When Halo 5: Guardians was first released last October, I played it straight for a solid week, completing the campaign and diving into the new Warzone multiplayer mode with a group of friends. We spent a sizable chunk of our time unlocking weapons and vehicles to use, customizing our Spartans and learning the tricks for each map. For the first time in a long time, the Halo franchise felt fresh, but that luster began to fade as 2015 came to a close due to a lack of cooperative modes available for players.

Since the release of the game, 343 Industries has continued to push out free content patches on a regular basis though, each with their own collection of maps and customization options for players to get their hands on through the REQ system. The only disappointing thing is that many of these updates have been largely focused on competitive multiplayer however, leaving the cooperative gap present up until the release of Warzone: Firefight last week.

Building off of the popular success of Firefight from Halo 3: ODST, Warzone: Firefight is 343 Industries take on the cooperative mode where endless waves of enemies would swarm you and your team until your dying breath. This time around though, the mode is a lot more focused and linear – providing a quicker experience that’s just as much fun as its predecessor.

In Warzone: Firefight you’ll be joined by seven other players for five rounds of intense combat against every enemy in the book, including everybody’s favorite warden from the main campaign. During every round your team will be assigned a random objective relating to the enemy type you’re currently fighting that you must complete within a certain time limit to advance. While some of these are more traditional in nature, such as killing 50 Promethean soldiers or 75 grunts in combat, a few of them focus on defending specific objectives placed around the map or dealing with an air raid from your enemy.

What’s great about these ever-changing objectives is that they mesh perfectly with the requisition system behind Warzone, forcing you and your team to consistently pick up different power weapons, vehicles and armor bonuses to deal with the situations you face. For the first time in Halo 5 I felt that I was utilizing every weapon available to me through my requisition unlocks instead of picking up the power weapons everyone seems to aim for in competitive multiplayer. As a result, I enjoyed quite a few weapons that I had honestly neglected due to their lack of presence in competitive play.

Warzone: Firefight is easily one of the most difficult experiences I’ve played through in Halo 5 as well, pitting me against waves of extremely accurate enemies with some of the heaviest weaponry in the game. Thanks to the difficulty curve, a large number of enemies and continuous hail of bullets present in the mode I finally felt like a Spartan in a chaotic battlefield with my buddies. Time and time again I found myself getting obliterated if I strayed too far from my team or got to aggressive due to the sheer number of enemies on screen at once – which easily rivals some of the largest action sequences from the main campaign in a more randomized, organically produced way.

I was consistently surprised by the solid performance of Halo 5 during Warzone: Firefigh, too. During my time with the new mode I rarely encountered any frame rate dips or connection issues despite the massive number of enemy units on screen; a welcome change of pace compared to other shooters focused on bigger enemy numbers with a lower base frame rate on consoles.

As an entire package, 343 Industries take on the classic Halo Firefight mode is a welcome addition to Halo 5 focused on the right type of experience for players. Each round is relatively short, difficult and engaging with a different series of challenges every time you decide to dive in with your buddies. I will admit that I miss the endless waves of enemies myself, but 343 Industries hasn’t ruled out the possibly of expanding the mode in the future.

So if you’re looking for a good cooperative experience to share with your buddies, Halo 5’s latest update might just be the perfect game for you to sink your teeth into. And hey, it’s also completely free for all Halo 5 players.

Photos via Nicholas Bashore