Juggling fan expectations for the Halo series must be incredibly tricky for 343 Industries. It’s not just that the newish Halo kids on the block have inherited a hell of a mantle from Bungie, it’s also that we fans expect that a Halo game’s campaign experience will be just as compelling as the multiplayer (unlike, say, the Battlefield series). For the most part, Bungie achieved this lofty balance with its Halo games, but after an impressive first shot at the sci-fi series with Halo 4, 343 Industries has fumbled with one of the most important parts of a Halo experience: the solo campaign.Click here for our Halo 5: Guardians review.
In retrospect, I was probably more lenient on Halo 4 because it was the first game from 343 stepping into incredibly large Spartan boots, and it was towards the end of the Xbox 360’s cycle, which means that developers tend to push for graphical fidelity increases over gameplay improvements. Actually, that’s been a trend of the series, with the original Halo more noticeably open in approach than Halo 2. Despite the funnelling in Halo 4, 343 replaced the tiresome Flood threat from older Halo games with the deadly Prometheans, and it helped to balance out some of the weaker parts of the campaign.
Framerate is king for us on Halo 5. Gameplay is defined by the way that players experience the game from controller to screen. We want the connection between you and the game to feel seamless and instantaneous. From the beginning, we set ourselves the goal of delivering consistent 60fps gameplay across all modes of play. Delivering on this goal meant re-engineering the gameplay systems at the core of our engine. It required sustained commitment from the entire team as we continually optimized the experience, and the difference it makes to the play experience is immediate and obvious.
60fps gameplay is supported by a new progressive resolution system that allows us to dynamically scale the resolution at which we render the game (up to 1080p) based on the needs of the scene. This enables us to deploy resources where they have most impact across a diverse series of experiences throughout the game while delivering the most visually stunning Halo game ever.
Guardians is a game set to genuinely shake-up the Halo platform. It’s a game that takes away the nomadic nature of the ‘I’ll do whatever I want, whenever I want because I’m Master Chief’ Chief, and throws in companions for you to not only work alongside, but to also build new, strong and emotional relationships with. It’s the “number one pillar” for the single-player campaign, as described by 343’s Josh Holmes -- a co-op-focused campaign but with a weird twist where the drop-in, drop-out angle doesn’t remove your co-operative avatar, and of any member of the team that leaves, AI simply takes over.Click here for our Halo 5: Guardians interview feature.
“Throughout the entire play experience, you are with your fireteam,” Holmes confirms when we ask if you’ll enjoy any solo moments with either Chief or Locke. “All the time, you’re always with four Spartans, and that’s our commitment to supporting co-op.”
It’s arguably the boldest move in the series, especially when it was confirmed that there’s only ever one person playing as Master Chief at all times (so if you join a buddy, you don’t inhabit Chief, you inhabit an available sidekick). Well, that and adding another protagonist by way of Spartan Locke who you’ll be sharing the agency narrative with. Whether you like it or not.
“Everyone will have the option when they’re playing to play as the primary player, or in a solo campaign,” he adds when asked about who gets to play Chief. “But we think that the ability to go in and play as other characters when joining your friends gives the campaign [some] nice replay value. There are subtle differences to the narrative that you’ll experience from those other perspectives, and so we think that’s a nice incentive as well.