While a lot of the gaming talk around town has been centered around the Halo: Master Chief Collection launch this week (for better or for worse), I’ve been steady thinking about the future of the franchise, which I got a small taste of on Monday night during the conclusion of HaloFest. Looking forward, it’s pretty clear that 343 Industries has quite a task on their hands in continuing the legacy of Master Chief on their own, and my Nerdist brethren Brian Walton, Dan Casey, and I headed down to the Halo: Master Chief Collection launch party in Hollywood to catch the premiere of Halo: Nightfall, get the first hands on with the Halo 5: Guardians beta, and chat with 343 Industries’ Frank O’Conner about what to expect from Master Chief’s next outing.
I was only able to play three matches of the game, but was rather satisfied with what I did experience thus far. The stage I played on was a revamped version of the classic Halo map Midship called Truth (as you can see above). Right off the bat I noticed that the loadout/class system that we saw in Halo 4 had been removed from the game, taking things back to the classic stage-plotted weapons format. As you can imagine, all of the action happened around a weapon called Prophet’s Bane, which is the newest rendition of the Plasma Sword. Halo has always been about map control, with claiming important points on a stage being a huge factor in whether or not a team comes out victorious. With the class system being scrapped, it adds a extra layer of strategy to map control, forcing players to contemplate whether it’s more important to position themselves around powerful weapons, or instead, places on the map that are advantageous for firing their weapons and remaining in cover.
There’s been several changes to the gameplay that have altered the pacing to something different for the Halo series. For starters, aiming is lot more loose than in previous iterations of the series– the sensitivity seemed way higher on the default settings than what I was use to, and more homogenous to the gameplay of most current age first-person shooters on the market. On the same token, the overshields appeared to be far weaker than in previous games, and I found myself dying far quicker strictly because my muscle memory was too far accustomed to having a stronger barrier of protection. Most of my shield woes were due to a new change in the game’s mechanics: no shield regeneration while sprinting. This definitely took some getting adjusted to, but overall, I felt the changes were warranted and just what the Halo series needs to stay relevant in this day and age of first-person shooters.
Before I left the event, I was able to sit down with 343 Industries’ Frank O’Conner– who’s been developing on the series since Halo 2– and ask a few question in regards to the Halo: 5 Guardians multiplayer beta, as well as 343 Industries’ trials and tribulations in working on the next installment of such a renowned series.
N: What lead to the decision to force players to stop sprinting in order to replenish their shields?
Frank: Sprinting is often used to completely escape combat – which means you have these cat and mouse chases that alter the natural flow and balance of the map. Halo has always let you recharge your shields, but adding risk to the sprint mechanic helps pull that lever back in the direction of classic Halo – hopefully while still letting players enjoy a mechanic they’ve gotten used to in now three Halo games, and obviously lots of other FPS titles. So rather than simply stick it in there and leave it, we’ve tried to make it meaningful too – and you’ll see its utility when we eventually reveal some of our larger scale experience.
N: Is there a possibility that we’d see a Halo: Reach remaster at any point in time?
Frank: We’d never say “never” but the point of Halo: The Master Chief Collection was to bring the Chief’s story to one console, and make a big leap – in the case of Halo 2 in particular – in fidelity. The honest truth is that there are some diminishing returns at play, and while a 60fps version at 1080p might be interesting, it could be hard to make the same case for the full anniversary treatment. But again, you never know. Some spark of inspiration might hit.
N: Did you guys take inspiration from any other FPS games when crafting the engine for Halo 5: Guardians?
Frank: I’m sure subconsciously every game designer brings in elements of stuff they’re exposed to, whether it’s games, media, movies and even music, but in some ways we’re trying to go back to our roots, so there’s as much introspection as inspiration happening in this game. Our inspiration always begins with what it means to be a 900 lb. Spartan, with all of this advanced technology. Mobility is critical to being super-soldier, and we see the evolution of this as we move into Halo 5: Guardians. We’re certainly going to look at making familiar control schemes available from legacy Halo games of course, but we will for example make zoom available on left trigger for people who are used to that method.
N: What are some of the challenges you guys are faced in developing Halo 5: Guardians when it comes to keeping Halo multiplayer fresh and relevant in this day and age of evolving FPS games?
Frank: I think you summarized the extant challenge every game maker endures, every time they make a sequel. How can you move things forward while still maintaining the core of what the game means to an already diverse and less-than-monolithic audience. Horsepower and fidelity are two assets Halo uses well, thanks to the scale and nature of our sci-fi experience, so you’ll definitely see us take full advantage of that in multiplayer, but maybe more interestingly, in our big campaign experiences – and a couple of other areas we haven’t talked about yet. As for movement, the new zoom perspective – “little” things that means lot to people in the long run, we’ll be using the beta to both introduce and evaluate those features and their balance in the gameplay.
The beta for Halo 5: Guardians goes live December 29 on Xbox One for folks who’ve picked up the Master Chief Collection. You can bet your ass we’ll be keeping a close eye on this game for our twitch stream as we near beta launch day. And that about wraps it for Thursday’s Gaming Daily. Always keep it parked here on Nerdist for all of the juicy video game developments, and to chat about our beloved medium, I’m only one tweet away: @Malik4play.