Halo 5: Guardians‘ soundtrack isn’t the only aspect of the game’s audio that got an overhaul — the developers at 343 Industries had to reimagine what the Xbox One exclusive’s weapons sound like, too. Because of the sheer amount of sounds happening at once during firefights, 343 had to figure out some creative ways to keep the aural calamity in check. It’s quite a bit different in scale from 343’s last outing, 2012’s Halo 4, where there was had a handful of characters on screen simultaneously, as opposed to 40 or 50 in the forthcoming sequel. “We have many more sounds and the mixing is a very challenging situation,” 343 Industries audio director Sotaro Tojima said in a recent interview. “We’re establishing pretty much all the weapon sounds from scratch again for Xbox One.”
He said that besides keeping the sounds of 20 different weapons firing and their 20 different bullet impacts during a firefight, the team also has to prevent the ambient sounds and the game’s score from being drowned out. Making sure everything stayed crisp and clear throughout wasn’t easy. “We tried to make [the weapon sounds] more solid and shorter, but still have enough detail,” he said of keeping the weapons audible. “It’s a totally different kind of mixing approach.”
Has it paid off? Not exactly. Based on my time with the game, they sound much less powerful and aggressive — especially compared to their Halo 4 counterparts. It’s something that the fans noticed after last fall’s multiplayer beta, and I’m sad to report that the beloved assault rifle, and rocket launcher sound like peashooters here. They stick out from the rest of the audio, but aren’t very distinctive at all, sounding more like generic weapons from any other game than firearms from the Halo universe.