VG Tribune

Review: The Art of Halo 5: Guardians

December 2, 2015 / 4:05 PM

By: David Jones

Halo 5: Guardians is a divisive game. The majority of longtime Halo fans were disappointed by its Fireteam Osiris-heavy campaign, and new players were likely baffled by the game’s story. Most everyone can agree that Halo 5’s multiplayer modes, Arena and Warzone, are some of the best Halo multiplayer modes in a long time. It’s easy to experience a game and write it off, but when you stop and take a look at all of the thought that went into creating it, you may just find new value in things that are easily lost in battle.

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The Art of Halo 5: Guardians breaks down a lot of the game’s elements, with just over two hundred pages of beautiful concept art and quotes from the artists and designers who were involved in making the game. It’s a heavy hardcover book with a slip cover of the eight Spartans players control throughout the game on the front, and a very complex piece of Sanghelios concept art by Sparth on the back. Removing the slip reveals the book’s black matte finish with an intricate Guardian sketch that wraps around both covers, along with a black and white variant of the Halo 5: Guardians logo on the front cover and spine.

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As you might expect, the book is an amalgam of ideas the game’s designers used to create the look and feel of Halo 5. The book is organized into six major sections, and is broken down further within each section to cover specific elements. There’s a lot of gorgeous environment art featured throughout the book, (much of which I wish I could frame and hang) but my favorite parts of the book dealt with the smaller details, especially when it came to designing the Elite home world, Sanghelios. During my Legendary playthrough of Halo 5, I missed a ton of details 343’s designers placed in each of the game’s major landscapes, (because I was fighting for my life) but there’s a great quote on page 78 that stayed with me.

“In designing an environment, you take what you know about the civilization and work outward from there. Glenn Israel, who has done a lot of work on Sanghelios, starts with really specific things when he begins designing a new world. For example, he’ll ask himself what the hands of the indigenous species look like. Then he builds out from there. Once you know what the hand looks like, then you know what their writing might look like and that informs the architecture, which informs everything else.” – Darren Bacon

And on pages 82-83, there’s an explanation accompanying the Sangheili hieroglyphics. It’s fascinating stuff, and I’m going to replay the game on a lower difficulty to go study the language in-game.

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Halo is famous for its selection of awesome weapons, so Section 04: Weapons was a highlight for me. This section breaks down many of the human, Covenant, and Forerunner weapons in detail, and although the final game does allow you to unlock a wide selection of modded weapons to use in Warzone, it looks like there may have once been a build-your-own-weapon option planned for the game.

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You’ve probably already seen pages 202-205 posted on the net, and there’s good reason for that. At the end of the book there’s a section covering Warzone, and it shows off a massive amount of the unlockable helmets and armor players can use in the game.

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Something else I found interesting is that the book includes a few remnants of a Halo 5 that could have been. I don’t know at what point 343 decided to go from the mournful Master Chief scouting deserts in a cloak looking for a way to save Cortana, to the retail version featuring the two Fireteams, but it was nice to see some of the early artwork included in the book.

There are a lot of great ideas in Halo 5. From its multiple worlds and weapons, to the fusion of its novel and game narratives, The Art of Halo 5: Guardians is a worthwhile look into the making of one of the gaming world’s most celebrated franchises. But if you’re reading this 343, please don’t make us fight Warden Eternal ever again. That was just lazy game design.

As of writing, The Art of Halo 5: Guardians is available for under $30, and would make a great present for the holidays!

About the author /


David is a California native and has been a gamer all of his life. He is a graphic designer and the author of The Rainblade and Onyx The Half Hero Dragon.

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