Well, it’s finally here. Microsoft’s flagship video game franchise finally has its own entry in the Xbox One catalog, nearly two years after its release. Halo 5: Guardians has landed, and with it comes Master Chief along with some old friends and new. Now some of you might be wondering, “how does this one compare to the others?” Well, that’s what I’m here for.
Now there are many parts to a Halo game, so I will only focus on the most important aspects. The major ones that will be reviewed here are the campaign, the multiplayer, and the gameplay along with a review of the graphics. Sit tight Spartans, this is Halo 5: Guardians!
The visuals of this game are astounding. Though it sacrifices split screen (more on that later), the game takes full advantage of 1080p video quality and 60 frames per second. It looks amazing. The characters look and move like real people while the lush environments completely immerse you in the universe. Every little detail has been paid attention to. This is truly a gorgeous looking game that has no rival within its genre.
There really is not much to say about this category. Even though it has improved graphics and physics engines compared to its predecessors, as well as added mechanics like the Ground Pound (literally punching the ground so hard it unleashes damaging shockwaves on your opponents), it still feels like a Halo game. Glitches are kept to a minimum and everything moves smoothly. All the alien weapons have been upgraded in terms of power from what they were in the last game, which encourages you as the player to seek variety in your choice of weaponry, something that Halo 4 did not bring to the table as I tended to use mainly the BR and DMR, the only guns that actually did anything. Beyond that, nothing really needs to be said.
This is the game’s biggest problem. First off, yes, the level designs are fantastic. The worlds you visit look outstanding as they offer more opportunities for exploration than had been offered in the series’ last few installments. The enemies are actually more challenging, even on medium difficulty, as more Promethean classes have been added while upgrades have been made to those already existing foes.
The biggest change to the campaign is that there is now a squad-based style of combat. As you play as Master Chief or Agent Locke you take command of three other Spartans and direct them what to do. It’s a pretty basic system as you can really only tell them where to go or what to shoot, but then again, what else do you really need? A benefit to this is that when your health bar hits zero, your teammates (be it AI or another player in Co-Op) can revive you like in Gears of War. This is another welcome change as it brings variety to a series that needed a bit of a facelift.
So where does the campaign go wrong? Easy: the script. This game takes place in a universe filled with rich lore and colorful, awesomely badass characters. Some of those characters hold a very special place in most fans’ hearts, especially Cortana (who “died” at the end of the last installment) and of course Master Chief, the “face” of the franchise and Xbox. So you can imagine my displeasure when the campaign’s script takes a nosedive into mediocrity before it even hits the halfway mark.
The plot to this story is that Chief, along with his fellow Spartans of Blue Team, go AWOL because he believes that Cortana is trying to contact him and warn him of an impending danger. It is Agent Locke and Fire Team Osiris’s duty to bring Blue Team in for questioning. This would make for an interesting story and even set up the next game well were it not for the big…um…“twist” that happens right around the game’s halfway point. In short, Cortana has been resurrected somehow through the use of Promethean Tech. Her mission now is to bring peace to the universe by *sigh* eliminating all life so that the machines can rule…
F***ing really? So after everything we’ve been through with Cortana and Master Chief saving humanity and all life in the galaxy several times, she is now reduced to the most generic of all AI plots. This completely undermines everything that has helped develop her into a three-dimensional character. Though I was sad to see her pass at the end of Halo 4 and hoped they would find a way to bring her back, this is just an insult. Not only does it make the events of the last game meaningless, but now a once beloved video game icon has been reduced to an uninteresting villain whose motives are not quite clear. What makes matters worse is that, until now, her whole reason for existing had been to help out organic beings, and out of nowhere she pulls a 180 and is now talking about genocide on a galactic scale.
What made other AI bad guys with the same motives in the past such as Ultron, Skynet, and the Matrix menacing and scary was the fact that none of these programs had any real connection to humanity. They just got turned on, saw the war and pollution caused by humans, and came to the conclusion that mankind must be destroyed. They hadn’t formed friendships with humans and thus had no reason to care if they caused mass death on such a large scale. Cortana on the other hand had fought alongside humans, for humans. Now, it just feels like the writing team went, “Well, we need a bad guy, and fans want Cortana back. Let’s make her the evil one!” It’s just half-assed and doesn’t engage the player on an emotional level.
Oh, and for those of you who didn’t like Halo 2 for having too many levels where you didn’t play as Master Chief, well, you’ll really hate this game. There are fifteen missions for this game and you only play as him for three. The rest are all Agent Locke’s crew. Not to say the members of Fire Team Osiris are uninteresting, we were just promised more Master Chief and got next to nothing. It’s like The Dark Knight Rises; a Batman movie that had practically no Batman in it. A total letdown. Oh, and this game has a lame cliffhanger ending too. And let me tell you, this is a fight I’m not sure I want to finish.
*END SPOILER ALERT*
This campaign is a massive disappointment. Though I was not the biggest fan of the last game’s story, it at least engaged me and made me want to feel and understand the relationships between the characters. This one takes beloved characters and either makes their entire pasts pointless or just tosses them to the side leaving them as secondary characters who randomly show up when the plot demands it. Though the level designs are outstanding and the enemies have been upgraded to provide possibly the franchise’s greatest challenges, there is no denying these elements get bogged down by one of the laziest (but not worst by any means) written stories in recent video game history, and that’s from an iconic series that is so celebrated for its narrative.
There is a silver lining. What the game lacks in story is more than made up for in multiplayer. The biggest problem with the last game was that the competitive modes were as far removed from the core elements of Halo as anything. There was a half-assed load out system that not only gave players limited customization, but also removed the even playing field everyone started on in previous games. That has been removed as now everyone starts with the same exact weapons and there are no longer armor perks such as jet packs and the ever hated armor lock. This game harkens back to the days of Halo 3 and before, a period which many consider to be the peak of the Halo franchise.
The new game type is Warzone. This is meant to replace Big Team, Firefight and Spartan Ops playlists by basically combining them all into one. The premise is simple enough: two teams of 24 try to control 3 separate points on the map while AI controlled enemies pop up and provide secondary objectives to earn bonus points. This is actually a nice addition to the competitive experience. Fans of the Battlefield series will enjoy this mode as it’s a bit more squad-based and matches also have no time limit.
All of your favorite game types are here and they also take advantage of a new burn card system known as Requisitions Packs, or “Req Packs” as they are referred to in game. It’s pretty straightforward: as you level up you gain Experience Points that help unlock Req Packs and you also gain Req Points to purchase more of them. These range from cosmetics such as new weapon skins to different armor types and so forth, which have no real effect on gameplay. However, there are also booster cards that help players gain more Experience Points, power-ups such as the beloved Overshield, as well as weapon and vehicle Reqs that players use strictly for Warzone. They’re also well balanced as each Warzone map will only allow a certain amount of power weapons and vehicles at one time.
There is, however, one massive flaw to the multiplayer: no split screen. To some of the younger readers out there, this might not seem like a big deal. However, I was around before online gaming and this is actually a massive disappointment to us old schoolers. Co-Op split screen, or even letting your friend sign on to a guest account when playing Slayer, was always one of Halo’s biggest staples and it helped bring friends closer together. The reason it’s gone is because the Xbox One (and from what I’ve read the Playstation 4 too) does not have the processing power to run the game at 1080p with 60 Frames per Second AND split screen at the same time. This is a big letdown as beating the campaign on Legendary with a friend seated right next to you was always a blast. While this may have a negative impact on the game’s whole experience for some, in my opinion it’s not enough to deter anyone from actually playing it. Just don’t invite your friends over to play without them bringing their own Xbox One.
The Final Say:
Halo fans can be broken down into a few groups: there are those that only care for the epic narrative, those that just play multiplayer, or those that enjoy a little bit of both. I for one have always enjoyed the multiplayer aspect of the games more, but that doesn’t mean I dislike the campaigns. In fact, I would go as far as to say that up until this entry the franchise has had some of the best stories of any first person shooter out there in the industry. With that being said, if the campaign tends to be your main focus in the Halo franchise then nobody will blame you for skipping this one (or at the very least you could wait till the price drops significantly). Though the graphics, gameplay and level design are all outstanding, the script is sci-fi by the numbers. It’s nothing outstanding and there is no real twist that leaves your jaw on the floor, like finding out what the Halo Rings are really for in Combat Evolved, or how the Arbiter realized his prophets were telling fallacies in Halo 2. It just feels lazy and uninspired.
However, if you’re all about multiplayer then this is the Halo game for you! Despite its popularity, I was not the biggest fan of Halo Reach’s multiplayer because they introduced a partial loadout system that didn’t really add to the gameplay. However, nothing was worse than the lackluster effort of the loadout system and poor map design in Halo 4. Where Call Of Duty uses a loadout system that gives players full customization of guns, perks, and the rest, Halo 4 dropped the ball by not allowing players to do things such as changing a gun’s scope or adding a silencer. Halo 5 goes back to the franchise’s roots and does away with all that nonsense. It is a much needed breath of fresh air as all other FPS games have been copying the Call of Duty multiplayer formula. So if online competition is what you’re looking for, then this is the game for you.
One last point I have to make is that this game is the exact opposite of its predecessor. Most fans love the story of Halo 4 because it brought fans closer to Chief and Cortana, but hated the multiplayer because it was a bad Call of Duty knock-off. Halo 5 has a campaign that fans are upset with, but it’s more than made up for by the game’s multiplayer mode. This is 343 Industries second self-made Halo game and it seems like they just don’t know how to multi-task. When the next game comes out, I really hope that the company learns from their mistakes and essentially combines the efforts they made with both games into one. That, or Microsoft shells out a few billion dollars to get Bungie creating the game again. Either way, the multiplayer has kept me entertained for hours which ensure that I’ll at least get my money’s worth.
Total: 35/40 – Buy it, but only if you don’t care about campaign.