Halo 5: Guardians, developed by 343 Industries and published by Microsoft comes packaged with what is certainly the weakest Halo campaign to date, but a multiplayer that harkens back to Halo 2/3 times — with a couple of new additions of course. There feels to be something missing from the core campaign of Halo — which is annoying because there is a clear attempt to refine and update (slightly) what has come before.
So the story this time round sees you playing as both Agent Locke and the Master Chief. After the Chief and his team get word that Cortana may still be alive — Chief goes rogue — disobeying orders he goes out in search of her. It then becomes the task of Agent Locke and team Osiris to find Chief and bring him home.
So I guess the best word to describe my overall experience with the main campaign of Halo 5 is… disappointed. I have played every Halo game (to ad-nauseam) and for me sitting down and playing a brand new Halo campaign is always a particular highlight of the years in which they are released. The nostalgia for this series runs deep within me. So when I finished the 6 to 8 hour campaign I was really underwhelmed.
The annoying part is that the gameplay is as great as it has ever been — in fact I’m tempted to say that the way in which 343 has fine-tuned the movement of the Spartans has made this the most believable feeling Halo game to play yet.
The main problem is that the story is so poorly told and the missions so bland that your continually left wanting for more. Yes, that’s it — Halo 5: Guardians offers up a lot of interesting new ideas, but it doesn’t explores or develop any of them enough. Add to it that anyone who is a casual player of Halo games will be completely lost at times. Halo 5 requires quite a bit of exterior Halo lore knowledge. Now while I knew of what was happening and who all the seemingly new faces were — the same cannot be said for your everyday person who is just dropping in to play this game. Prepare to either be very lost at times or have to go get your reading glasses on and brush up on a lot of backstory.
So yes that whole left wanting for more things I was just saying — I want to give the most blatant example of this. Let’s take Agent Locke and is team of Spartans, Team Osiris. None of them are given any development — once the credits rolled I knew as much as I knew when the game began. This makes even less sense when you consider the fact that you play the majority of the campaign as Locke and not Chief. Out of the 15 story missions you maybe play as Chief in 4 of them — the rest are dedicated to being given nothing substantial on any of team Osiris. These characters are the antithesis of one dimensional. I mean somehow they made the character of Buck (who Halo fans will remember from Halo 3 ODST) less of an interesting character — he’s not only voiced by the always charismatic Nathan Fillion, but he also has the same devilishly good looks as him — how they managed to mess that one up I’ll never know.
So with so much of Halo 5 revolving around Locke and his squad, it means that very little is afforded to Chief. This is the first game where I as the player felt like an observer of Chiefs story. It’s annoying because Halo 5 teases us with a Master Chief who has gone rogue, let innocent people die, and abandoned everything that made him who he is. We don’t get to explore that at all. Instead the game moves on from such an interesting concept by its end. It does however set up something kind of interesting for another character but to say anything else would put us smack damn in the middle of spoiler territory, and I don’t want to do that.
This is undeniably the most beautiful and the most visually cinematic Halo game I’ve played (the opening cinematic for example, wow, to put it simply). So that makes it all the more disappointing when I think back to how Halo 5 looked as if it was going to offer the most unique and interesting of stories for the Master Chief yet — that is very much not the case here though.
Now what 343 did get correct was the gameplay of Halo 5. This game is a lot of fun to play. The weapons in the game have never felt so good to fire — there is a raw, meaty sensation when your bullets collide with an enemy. Add to that the sounds of the weapons — chunky, intense and satisfying — all these words perfectly describe how it feels to handle near enough every weapon in the game. I say near enough because while 343 have refined the weapons we’ve come used to handling (Battle Rifle, Assault Rifle, Carbine etc) they didn’t do a good job of adding any new weapons of interest — I ended up sticking with what worked best, and for the most part walking past the new, clumsy weaponry.
The biggest change to come to the gunplay, and something I was wary about when I first played around with in it in the Beta last year was the ability to look down the sights on near enough every weapon. Since that time 343 have certainly tuned all the weapons to work with this new feature really well. I like how it looks and feels and it even makes some of the more cumbersome of weapons easier to fire/handle. The assault rifle in particular has gone from a spray and pray, to a more manageable enemy dispatching piece of kit. But the best thing about this new mechanic is that not only does it make a lot of the classic weapons more fun to use, but it also now makes the Promethean weaponry useable — something that wasn’t the case in Halo 4.
The one main gripe I have with the gameplay comes from you now always having 3 AI Spartans tagging along with you (they are of course replaced by your buddies in co-op). Your AI teammates are not very bright — this is never truer than when you go down and have to call one of your partners over to pick you up. This for me became a little game of its own — not a fun game however, because this was a game of waiting to see whether the AI was useful/smart enough to come and pick me up or if it was just going to wander about and let me slowly bleed out and die.
The game is clearly designed around playing it with 3 other friends and this made it feel like I was being punished at times for playing it solo. This is no clearer than when you come up against a new enemy type who must be distracted from the front so as to be attacked from behind — in solo this resulted in the enemy just chasing me and ignoring my AI counterparts a lot of the time.
Taking that all into consideration — Halo 5 certainly has great gunplay, and the new movement of the Spartans is really satisfying, and then when you take both of them and drop them into the usual sandbox encounters — it does make for a lot of fun. 343 definitely got the balance correct when the gameplay is considered. Where they perhaps let this down was the lack of memorable or exciting missions. There are very few segments in the campaign where the thing I was doing felt like an unforgettable Halo moment — the structure of the missions are pretty bland. So much so that unlike past Halo campaign completions, I had no real desire to jump straight back in and begin the hunt for every skull or start my gruelling Legendary run — instead I just switched over to multiplayer (which I’ll get to in a second) and began seeing if it could relight that Halo magic I was looking for.
So I now come to a cross roads when the Halo 5 campaign is considered. I had a lot of fun with the gameplay, and like I said earlier I felt more like a powerhouse Spartan than any other Halo game before. But Halo 5: Guardians has massive presentation issues — things feel rushed, underdeveloped, missing that Halo jenesequa. Halo 5: Guardians has perhaps my least favourite campaign of any Halo game to date, and it really saddens me to write that.
Well alongside every Halo campaign there is a multiplayer and Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer is a polished, well running experience.
The big new mode that has been shown off for quite some time in Warzone — Warzone is like a fancier, more in depth version of the classic game mode Big Team Battle. With a more cinematic introduction you are dropped into a large map in which you first take on some AI enemies and secure you foothold in the area. After this you will battle a team 14 enemy players and try to control other points on the map. While doing this the game will randomly drop in large AI bosses who gather you more points for your team and some bonuses. All the while you will be collecting your own personal points called ‘Req’ points. You use these to temporarily buy bigger and better weapons, vehicles and armour alterations. Putting all of these elements together gives you the new game mode Warzone.
So what did I think of Warzone? I’ve played it for a good few hours now and I like what it does. It takes a game mode, that being Big Team Battle, and makes it more involving for everyone. You can find something to do in these sometimes hectic matches. You can help capture an enemy base or maybe you and a buddy want to spawn a warthog in and drive over to the AI boss and grab some extra points for the team (and yourself of course) then you can go ahead and do that. The thing I like about Warzone is that there a couple of options when it comes to how you spend your time in the match (just make sure it aids the team it least).
Where things in Warzone started to fall apart for me was that with such large maps and with everyone going off in different directions — things at times felt a little empty on the battlefield. I never truly got that sense that I was in this large scale, epic fight — in almost every matched I’ve played things have felt isolating, and that isn’t how things should feel in a game type like this. With that being said there is still a lot of fun to be had in Warzone (especially if you go in with a group of friends) and the introduction of Req points in no way breaks the game. Sure it sucks to be spending some of your play time in menus choosing your next weapon or vehicle to take into the fight, but once you get used to that then making the right choice and having it work can feel pretty rewarding.
Also in multiplayer is the Arena mode — this is where all your classic Halo multiplayer resides. Here you’ll find your Team Slayer, Capture the Flag etc. There are also some new game types like Breakout — in this a team of 4 faces off against another in some pretty unique looking Halo maps and you all have 1 life, it’s round based and you want to be the team with the most standing at the end of each very quick round. The team who works together and has as many of their team alive at the end will win the round, win 5 of them and you win the match. Things move really quickly in this game mode and rounds can last less than 30 seconds or can go for a good few minutes. I already pretty addicted to this game mode – and getting together a tightknit team and using those mouths and eras to communicate will certainly make for some fun (and frustrating) times.
I really enjoy Arena in Halo 5, it comes packaged with almost everything I love from classic Halo multiplayer and it works and is balanced really well. Jumping into that first game of Swat in some time and not only winning but coming out the other side with a pretty respectable K/D Ratio was a good feeling. 343 clearly spent a lot of time fine tuning the multiplayer and I think old school fans of the series will like what it offers.
Well there you have it that is my fully fledged Halo 5: Guardians review, and when I think back on my time with it so far I have very mixed feelings, feelings that leave me wandering on whether or not this is a Halo title that you should pick up and play.
The Campaign is not great, in fact like I already said it’s probably my least favourite of any of the Halo campaigns yet — it feels rushed and only partly done. Whereas the multiplayer for Halo 5 is a huge step up for 343, especially when compared to the unbalanced mess that was Halo 4 multiplayer.
So with all that being said I am struggling to decide upon if it gets a recommendation. What I think I will say is that if you come to Halo games for the campaign, then stay away, play some of the classic Halo titles and enjoy there nostalgic fun, and if you come to it for the multiplayer then absolutely buy the game and have a blast with it. People who look for both will have to weigh up those pros and cons and decide what matters most to you.
So are you planning on buying Halo 5? Have you already? Either way what are your thoughts on it? Sound off in the comments down below. If you want to keep up with the rest of my ramblings then perhaps follow me on Twitter,@GavinsTurtle. All that’s left to say is have a fantastic weekend.