Halo is a title that borderlines on infamous in terms of being synonymous with both awe-inspiring graphics, legendary storytelling, and incomparable multiplayer experiences all wrapped in a sleek and refined futuristic FPS setting.
In this article, we delve into the most recent addition to the series Halo 5: Guardians.
The story begins with Locke and Osiris assaulting a base in which the mind behind the Spartan project, Dr. Halsey is being held captive by a rebel group of covenant forces.
The game starts on a very high note with an absolutely stunning cinematic displaying Osiris and Locke leaping quite dramatically into the fray of combat and doing what Spartans do best, killing aliens.
The beginning mission takes you through a heavy and heated warzone of Promethean and Covenant forces and puts you in the middle of a fray of epic proportions. Banshees can be seen in dog fights in the distance with Promethean ships while enemies swarm around you and attack you from all sides. You then, get a walk through to explain some of the notable control changes and this provides you a wealth of re-tooled and new weapons to experiment with to the great misfortune of your enemies in front of you.
Eventually, your efforts take you to the area of the base in which Halsey is being held by a covenant Supreme Commander. This queues another highly detailed cutscene in which Osiris makes quick work of the Sangheili guards and Locke engages the Commander.
Upon liberating the captive Halsey and her safe return to the UNSC flagship, you are informed of the Master Chief’s absence along with the other members of Blue team on an unsanctioned mission to an outer colony, Meridian in an attempt to locate the whereabouts of the series longstanding A.I., Cortana. Thus, the board is set for the main conflict the game centers around in Locke’s quest to return the awol Master Chief and the Master Chief’s personal quest to recover the once lost Cortana.
Though basic as the above synopsis may be, the issues with the Campaign begin shortly after the main tone is set for the first few missions. The plot compared to prior games fails to deviate significantly from Locke chasing the Master Chief around various colonies and environments hot on his tail. Missions tend to blur together and the purpose behind battling waves of enemies to get to an objective only to find the Master Chief for a moment makes the team Osiris missions dull and unmemorable. Similarly, the Master Chief missions tend to center around following Cortana from planet to planet as she reveals herself and begins reclaiming forerunner technology.
That is not to say there are not some epic and noteworthy moments. Halo 5 is the first game in Halo history to take you directly to the covenant capitol and through the ancient covenant ruins of Sanghelios and eventually puts you in the middle of the covenant civil war alongside the epic Arbiter. Where the story may not be the most engaging, the environments are detailed, beautiful, and downright jaw-dropping. I felt myself spending more time than normal viewing the terrain and the backdrops and small aspects of the environment compared to prior games. The visuals add depth and set the tone that you are a part of an intense combat larger than simply fighting endless waves of elites. The physical beauty of these settings contrasts the lack of depth in the story. This also makes them come across as disappointing in a sense as it left me with a sense of longing for a more meaningful emotional context for the battles and turmoil surrounding me.
Character Development: 6/10
Visuals aside, many fans expressed disappointment in the marketing campaign 343 implemented to drive hype prior to the launch as it painted more of a criminal image of the Master Chief and deeper meaning for Locke’s stalwart obsession with capturing him other than the Master Chief simply playing hooky on a few missions. In the moment, the main conflict between Osiris and Blue team feels petty and misguided. Locke also is one of the most disappointing characters in the game for the amount of screen time he gets. I didn’t get the sense of motivation or drive or that super Saiyan feeling of power that the prior games in the series provided in the Master Chief when I was playing with Locke. His character remains one, or at best, two-dimensional throughout the game.
With the additions they made to adding teams and command controls, the limited commands do not feel necessary or serve much of a purpose in the overall gameplay. I played through the majority of the campaign while only issuing a few commands. “Attack this elite”, “get in that car”, and “heal me” pretty much are as in-depth as it gets and serves very little reward. This cheapens the emotional connection you have with the other team members and makes them feel more like a cheap hype crew than valued members of your team helping you and ready to die for you. The one useful thing the teammates can do compared to prior games is revive you when you are killed or dropped by enemies.
The single player missions are formatted in standard Halo difficulty ratings from Easy-Legendary and as you would expect Legendary proves to be an accurate assessment of the challenge and level of difficulty involved with these missions. Skulls return that add additional obstacles and challenges to completing the campaign. Having played Halo online since late Halo 2 and extensively through every title since I was pleasantly surprised at the difficulty I experienced when jumping into the multiplayer for Halo 5. To put it simply, I sucked. Hard. Harder than I have ever sucked before. I am talking like .05 KD spread hard. Like spawning and dying 10+ times in a row hard. It was initially unforgivable in the new way it addresses many of the frustrating aspects I experienced and simply lived with inherent in prior Halo games most notably, Halo 4.
Video from my Youtube channel Luke’s Noobtube
The weapons are extremely balanced in terms of feel and overall damage, more so than any other Halo game prior in my opinion. No long do I feel the immediate need to find a battle rifle or another “better” weapon upon spawning into a map. I actually felt more at home with the assault rifle and magnum and confident taking on players with power weapons such as shotguns, snipers, and rocket launcher armed with nothing more than the standardized weapons you start with.
The movement has drastically changed in terms of control and overall options that have never been a part of the game’s predecessors. Sliding, charging, ground pounds, climbing, and the new Smart Link feature gives you infinite options to get around the maps in unique ways or devastate your foes with epic or embarrassing combat mechanics. This is most exemplified in sprinting up behind an enemy player and charging into them to send them reeling or conversely missing the charge entirely and blindly smacking into a wall while the enemy player unloads on you. This in conjunction with the weapons balance adds a new competitive feel to the game which is difficult to master but rewarding in implementation.
The maps are unique and cater to the movement and pace of the new additions brought to multiplayer. There are plenty of ledges to climb and just about every point on the map has 3 or 4 lines of sight or areas to move in which can either help you spot enemy players or to your detriment cause you to get taken down quickly if you are unaware of your surroundings. I honestly felt overwhelmed jumping in at first because I felt like enemies were everywhere though it taught me quickly to be more alert and to check corners more quickly to ensure I get the first shot. One thing to note is that through extensive play some maps may become repetitive, though regular map updates are planned and are free of charge.
The new additions in playlists of Warzone and the REQ system bring a new fresh dynamic which is rewarding and motivating to play and provides unique options such as vehicle and weapon variants to standard models in a card-based format. Upon completion of any match, you are awarded REQ points which allow you to purchase packs which hold new weapons, skins, armor, assassination techniques, and a wealth of over loot that keeps players engaged and hungering to get enough points for that next gold pack. This evolved into a major competition, conversation piece between my friends while playing. We were always gloating over legendary gear we got or mutually conveying frustration when we received a particularly lackluster pack. The weekend playlists are worth playing and are updated with new game modes including non-ranked social playlists and classics such as griffball and fiesta classic. This breaks up monotonous grinds and gives players something unique to look forward to each weekend typically along with an increased XP bonus for the playlist.
Video from my Youtube channel Luke’s Noobtube
Server and System Functionality: 7/10
With all the amazing positive aspects of Multiplayer in Halo 5, there still are a few drawbacks. The ranking for arena playlists resets monthly which may seem like a hindrance or punishment for infrequent players. Additionally, the 10 qualifying rounds you play to rank in a playlist and progression as a whole is based solely on wins. This can cause good or bad depending on if you have decent friends to play with or are stuck with random teammates that bog your positive K/D ratio down and die too often. One of my friends who was a particularly bad player only averaging 2 kills a game ended up qualifying into one of the highest ranks in a playlist simply because he won a majority of the games he played with us. I feel this feature requires further refining to hone in on players skills though does put more weight into winning/losing which I suppose is the intent. Additionally, one feature 343 omitted from Halo 5 is split screen play. No longer can you invite a friend over to play on the same couch which has been a standard feature in every game prior. Where I didn’t really miss this feature as I still played with friends I still feel like this is something that could have been implemented in some fashion for fans.
Despite non-existent split screen play, there is still plenty of room to have goofy moments with friends in custom games.
Video from my Youtube channel Luke’s Noobtube
Another blessing or curse, depending on the timing, inherent with any online game comes in the form of the back-end systems and server functionality that either seamlessly promotes quick map and match loading or inhibits players from enjoying the multiplayer experience as a whole. In this regard, Halo has not been flawless but server stability has drastically increased with each update and rarely is an issue if at all. Also new to this rendition of Halo 343 has set new banning restrictions to promote positive play and limit poor experiences such as team betrayals, intentional suicides, or inactivity from teammates. This is a drastic improvement from games prior and I felt like my teammates, for the most part, were playing and I didn’t run into any childish behavior whatsoever which is refreshing in a multiplayer context.
With regular free content updates in the form added maps, playlists, weapons, new REQ’s game modes 343 promises to keep fans enthused and enjoying a solid addition to the Halo franchise.
In summary, all of the new features and more combine to provide one of the best Halo multiplayer experiences to date. If you were a player turned off by the loadout dynamics and ordinance drops added in Halo 4 I cannot recommend Halo 5 enough. The multiplayer section earns a hearty 8/10.
For the solo player banking on a diverse story, I can’t fully recommend picking up the game unless you are a die-hard fan. Solo/Campaign missions ring up at 7/10.
All in all, for its visually stunning environments and drastic improvements to multiplayer, Halo 5 Guardians clocks in as an 8/10.