Halo is a series known for offering co-op in its campaigns. Like many other shooters, playing cooperatively is certainly fun but they typically just add a clone of the main character. Sometimes they create a simple story for the extra player and even give them a name and personality like Herk in FarCry 4. Even when the extra player isn’t a carbon copy aesthetically the mechanics and feel are usually identical for both players. Then there are games like Borderlands where every character is extremely unique, with back stories, skill trees, and action skills. Halo 5 is treading into a fun middle ground with 8 unique characters to choose from.
One of the problems with the traditional co-op approach to just adding an extra version of the main character is that it isn’t that immersive. The game tends to lose some potency as your character and involvement seem tenuously tied to the story and game. This is probably one of the reasons I enjoy a game like Borderlands more because I feel like my character and decisions are more involved in what is happening as the story unfolds.
Halo 5 isn’t just adding 8 different characters with respect to aesthetics and names, they will feature different load-outs and HUDs. They will also feature slightly different attributes that won’t be hugely game altering, but will offer some variance between how each character plays. This is a subtle and simple way to make the game feel a bit more immersive when a group of friends jump into the campaign together. Rather than sort of mindlessly flanking and shooting AI enemies, the different load-outs, weapons, and abilities will probably be soft nudges toward roles each character should play. The player who ends up with a sniper rifle, for example, is probably not going to be the run-and-gunner of the group. The slightly different HUDs will also be a nice touch, reminding the player in a subversive way that they aren’t just another clone shooting enemies.
This is the future
Generally I think this should be a new standard for co-op campaigns. Not every game is an RPG, but if you are going to take the time to enable players to play cooperatively it should include some level of personalization or variance. This is just one more way that 343 seems to be pushing the industry forward. I’ve already done posts about the new Warzone game mode and their ability to watch and review live game footage in order to fix glitches, bugs, and exploits quicker than other titles. So it is really exciting to see just one more area where 343 is having forward thinking and innovation in a genre starved for better ideas and implementation. Yes, the absence of split-screen is very unfortunate and I already have a post and video about how I think that is a bad idea. But it seems they have injected the game with enough new and fresh things to make up for the classic yet excluded feature.
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