When Bungie released Halo: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox back in 2001, people were immersed in a new console experience that changed the First Person Shooter genre. Halo 2 came out in 2004, and introduced Xbox Live, a new subscription based service which enabled gamers to play online against each other. Fast forward to today, where Halo 5: Guardians promises to deliver a thrilling co-operative campaign experience with the game focusing on a competitive multiplayer environment. Ever since last year, Microsoft has been preaching that the Xbox One has “The Greatest Games Lineup in Xbox History” with Halo 5: Guardians being it’s flagship title. Does it hold up to it’s reputation?
Being a fan of the series myself, Halo was always played a significant part of my gaming career. With it’s high-action multiplayer, compelling story-line, and the team’s ability to tell a unique sci-fi adventure, it has always piqued my interest. Halo’s story-line has always kept me intrigued, and with Halo 5’s #HuntTheTruth campaign, I can’t say I’ve ever been more excited to see how it will all unravel for our super-soldier friend, The Master Chief. Through playing the campaign, I’ve learned that the marketing campaign in place by 343 Industries using the aforementioned hashtag, was almost completely false. The story-line did not revolve around which spartan killed another, nor did it have anything to do with finding ‘The Truth’. Don’t get me wrong, the marketing for Halo 5 was amazing and it kept me guessing about what was going to happen to our hero in spartan armor. Upon playing the game, however, it became apparent that the marketing campaign was just that. Our heroes don’t kill each other and there isn’t much of ‘the truth’ to be found.
The road of this campaign was bittersweet. We saw the return of the Master Chief and his fellow comrades along with a new protagonist, Spartan Locke. Through the adventure, you learn that the Master Chief was being deceived by an old friend and now it’s Spartan Locke’s job to find and rescue our familiar hero by kicking ass and chewing gum. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, it kept me wanting more, it kept me guessing what was going to happen and when it all revealed itself towards the end of the game, I was greeted by the biggest case of blue balls ever. The ending of the game was what spoiled the campaign experience, as it ended fairly abruptly and left lots of questions for the gamer. In the interest of keeping this review as spoiler-free as possible, the only thing I can say is that they had a cliffhanger ending. This cliffhanger didn’t make me want to play more – instead, it made me question if the game was intended to be longer, with more context to tie up some of my unanswered questions. They definitely opened the door for a sequel instead of providing a better end-game experience. With that being said, the new armor abilities such as the ground pound, the charging melee, sprinting and jet pack made for a refreshing experience both in multiplayer and campaign. It’s like when you tried egg-nog with rum for the first time. It tasted amazing before, but with the addition of rum, it was perfected, like it belonged in there.
“Adapt, react and engage – three words that describes what the campaign experience is all about.”
Easily, the most frustrating part of the campaign experience was your team-mates AI, at least in the Legendary difficulty. When you die in the game, a new feature kicks in, allowing for your comrades to revive you for a determined amount of time; that time depending on the difficulty you play in. In the Legendary difficulty, you have roughly about 5 seconds for a teammate to rush over to you and revive you, making it extremely difficult to advance in the campaign if you are on top of a structure or directly behind a wall. In one of the later campaign levels, I was ‘downed’ and needed assistance from the AI team-mates in order to get back into the action. While I was down, I saw a team-mate rush right on over to me and stare while I was helpless on the ground, about to take my last breath. Due to the short time I had, I died and the AI continued to stare at me until I was reverted back to my last checkpoint… Very frustrating. While the enemy AI seemed to be quite smart, where they would go to cover if too much fire was being directed at them, the friendly AI didn’t seem very interested in assisting with your quest. The team would either miss their shots, stand around or simply lag behind in the mission making it frustrating to advance through the campaign.
All that being said, the campaign is a blast, even when playing solo. If you have some friends around, connect with them via Xbox Live and have them join to multiply the ‘fun’ factor. While the visuals are very satisfying, the campaign really boils down to game-play and the game seems to tailor to solo or co-op play very well. There are lots of opportunities to grab weapons, vehicles, and grenades and the game does force you to adapt to unfamiliar situations, which require you to try new things like flanking the enemies and using weapons you normally wouldn’t. Adapt, react and engage – three words that describes what the campaign experience is all about. The enemies found in campaign feel like – well – enemies. They don’t feel to be mindless pylons just waiting for you to shoot them. They move to avoid your shots, push you when you are at your weakest, and have distinct ways to pursue and overcome, making for a challenging and enjoyable experience for those wanting a more authentic Halo experience. Good job to 343 Industries on their enemy AI, now just improve the friendly AI and we can call it good.
Halo 5: Guardians’ multiplayer is where the game shined. Though other games in the series seemed to have overpowered and unbalanced maps and weapons, Halo 5: Guardians looks like it hit the sweet spot. Most weapons including the assault rifle now have a scope, and every weapon seems to have its own purposes for different situations. Are you close range? Use your SMG or Assault Rifle to overcome the Battle rifle. Are you at a far distance from everything? Take out your sniper rifle or light rifle and kick some ass. There was at no point I felt like any weapon was useless as they all felt perfectly balanced and suited for a specific situation.
Halo 5: Guardians orbits around the idea of its requisition system, used to unlock over 750 pieces of armor customization, emblems, stances, assassinations and others combined. By playing more mutliplayer games, you unlock points, which, in turn, unlock different requisition packs in either gold, silver or bronze. These packs contain cards to help aid you in multiplayer progression including different weapon/vehicle unlocks in Warzone. You can also earn requisition packs by completing tasks in multiplayer or by going up ranks. This will give players the ability to continue unlocking things even after they max out their level in Halo 5 multiplayer – a nice touch for those wanting something a tad more beyond their complete experience.
First of all, the new gametype ‘Warzone’ provides a unique and challenging experience for gamers old and new. In this 12 vs 12 battle, teams must earn points by eliminating opposing forces, whether that be spartans (Other players), AI, or capturing objectives such as bases and other landmarks. Warzone provides a fresh experience on the bigger multiplayer matches that fans have been wanting all these years. There is near no-lag, thanks to Microsoft’s dedicated servers, and the Requisition system works in a way that makes sense. When opening REQ packs, you will be greeted with thousands of weapon, vehicle and power-up cards known as temporary REQ packs. These cards are all used in Warzone to suit up your spartan for battle, which is an interesting mechanic. You do get these cards in mass quantity but unless you are opening REQ packs all the time, you could be stressed to purchase cards of higher tier’s such as tanks, heavy weapons and power-ups. It is the job of the player to choose the right times to use these cards when the situation calls for it. Misjudging it could lead to waste and defeat, so use your gut when choosing what to bring into battle.
Halo 5’s other multiplayer game modes were great as well, with my favorite being the new game mode “Breakout”. This game mode introduced 4 v 4 elimination based multiplayer, focused on balanced maps specifically made for this game mode. Usually the objective of this mode is elimination or capture the flag, but once everyone on one team is killed, the round ends and the first to 5 rounds wins the game. In the game-mode I find communication to be the most important requirement in order to win. This is where you might want to bring three friends along, all with mics in order to fully appreciate the game-mode, but it is fun nonetheless. Other fan-favorite game modes such as Swat, Grifball, Capture the Flag and slayer make a return as well and the 15 maps included with the retail release all compliment the competitive style that Halo 5 is.
“Halo 5: Guardians defines what next-generation entertainment is all about.”
Wrapping it up, Halo 5: Guardians defines what next-generation entertainment is all about. With a multiplayer experience that’s sweet, savory, and delicious just like turkey at a thanksgiving dinner. You will keep eating it on impulse – no matter the repercussions it may have on you. The Campaign feels like the side dishes. Everything tastes great until you are forced to stomach the fruit cake for desert, with a texture so off-putting that you would prefer to bin it and call it a day.
+ Multiplayer perfected in Halo 5: Guardians
+ Requisition system works without the need of micro-transactions
+ New armor abilities compliment multiplayer and campaign in a great way.
+ Graphics look impressive; Makes great use of the Xbox One Hardware.
– Ending of the Campaign was lackluster
– Not-so-bright friendly AI.