Developer: 343 Industries
For anyone who had concerns about Halo 5: Guardians after The Master Chief Collection, I’m happy to say that 343 Industries has really redeemed themselves here. While TMCC was a bit of a mess, and stayed that way for a lot longer than anyone would have thought, Halo 5: Guardians is about as polished and well-crafted as one could hope from a modern day first-person shooter. Featuring both an excellent campaign that builds upon the mythos nicely, and a really fun take on the classic Halo multiplayer formula, I think fans and newcomers alike are in for a treat when Halo 5 releases this week.
Halo 5: Guardian’s campaign is split between two protagonists, series mainstay Master Chief, and former Naval Intelligence officer turned Spartan Jameson Locke. Following the events of Halo 4, and featuring both the Prometheans and Covenant forces, you’ll spend time jumping between the narratives of Blue Team led by the Master Chief, and Osiris Team led by Locke. There’s a whole host of familiar faces that’ll pop-up throughout the campaign, so there’s a decent amount of payoff and callbacks for franchise fans here.
I’m going to avoid story spoilers in this review, but I really enjoyed the overall campaign plot, more so than I did in Halo 4. The ending, in particular, could lead to some really interesting places for Halo as a whole, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where things go from here. Also, the campaign is really fun to play, both in single player and co-op modes, with lots of open battlefields and unique enemy encounters highlighted by an ever increasing arsenal of UNSC and alien weaponry to obtain. There’s been some slight tweaks to various weapons, the Promethean armament feels considerably better here than in Halo 4 for instance, and enemy A.I. comes off as intelligent and tactical. The same can’t be said for your A.I. controlled teammates, but as a whole they don’t get in the way too much, so that’s not a huge issue here.
Halo 5: Guardians also looks absolutely gorgeous, both in-game and through cutscenes. Everything runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second, with virtually no hang-ups or technical issues that my naked eye could discern. The only time I noticed the game hiccup in the slightest is when loading in Warzone matches for multiplayer, there’s a short sequence of ships flying in that gets a little choppy, but that could be a network issue of some sort. But still, coming off of all the technical issues that plagued The Master Chief Collection, I think it’s commendable to see how technically sound and visually stunning 343 has managed to make Halo look here.
And then there’s the multiplayer! Granted, I’ve only spent time with a pre-release version of the online component, but even with a limited player pool I was able to enjoy a number of Arena and Warzone matches condensed into two pre-release playlists. I’ve played through classic modes like SWAT and Team Slayer, and even spent a bit of time with new modes like Breakout. All in all, I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve played, but I am looking forward to seeing the playlists a little more divided when the game goes live this week. It’s a little too early to remark definitively on balancing and map layouts, but from what I’ve seen thus far, nothing feels particularly out of whack or wildly different in relation to weapon strength and balancing. Assault Rifles, Battle Rifles, and Pistols are still the general mainstays that they’ve been throughout the series, while other weapons like Promethean Beam Rifles, and the new Plasma Caster, are a bit scarce and challenging to wield effectively.
One big change to Halo’s multiplayer this year is the movement control, aided by a short boost function that effectively speeds up the combat in a way we haven’t seen in Halo before. It honestly takes a bit of getting used to, I still find myself forgetting that I have the option to boost away or to the side in firefights, but there are plenty of people out there that are already finding effective uses for this new function. Other abilities, like the new charging melee attack, certainly have their uses too. The only new ability that I’ve struggled to be effective with is the jump/ground pound, which seems to take a little too long to charge and really leaves you open to attack when using it. The environment traversal, where you can clamber over edges, is built with the new maps in mind, with plenty of shortcuts to be found to higher levels throughout the campaign and multiplayer modes.
Another new feature found in multiplayer this year is the Requisition Packs, earned by leveling up and by earning currency for completing matches. Requisition Packs will contain a random assortment of cards that represent new gear to customize your spartan, weapon/vehicle cards for use in Warzone, and bonus ability cards that can grant bonus XP or currency for matches completed across Warzone and the Arena. Each card has a rarity assigned, and you can sell off multiples of cards you either don’t need or want to earn more in-game currency to purchase new packs of cards. Requisition Packs give some added incentive to the leveling system, and the card drops can be immensely useful in Warzone, with the ability to summon in vehicles like Scorpion Tanks, or uniquely powerful weapons (including some design variants) such as the Rocket Launcher or the aforementioned Plasma Caster.
I don’t think it’ll be a stretch to call Halo 5: Guardians a system seller this holiday season for Microsoft, and thankfully those that do pick up an Xbox One in conjunction with this game won’t be disappointed. It’s a well-crafted Halo experience with enough new bells and whistles to turn around even the most jaded Halo fan, and feels exactly like what you’d want a next-gen Halo game to be. There’s a hefty amount of content to explore here across the campaign and multiplayer modes, with a large map variety at launch and an enjoyable story to uncover. And it all looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous, with fantastic enemy and map designs on top of the excellent technical groundwork behind it all. I’m suitably impressed with Halo 5: Guardians, and I think you will be too.