Okay, this Halo 5 cinematic is cool

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

If you like experimentation, then this is one of the best times to be a fan of online shooters.Call of Duty no longer has a stranglehold on the genre, and developers are testing out new ideas in order to appeal to a broader audience. 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 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. This year, however, Microsoft –or, at least, Xbox chief Phil Spencer– is “confident” that things will be quite different, and for the better too.

In an interview with Xbox’s Phil Spencer he has downplayed the importance of this form of gameplay. “We see the robustness of what Xbox Live is today and where people are playing across Xbox Live–you at your house, me at our house. With Halo 5, the team really wanted to focus on making that experience great, both visually on the screen that you’re looking at, and all the systems in place. 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.

But as a result of that, the folks at the studio have worked harder than ever to ensure that the online functionality of next month’s fivequel won’t be TMCC 2015. “No team is focused on it more than 343,” said Spencer. “The planning and process teams have gone through has been great, and I’m confident in how it will launch based on the results that we’re seeing.” Spencer’s GameSpot interview also saw the man touch upon the idea of annualizing the Halo franchise, stating that we’re not likely to see core titles start dropping every year like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed any time soon. While I loved the split screen of Halo 1, obviously it was kind of how multiplayer in Halo was born, I think the team made a trade-off based on what they see happening in the market today and what they wanted to do with their game.” “Well, we obviously don’t know for machines that don’t connect, but yeah.

Explaining, he said that Halo stands apart from most shooters because of its heavy focus on characters and story, and the attachment that fans have to characters like Master Chief and Cortana. In the first demoed stage called “Blue Team,” Master Chief leads three other Spartans to an Office of Naval Intelligence spacecraft called the Argent Moon. As such, Spencer believes that the series has enough of a foundation by those merits that Microsoft can keep it going for decades more, so long as they don’t milk it too vigorously. “It’s a franchise and an IP I expect to be around 20 years from now, much the same way Star Wars and Spider-Man and other things are,” he said. “I think it has the weight that it can support that, but I think that the franchise then needs to be managed in a way that doesn’t burn it out.” So, the future looks like it’ll be covered, but let’s get back to the present.

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. 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. I love the nostalgia of the couch co-op of what Halo did in the past, but I also know in the realities of the day with people’s busy lives, it’s not as easy to get everybody in the same physical place. The Master Chief mission was set deep in a cold, dark, and generally unfriendly space station, complete with the obligatory (but beautiful) views out the windows of the desolation and emptiness of space. 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.

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 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. Everything about Guardians’ two set-piece-heavy story missions I played, totaling about two hours of play time on normal difficulty, were designed to take full advantage of four soldiers working together in expansive environments. This new feature combined with wide-open levels creates a playground for combat as players can experiment with different tactics to take down the Covenant. Master Chief can direct the Blue Team to focus their fire on a squad of foes atop a staircase and this will distract them while the player flanks them adversaries from behind.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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. There are multiple pathways and innumerable aerial vantage points to create firefights that feel more realistic than the standard hallway mazes of older titles.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

The rest of the mission took me through a scenario where the squad boarded Banshees and engaged in a dogfight with other Covenant while shooting at vents. The squad mechanic is helpful here, too, because players can tell their team of Spartans in Banshees (nothing is scarier to aliens than that) to target foes.

There were at least two sections where our team battled several massive Hunters as well as hordes of more standard enemies, and we had to be far more cautious and deliberate than in the single-player campaign. 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. 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.

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 locale this time around was a desert planet, with temples built into the hillsides almost like the Petra in Jordan. (It’s the resting place of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.) The team will have to fight Covenant lurking about. There are, of course, skulls, but in addition to that, players can find Intel that gives background to the story. “Enemy Lines” seemed to highlight Halo 5’s level design and the Spartans expanded move list. 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. MULTIPLE PATHS AND MULTIPLE SOLUTIONS: After the first firefight, players jump on Ghosts and they can rush past Grunts or take them on in the shadow of a Kraken, an enormous Covenant battlestation.

That concept of exploring and finding ways past obstacles plays an important role in the next major section which pits Fireteam Osiris against a contingent of Covenant blocking the entrance to a temple. 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. That leads to the final section of “Enemy Lines.” Fireteam Osiris recovers a Forerunner artifact, but they’ll have to fend off Forerunner security.

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