This afternoon saw Microsoft announce the UAE launch of highly anticipated sci-fi space shooter Halo 5: Guardians on the Xbox One.

The franchise, produced by Microsoft Studios and dating back to the very first Xbox in 2001, is the single largest console-exclusive property in Microsoft’s arsenal, having sold more than 65 million units across 13 titles and collected more than 750 accolades in 14 years.

The game’s iconic protagonist, Master Chief, has popped up in comics, animated movies and a massive array of action figures. And the AI featured in the series, Cortana, was actually brought into the real world on Microsoft Windows. Siri and Google Now can’t quite claim such cool origins.

#GNTECH was invited to the launch at Reel Cinemas in Dubai Mall. We were treated to a big-screen preview of the game’s opening cinematics. In a scene somewhat reminiscent of Edge of Tomorrow’s first battle scene, Star Wars Battlefront demos and Destiny, four elite troopers of the Osiris unit drop bang into the middle of a furious battle on an icy planet, with ships that look like the reapers from Mass Effect firing at each other with Storm Trooper-esque accuracy. How can you master space travel and not be able to fire a laser?

Halo 5’s gameplay is fluid; far quicker than the aforementioned Destiny, with the Xbox processor churning out Full HD at 60fps. You’ve got some new combat moves but more important is the team play element – and the fact that your team-mates are actually useful, i.e. they revive you and provide real tactical support. Best of all, you and three friends can team up online to tackle a sprawling campaign that spans three worlds.

“We’ve got the Covenant and Promethians coming back, and an all-new multiplayer mode called Warzone,” says Kerim Ozbakirci, Head – UAE, Xbox. “A gigantic map that is three to four times the size of traditional Halo maps can support up to 24 players.” With the regard’s to the campaign’s narrative, he says, “Space-based shooters used to be quite one-dimensional – you had to go to another planet or ship and basically kill everything. Halo 5, however, adds a new and more emotional dynamic between the characters. You can see it on their faces.”

With The Martian, Interstellar, a new Star Wars and Destiny consuming such a huge part of the recent pop culture zeitgeist, what is it about space that sees so much of our entertainment set amongst the stars rather than here on Earth?

“It’s just my opinion, but the way technology has evolved has allowed more realistic and immersive experiences [for the depiction] of space in films and games,” explains Ozbakirci.

Also announced at the event was a bundle combining a Halo 5 limited edition Xbox One with Microsoft’s upcoming Elite controller as well as various other goodies for the biggest fans of the franchise.

There’s also a Halo 5 controller that borrows its design aesthetic from the game and comes with exclusive downloadable perks for multiplayer.

Note:

The pre-booked, limited-edition Halo 5: Guardians” Limited Edition Bundle costs Dh1,799 and the Halo 5: Guardians game will be available for fans at Dh299 on Xbox Live and at retail outlets.

Other Xbox offers:

The Gears of War and FIFA 16 bundles without Kinect are now available for Dh1,349.
The Forza 6 bundle with Kinect will now be available for Dh1,849.
All bundles come with 500 GB storage.