With Microsoft bringing us their biggest exclusive line up in Xbox history, their star player is leading the march this holiday season. Finally, Halo 5: Guardians has arrived and there’s plenty riding on its shoulders to impress the masses of both new and old Halo fans. 343 Industries did a great job with Halo 4, bringing a stronger, more tactically emphasized FPS with the familiar elements of previous installments from Bungie. But now is the next and most important step in the series, and we must ask: does Halo 5 stride to greatness or fall under its own weight?
343 Industries has been working relentlessly over the last three years to develop what would be another award winning title which appeases a new generation of gamers and the loyal Halo fans, as well. With great effort, 343 has indeed implemented new features and dynamic elements for a well-deserved upgrade to the tactical and action packed gameplay we’ve grown to love. New abilities expand on the range of abilities carried out by the player and bring you closer to actually being a super solider. With perks and power ups such as the Spartan Dash and the brutalizing Ground Pound, players gain a massive performance boost to take onto the battlefield. These tactics can be used for agile combat maneuvers to avoid overwhelming enemy numbers, or to push forward with brute force.
The biggest addition, which is the simplest yet most innovative in the series, is the broader range of methods for traversing levels. The Spartan Dash can also be used to smash through weak structures in order to reveal concealed paths and hidden locations filled with weaponry or advantage points. Thankfully, players can now climb a multitude of surfaces including ledges, platforms, and even rock formations–lifting the restriction of movement for players and opening up new ways to deal with various combat scenarios. All these features and more, including looking down the sights of multiple weapons, bring a refreshing and profoundly engaging Halo experience. Halo feels closer to the likes Call of Duty and Battlefield now, which might upset some fans as it moves away from the former, more simplistic nature. However, in many respects it’s still the same Halo but with some well deserved tweaks.
Halo 5 certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to its display of spectacular action and eye melting visuals with beautifully crafted cut scenes, great attention to detail, and incredibly engrossing battlefields. The world of Halo feels more organic, and the universe is better presented in Guardians. As you explore a range of different worlds, you’ll notice the high level of detail with organic substances such as wild life, and the impressively rendered particle effects. This all creates a rich atmosphere for these planets. Very rarely have I seen developers put in so much effort to create a world that’s truly alive and possesses a strong sense of identity.
Yet, even with the all of the improvements and new features added in, Halo 5: Guardians is still just the same game as before. The majority of the campaign is shallow, repetitive, and quite frankly, short lived. It becomes a chore in most respects; having to blast your way through Covenant or Promethean armies just feels like a grind now. I was excited for Halo 4 as it featured new enemies, weapons, and vehicles to encounter. However, it’s at so much of a standstill with its gun play that even Call of Duty would roll its eyes at how repetitive Halo has become.
Halo 5 doesn’t break away from the generic gunfights for something more amazing. I would say the only two moments which stuck with me are the free run down the Guardian and the giant walking tank segment. These have potential, but again, they aren’t given enough time to show off any interesting features or for you to enjoy them. There are other things that made the game feel as though it had run out of steam, too. You have to fight the same boss eight times over the course of the game, and the game finishes on a weak ending which didn’t have the same impact as previous Halo games. These factors, along with linear and dull vehicle sections, make sure you’re not given much variation in gameplay. Playing with three other friends is a welcomed feature, yet it’s been seen before. Playing co-op on the hardest difficulty could result in an enjoyable playthrough, but there isn’t anything to bring you back in the end.
Overall, the game will last between 5 – 6 hours, and experienced players are encouraged to go straight into the harder difficulties, even if you’re playing by yourself. It’s also recommended that players play with other people to avoid the terrible A.I teammates; they’re pretty much on the same level as Dom from Gears of War.
There’s a lot of lacking context in terms of the narrative–the game fails to mention what happened between the events of Halo 4 and Halo 5. The plot will lose you at certain moments unless you’ve followed the TV series and read a number of the novels and comics. You’ll end up asking why certain characters don’t have an arm, or who the hell other characters are, and why the Covenant are still around. In a change of pace, however, the plot does take a break from the struggles of Cortana and Master Chief, while focusing on a new character altogether for 80% of the game. We’re given Spartan Locke on his pursuit for Master Chief, who is in turn is looking for Cortana (Really? We couldn’t get a whole new story away from them?). It wouldn’t be so much a problem if Locke wasn’t such a bore as a protagonist. He seems noble, but he’s too polite and too much of a goody two shoes to respect or admire compared to Master Chief, who has become reckless and dried out. His quest to find Cortana gets old before the end of his first mission.
So the campaign is a mixed bag of some good innovations of a tactical nature, yet an uninspired narrative fitted around repetitive gameplay. But Halo’s multiplayer is what made it recognized and loved for over three generations of consoles. So what does 343 Industries do to enhance Halo’s split screen, couch gaming to the next level?
Remove Split Screen…
Wow–bad move. The whole purpose of no split screen was to help keep the game at 60fps, and some other lousy reason supplied by Phil Spencer about making people more connected online. So they eliminate split screen, forcing your friends to buy an Xbox One and a copy of the game? My brother and I played Halo when it first came out, and my best friends all enjoy playing the Master Chief Collection when they come to my house. They don’t really fancy trekking their expensive console all the way to my place for a single game. One of the core aspects that made Halo such a great multiplayer experience has been ripped out in the hopes of more people buying the game. People are going to remember that.
This is a bad start, along with some classic game modes such as Odd Ball, Forge mode, and King of the Hill being removed, too (however Big team battle has made an appearance in a recent update). We do, however, get some new and hard hitting additions such as the 24 player gamemode Warzone. Breakout is also a new mode, along with classic arena modes such as Capture the Flag. There is a total of 20 maps to play on, all of which are designed with such detail as to allow tactical and team based gameplay, even if they’re not very memorable.
We now seem to have a new micro-transactions system taking form as REQ points. Your REQ points are determined by how well you do in multiplayer matches. REQ points are used to buy bronze, silver, and gold packs which all contain different kinds of weapons, armour, and cosmetics. You can earn points through regular play as I said, but you better be a damn good player to obtain them. The best players will earn enough to buy a multitude of gold packs with many hours of play. Otherwise, for everyone else, you can buy them for a few Pounds or Dollars. It’s mostly catering to those who have a disposable income and will wastefully buy new weapons and perks instead of earning them. Or possibly those who have their mum’s credit card handy. It’s not too invasive, but it’s also not necessary.
The remainder of multi-player is still very strong and highly engaging for new players and older fans. Breakout was my personal favorite mode, as its one life rule reminded me of Gear of War‘s very own Warzone. It makes players think carefully about their actions and forces good team work in order to complete objectives. There’s an extremely competitive nature to the game now–more so than ever. This is thanks to some Call of Duty style features such as the kill cam, and let’s not forget the fan favorite tea bagging move. The new abilities and tactics from single player highlight new dynamics for multi-player, granting you an edge over the competition when needed and the transition is fairly easy to get into.
Halo 5: Guardians is sadly not the ground breaking return I had expected. It was Halo 4 that really made me appreciate the series, and Halo 5 has just pushed me away again. It’s designed beautifully, with great attention to detail and stunning visuals. But sadly, this venture is shallow. It lacks in a gripping story, any real innovations other than some new Spartan abilities, and of course, the biggest loss, removing the split screen experience along with other classic multi-player modes. It’s still fun, but not a legendary as the series once was.
Halo 5: Guardians$59.99
- Some neat tricks for Spartan abilities
- Great attention to detail in designing some stunning worlds
- Some pretty good set pieces
- Multilayer is still good fun
- The pointless REQ points system
- NO SPLIT SCREEN!
- Fighting the same boss 8 times
- Pretty much the same Halo game as always