn the Halo on our television screens into the vibrant, sci-fi epic it’s been for years to those willing to dive deep into the franchise’s novels and comic books. The new gunplay feature means an improved perspective, experience and accuracy for those who want it, but needn’t be used by old-school Halo fans who prefer a more classic experience. Your mission is to try and reclaim the station, but things go awry and instead you’re forced to activate a nuclear reactor and blow the place to smithereens. As we pushed our way through the rocks, killed countless Covenant troops, defeated a well-entrenched Wraith, interpreted cryptic Forerunner hieroglyphics, and finally reached a plateau where we could see the massive Kraken.

The Locke mission takes place in an entirely different environment; the goal being to take out a massive spaceship called the Kraken that’s laying siege to the rocky, sun-baked canyons and mountains of the planet you’ve landed on. The relationship between a studio and the platform team, as they’re talking and sitting next to each other building the experience, makes the canvas better for all creators. It doesn’t matter if you’re stalking hallways or engaged in a massive vehicle battle, Halo 5 manages to string you along from moment to moment with chatter in a fun and engaging way.

The Halo universe is complicated, almost byzantine, and I had no real sense of what each character’s motivations were at any point aside from “don’t die.” That said, it doesn’t seem fair to judge a game’s story elements when you’re not playing from the beginning. The title is also a big chance for Microsoft’s 343 Industries (the studio formed to handle the Halo franchise after original creator Bungie spun out to make another first-person shooter, Destiny) to show what it can do with huge investment of time and money. This puts 343i in an interesting position, having to preserve the inherent power fantasy of militaristic shooter games while crafting a narrative about flawed and struggling human beings. From Ghost Recon: Future Soldier to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, developers in recent years have learned how to refine the behaviour of cooperative A.I.so that they’re helpful without nerfing the overall experience.

Considering how large the level was, vehicles played an important part in the journey from one end to the other, both for Fireteam Osiris and for their opponents. They also appear to be aware of their functional immortality – “Enemy Lines” ends with you escaping a collapsing Kraken, but in my case I made the escape alone, then watched my colleagues tumble into a canyon with the machine, seemingly aware that only I had to be alive to finish the level.

This leads the UNSC to deploy a new squad of Spartans to find out why Chief and Blue Team have left the ranks and what connection – if any – that has to these events.” Holmes added, “That’s the setup. Fireteam Osiris in particular are action-movie quipping constantly, dynamically congratulating each other on kills and generally having a good time of it all. Overall, though, the missions weren’t exactly memorable — even a day later, I had a hard time trying to remember exactly what I was trying to accomplish. Everything about Guardians’ two set-piece-heavy story missions I played, totalling about 2 hours of play time on normal difficulty, were designed to take full advantage of four soldiers working together in expansive environments. The gameplay was refreshingly varied, though: Both episodes featured plenty of first-person shooting, but there was also some fun (and challenging) vehicle-based sections that did a great job of breaking up wave after wave of enemies.

Keeping an eye on your ammo (there’s never enough ammo), bouncing around high vantage points (Ground Pound) to avoid enemies, and remembering which ability does what leads to a lot more strategy and thinking than most Halo veterans are used to. Especially on higher difficulties, the enemies in Halo try to flank and out-strategize the player, and that often comes as a rousing success. “I want to make sure that we’re cultivating it and growing it the right way”. If you think about that 360 customer playing their 360 every day, the games that have been staples for them-We don’t plan very directly when a game has to get done. Personally, I don’t play locally enough for that split-screen sacrifice to make me lament the trade-off, but this is always going to come down to personal preference. In that regard ODST is the most distinctive Halo game out there, and having played it recently as part of 343’s MCC make-good, it holds up so, so well.

Once reserved to Halo’s novels and comics, Blue Team is now front and center and players can assume the role of either the Chief or one of three other famed Spartans. Instead of the linear mission structure that we saw in previous titles, you can now take different routes and approach situations in a number of ways, a feature that is reiterated through the addition of 3 additional players. There’s a lot of action happening above and below you, making it extra-challenging to know where to train your attention while clearing out a part of the map. Players will also switch between the Chief and Fireteam Osiris, led by newly-minted Spartan Jameson Locke who hunts the Chief after he’s deemed AWOL. Any change to a series as storied as Halo is likely to bring about a glut of comment, but it’s probably more surprising just how much of the core game feels familiar.

Every gun sounds heavy, layered, complex and distinct. “Halo 5: Guardians” is an upcoming video game in the “Halo” franchise featuring first-person shooter gameplay and is the sequel to “Halo 4”. But even though the majority of the missions involved mowing down hordes of Covenant Grunts, Elites, Jackals and Hunters, they felt significantly less repetitive than those in Destiny, which is perhaps the most obvious point of comparison. There are multiple pathways and innumerable aerial vantage points to create firefights that feel more realistic than the standard hallway mazes of older titles.

In the first mission, while playing as the Chief, we snuck deep inside a covenant ship, set its reactor to meltdown mode, diffused some defenses with aerial Banshee combat, and escaped a giant explosion. When you’re playing by yourself, Halo 5’s AI controls the other three members of your team; at no point did I ever really feel those companions were much of a help or a hinderance. Notably, you do not have to play this mode with other live humans. 343i has crafted a more intelligent and responsive AI system for the campaign that lets you direct your teammates with combat and location orders. One of the biggest complaints from hardcore Halo fans is that the franchise’s narrative canon presents one vision for how a seven-foot-tall genetically augmented supersolider fights and the game presents … well, a lamer version of that. The experience was a reminder of what makes the tried and true Halo formula so great: Giving players a variety of different avenues to tackle a giant problem.

As for a noob like me, playing with friends made me realize that multiplayer — and in particular, this new co-op mode — is the way to best enjoy Halo. The game concludes not with a victory celebration, but a chilling realization that something about Master Chief is profoundly broken after 30-plus years of combat. “You don’t talk much, do ya?” asks Commander Thomas Lasky in the game’s closing cinematic, after a UNSC rescue team finds the Chief floating, alone, in the middle of space after Cortana’s death. “Chief, I won’t pretend to know how you feel and I’ve lost people I care about, but never anything like what you’re going through.” “You say that like soldiers and humanity are too different things,” Lasky fires back. “Soldiers aren’t machines. We stayed in touch with the UNSC Infinity, which dispatched new instructions for how to proceed with the attack on the Covenant and the defense of the Argent Moon.

You’ll get to keep your current user name (as long as it doesn’t contain invalid characters, in which case you’ll have to go through a few extra steps to make the transfer), and all your old comments will eventually (not immediately) migrate with you. I felt the same pang of character-driven connection when, in my campaign play-through of Guardians, the Chief has a surreal vision of where he thinks Blue Team must travel next. Designing Locke and writing the new character, we wanted him to feel distinct from Chief,” said Holmes. “We wanted him to be a person who would ask Chief the kind of questions we want him to ask over the course of this mission.” We proceeded to redo the mission as a co-op team.

That’s all fertile ground for the story.” As for Holmes, who has been working on the title for almost four years, he said about the fans, “I hope they’ll be surprised.

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