Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see the words Halo: Combat Evolved? You might imagine a stoic Master Chief as he readies his weapon to do battle against the Covenant. Or you might think of Cortana, who’s become one of the most iconic companions in gaming.
But from its beginning 14 years ago on the original Xbox, Halo has been partly defined by one core element: teamwork. Specifically co-op, which helped separate Combat Evolved from so many other first-person shooters of the time. Players would even set up multiple TVs and Xbox consoles in a single room, so that all their friends could gather in one place to experience the seminal first-person shooter of the generation.
Halo 5: Guardians ups the co-op ante considerably with a persistent four-player campaign that will redefine the franchise going forward. And you won’t have to lug a bunch of flat-screens and Xbox One consoles to a single location in order to experience it!
In fact, developer 343 Industries designed Halo 5: Guardians with the four-player experience specifically in mind. In the past, co-op was certainly an option many players embraced. Still, the image persists of a lone Master Chief taking on all comers, all by himself. That image will finally be shattered in Halo 5: Guardians. In fact, you might think of teamwork as the next combat evolution in the Halo franchise.
The biggest difference? While previous games included the co-op option, they were all about joining something that was clearly designed as a single-player experience. If you entered a friend’s game, you’d essentially serve as Master Chief’s escort, shepherding him from place to place. It was a blast, of course – Halo in any form delivers some of the best sci-fi shooting action in gaming, and Guardians is no exception – but it was also grafted onto the main experience, and not particularly organic.
Halo 5: Guardians’ campaign, on the other hand, has been meticulously crafted from the ground up to take advantage of four players at all times. 343 Industries wants players to take their time and explore the vast landscapes that the developers have spent the past few years building; areas are now larger, and have a greater sense of verticality.
More importantly, however, 343 Industries designed Halo 5’s environments around the concept of working together as a team. Instead of cramming a quartet of players into a corridor and throwing a bunch of bullet-sponge foes in their way that require brute force to take out, the developers built expansive areas that require communication and careful planning. Standing around isn’t an option here; you’ll need someone to scout ahead, another teammate to lure the enemy, and then finish things off with a heavy hitter to unleash a spectacular explosion. Each of the four squad members has their own loadout as well, which adds further layers to the strategy.
And all of this teamwork isn’t just for show; enemies, too, have been overhauled to take advantage of the seamless four-player co-op. The developers have recalculated enemy tactics and movement to take the quartet of players into account, so you might need to take things into your own hands, such as activating turrets or hacking enemy command centers, in order to turn the tide of combat. You’ll find that it’s a lot more challenging to outsmart baddies in Halo 5: Guardians – but it’s ultimately a whole lot more rewarding, since you’ve done it as a team this time around. And, since the difficulty scales based on the number of human players, you can be sure you’re getting the ultimate experience in four-player Legendary co-op.
One reason 343 Industries was able to up the challenge is due to the game’s new Revive feature – and while you might not initially realize it, this is just one more way that Halo 5: Guardians focuses on teamwork. Just about the worst buzz-kill in any cooperative gaming experience is getting blasted to smithereens out of nowhere, and then having to sit out the action for an extended period of time, waiting to respawn. You won’t have that problem in Halo 5, since teammates can race to your side and revive you once you’ve gone down. This means that it won’t be a stop-and-start experience where the action comes in short bursts; instead, the strategy and planning ensure that this will be a Halo combat experience that always keeps players on their toes.
Of course, the developers realize that – as much as it’s a blast playing with three human teammates – it’s not always feasible. Sometimes, a player might need to drop out on short notice… and sometimes, you just want to play alone. To that end, 343 Industries constructed Halo 5: Guardians with drop-in, drop-out co-op in mind, and also concocted an innovative new artificial intelligence: the Fireteam A.I.
When a player drops out, an A.I.-controlled teammate will take their place. This allows players to trust in their computer-controlled comrades via context-sensitive commands. Instead of scrolling through a cumbersome menu to deliver messages and tactics, Fireteam A.I. streamlines the command structure, so that you don’t have to do a ton of babysitting. If you need support, your A.I. teammates will provide it in a flash. If you’re down for the count, they’ll race to your side and get you upright in a hurry.
So, whether you’ve gathered a bunch of real-life buddies across the country in an epic online extravaganza, or prefer taking on the Covenant with a score of trusted A.I. companions, Halo 5: Guardians tests your teamwork in ways the series never has before. It’s the best possible way to bring Halo into the new generation.