E3 2015: Halo 5: Guardians Preview

With the recent multiplayer beta a fairly distant memory it was time for Microsoft to show off some of the heavily teased story from the anticipated continuation of the Halo franchise at this years E3. The Halo portion of Microsoft’s conference was front and centre, replacing Call of Duty as the go-to intro for this years Xbox news.

The opening trailer gives a glimpse into the events that transpire around the Master Chief’s disappearance and the alliances between Spartan Locke, the hero of the Nightfall short series, and the Arbiter. Returning characters Buck (Halo 3: ODST) and Commander Lasky (Halo 4) can also be spotted.

The demo starts with the player in control of Spartan Locke and his group of Spartans as he searches for the Master Chief in the midst of an all out war between the Arbiter and the Covenant. Surveying the aftermath of a recent fight, they find an assault rife, which tells them that the Chief has been through recently. As they progress the scale of the conflict becomes evident, with the emergence of the Guardian, the giant Promethean seen in the E3 Reveal a few years back.

Following a brief set piece running across breaking platforms the shooting starts against redesigned Promethean enemies, featuring the ability to mark enemies for allies, orders to heal downed ally’s, scan the immediate area for weapons drops and further on the ability to ground pound as seen in the multiplayer. The introduction of the plasma caster, a new weapon that fires much like a brute shot  but has the added bonus of a crossbow like secondary fire, was interesting but not ground breaking. Finally the demo ends with the introduction of the main villain in a quick scripted scene that doesn’t give away much.

The outro trailer gives a quick look into the direction guardians is taking, Epic scale, Epic battles and Epic story all seem to be the main theme coming from the single player portion.

Then came an announcement no one saw coming.

After focusing on 4v4 combat for the duration of the beta it seemed Halo 5’s multiplayer was moving to become a smaller more arena based mode then ever before. However with the announcement of Warzone, a 12v12 game type that includes the use of AI covenant and Promethean soldiers, we must now prepare for a completely different multiplayer experience.

Warzones looks to play like a mix of Domination, Team Deathmatch and VIP with the main goal being to take the enemies home base while dominating the map. This marks the first time Halo has ever included AI into the PVP arena and from the looks of the chaos and vehicular mayhem this could very well be the game type that gets people really interested in the next generation of Halo multiplayer

While the overall presentation was very impressive from a technological standpoint I can’t help but feel that Halo is somewhat moving away from its identity from a gameplay perspective. The introduction of the squad orders and ADS sound good in a modern shooter but it doesn’t really feel like Halo at this point. Who knows? Maybe when the time comes 343 might blow it out of the water and reinvent the wheel, but after replaying all the classics included in the Halo: Master Chief Collection its clear that the days of Bungie are long gone. All this being said there are still a number of months left until Halo 5 hits store shelves so while the game didn’t hit the home run it was looking for to get people to pre-order I still believe there is enough here to be cautiously optimistic of the future ahead.

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