WARNING: Possible Spoilers.
Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries newest release in the Halo franchise, has been released and played by millions of fans around the world. It had easily become the most anticipated, the most dynamic, and the most exciting expansion of the Halo universe yet in the entire series. Since it’s teasing reveal trailer at E3 2013, fans were excited to see where the story of the Master Chief would go next. The trailer revealed a desolate desert, with a hooded Master Chief plodding through the terrain. Suddenly, a Forerunner object emerged from the surface and rose into the air. It looked like a large owl, but Chief, of course, wasn’t afraid. Fans were awed at how Chief showed Cortana’s AI chip being clutched in his hand as he gazed up at the living artifact. Cut to black.
Flash forward to next E3 in 2014. There is talk of a new trailer being shown for the 5th installment of Master Chief’s journey. Sure enough, fans were treated to an exciting new trailer, but with a special twist: Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The trailer revealed that all four previous games with the Master Chief would release later that November in excitement for Halo 5: Guardians. The new trailer showed fans the return of the Arbiter! He was back, and he had a new Spartan ally, Locke. So many questions needed answering, however. Who was this Locke? Where has the Arbiter been? Where is Chief? Is he okay? So many questions, but many wouldn’t be answered until October 27th, 2015, the release of Halo 5: Guardians.
November 11th, 2014. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is released, showcasing a sneak peek into what the newest Halo installment will entail. Spartan Locke is accompanied by other Spartans as they travel in an Elite aircraft. There is some conversing, but fans are told that Locke is hunting the Chief. He’s been tasked to bring Chief home, but why? Is there something wrong? Is he in trouble? Why did he flee? More questions, and it wouldn’t be until the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta on December 19th later that year where we would see the same conversation. Fans would learn that Spartan Locke is tasked by ONI to “bring Chief home”. What does that mean? More questions, and still little to no answers. What followed next in this Great Journey was the greatest marketing and advertising in the entire Halo franchise. Traitor. Hunt the Truth. The greatest hunt in gaming history. All this made Halo 5: Guardians a juggernaut of a game. Even Halo 2, the most successful game in the franchise to date, seemed to not be able to compete against the storm that 343 Industries was brewing with Halo 5: Guardians.
E3 2015 rolled into town, and with it was actual gameplay from the newest game, and it was fantastic. It looked beautiful, it looked smooth. The new animations, art assets, and level designs in the campaign were reinvented and seemed like a new generation for the series. Right before players could fully enjoy it, however, we found Locke’s team, Fireteam Osiris, suddenly thrust in a sprint as the level began collapsing. As they ran, fans finally saw it after two years: the Guardian. Its giant bird shape was destroying the building structures with sound waves, but that didn’t stop the team as they pushed on to board the creature. When they reached the end, however, they were stopped by a large Forerunner enemy, bigger than the Promethean Knights in Halo 4, and definitely bigger than the Didact from the same game. Cut to black.
A photo of Halo 5: Guardians stats titled “By the Numbers” were released to the public and the information seemed to get better with every new piece. The all new campaign would contain 15 missions (Halo 2 had 13, with 2 prologue missions) that would take between 8 and 12 hours on Normal to complete. It would feature 4 player, drop-in/drop-out cooperative play, and would contain a total of 13 skulls and 117 Intel pieces. That’s a hefty package for just the campaign, especially one as exciting as it was being advertised. On the multiplayer side of things, Warzone would feature 12v12 multiplayer gameplay on the largest maps that fans had ever seen, four times the size of anything previous. For those who appreciated the classic style of Halo multiplayer to stick to Arena mode, which featured 4v4 combat. 21 multiplayer maps would be released at launch, with an additional 18+ maps coming in upcoming DLC, with 15 of those being free DLC content. For Character Customization, a player could collect 175 armor/helmet sets for their character, as well as 53 visors. Players could expect over 1000 Requisition Packs (In-Game Bonuses to use in Warzone) at launch, and dozens of new weapon and vehicle variants. Forge mode would be released in December and feature over 1600 items, compared to the few hundred that were able to be used in previous Halo games. The new Forge seemed to act like a game engine, with the ability to manipulate objects in unique and simple ways. Objects could have changed coloring and small actions programmed to them in order to create highly innovative fan-made content. 343 Industries seemed to have done it. They had created the greatest Halo game for the fans, with everyone that could be asked for.
October 27th, 2015. The game had been released. It was one of the biggest Microsoft launches since Halo 2 back in 2004. It wasn’t long before fans gave 343 Industries their feedback. Fans were frustrated that, despite it being announced prior to release, Split-Screen had been sacrificed to maintain 60 frames per second gameplay. Fans were infuriated that the campaign on Normal Difficulty only took between 4 and 6 hours to complete, instead of the advertised 8 to 12. Fans were screaming in outrage on the Internet and in public about the false advertisement they were given the past year. The greatest hunt in gaming history? How could it be with so little happening in the game? How could it be when the two adversaries, Locke and Chief, partnered up at the end to tackle an even greater threat? So much seemed to go wrong with Master Chief’s newest journey. Little was explained about his new companions on Blue Team, and Locke’s on Fireteam Osiris. There were complaints of the campaign being too dedicated to fans who have read the Halo lore and understood the origins of the Forerunners, the Domain, Blue Team, and other significant details that were revealed in Halo 5: Guardians, such as the civil war occurring on Arbiter’s home planet, Sanghelios. Having the true antagonist be Cortana, who was seen dying at the end of Halo 4, come back to be a villain seemed ridiculous to many. And most of all, to have the game end on a cliffhanger appeared to frustrate those who wanted answers to why this game seemed so over-hyped, not just by the fans of the series, but by Microsoft and the developers themselves, to have such a poor delivery.
It had appeared that Halo 5: Guardians had a lot of campaign content ready to deliver to fans, but it felt as if many hours were gutted from the experience and only the core necessities were placed into a linear plot. Was 343 Industries pressed to release early? Did they over-hype? Or was the marketing supposed to appear as if it was the manipulative ONI organization speaking to us, the fans, and tricking us? Only 343 Industries and Microsoft would know the true answer to that. Did the campaign play well? Absolutely. The new controls seemed to flow very well and create new memories for many fans. Did it look as beautiful as before? Of course. 343 Industries utilized the newest generation console to their advantage to create something that looked crisp and clean. Why did taking out Split Screen, something that had been in the franchise since the release of Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001, seem more reasonable than needing to have a constant 60 frames per second? Was it a large percentage of what fans asked for? Most likely. 60 frames has been in high demand on the new systems. Do players today have their own systems? Seems reasonable. A lot of games now rely on internet connection in order to play many features of the game, if not the entirety of it. Could they have done a poll from their fanbase to see which would be in higher demand, 60 fps or Split Screen? Yes they could have. But what’s done is done, and all we can look forward to is how 343 Industries receives the feedback from the campaign, and how they plan on implementing said feedback into Halo 6.
Now, the multiplayer is a different story. As far as playing it goes, 343 Industries’ promises of creating a high-octane, innovative multiplayer seemed be true. Arena gave dedicated fans the nostalgic feel of classic multiplayer on all new maps, while Warzone thrust players into expansive environments, with large vehicle play and Player vs Player vs AI combat. It’s chaotic, and it provides one of the greatest multiplayer experiences ever witnessed in the Halo franchise. Players can form Spartan Companies to integrate into player communities and compete professionally against one another. Using REQ packs, no match is the same, since players can now call in their own scorpion tanks and rocket launchers, instead of having to wait with teammates for the next one to spawn. AI combat in the multiplayer takes what Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall did and gave the Covenant and Forerunner enemies enhanced programming to react and attack better against players. As far as the multiplayer goes for Halo 5: Guardians, it appears to be solid, and delivered on the promises 343 Industries had given.
In conclusion, Halo 5: Guardians has truly been a wild ride for fans. It has introduced new gameplay mechanics that focus heavily on team-based coordination and MOBA-style gameplay. It has introduced a new and dynamic story that seemed to fall short for many fans, but hope that it is all building up to something grand in the new game. 343 Industries has always taken pride with taking feedback and showing how they implement it into their newest game builds, such as they did with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta, and now with the full game itself. All the fans can do is acknowledge its existence, whether for good or for bad, and discuss their own pros and cons of the game. Voicing their opinion to the developers in a professional and concise manner will ensure maximum entertainment for Halo 6, as well as to continue building a strong and healthy relationship between 343 Industries and Halo fans around the world.