Developer: 343 Studios
ESRB: T – Teen
Price: $59.99 (core version)
Master Chief is missing and declared KIA. Doctor Halsey is held captive and Spartan Locke is on the search for both. Halo 5 Guardians continues the epic story where Halo 4 left off. It’s time to buckle your seatbelt and prepare yourself for an adrenaline induced adventure.
We left Halo 4 with Cortana experiencing rampancy, which is the equivalent of a product operating past its shelf life. Master Chief defeats the Didact and returns to the Infinity after a heartfelt goodbye with Cortana. The rest of the story takes place through the live action tv ads and a graphic novel. The Guardians are activated and Master Chief is blamed for their activation; the UNSC declares Master Chief and Blue Team dead, while they send of Spartan Jameson Locke to hunt down the team.
Halo 5 begins by following Spartan Locke and the Blue Team into enemy territory. An amazing cinematic battle kicks the game off to an exciting beginning setting the bar for the chaos and action that is going to take place throughout the game. Players will switch between playing as Master Chief and Blue Team and Spartan Locke and Osiris. Each team is unique in its character and personality, even down to the handling of Locke and Master Chief. One of the key events that propels the story forward is a vision that Master Chief has of Cortana telling him to “get to Meridian,” which will help set the stage for the rest of the story to play out.
The Halo 5 story will not disappoint fans and newcomers of the Halo series, as there are several plot twists and significant events that take place that will have fans cheering with glee. There are many exciting events that take place during the story that to mention even one of them would be spoiling the reveal for fans. The best example I can give is the feeling you had when you played through Halo 2 for the first time, and you discovered you can play as the Arbiter. This is the type of excitement 343 has put into this iteration of Halo.
Language: There are instances of mild profanity in the game.
Violence: Shooting aliens is a primary feature as are fight scenes between characters.
Drugs/Alcohol: There is mention of members of Osiris having to buy the drinks after their mission.
Familiar Halo controls are back with a number of updates. All weapons can be used while Aiming Down Sights (ADS) which enhances your experience for those most similar to other modern day shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Initially unfamiliar to me as a Halo fan, I eventually adapted to this ability and found it to be refreshing though most of the time I kept to shooting “from the hip” as that came more naturally to me. In addition to ADS, when you leap into the air and bring up your gun sights you will hover in the air for a moment before slowly descending to the ground. This can prove helpful if you are rounding a corner and want to surprise whatever enemies may be on the other side. If you press onto the left thumb stick you will sprint but hold the sprint just long enough and you can press right bumper to conduct a Spartan Dash which allows you to ram into enemies and weakened walls and structures. With the B button you can dash in whatever direction you are moving in, allowing you to dodge enemy fire or vehicles seamlessly. Halo 5 has also added the ability to climb with your character onto ledges and platforms to gain an advantage over your opponents. Climbing is not automatic as you must press the A button a second time after a jump to grab the ledge and pull yourself up.
Fire Teams are a new addition for each character you play. Each team consists of 3 additional characters that are at your command during your playthrough. A simple “up” press on the direction pad orders your team to focus fire, commandeer a vehicle or weapon, or move to a specified location. Though new to the aesthetic of gameplay, the Fire Team controls never felt burdensome but sometimes did feel useless. Team AI would sometimes do what it thought best to do over my orders, or would run so blindly into battle that I spent significant time reviving that character. Speaking of revive, when you die, unless it’s via explosion or vehicle splatter, you will begin a “bleed out” process that will count down until your death. When it reaches the end, you must start over at the most recent checkpoint. Your team mates will also respawn after a short time period and come back into the fight to join you. You can play through the campaign either solo or cooperatively; should you choose COOP, your friends will take the role of one of your Fire Team members.
COOP is an integral part of the Halo experience and unfortunately you will not be able to play split screen coop on your couch with your bestie or family member. Though this was initially disappointing, the understanding of the graphical requirements needed to process what split screen would need would diminish the experience for the players. That being said, being able to play online with your friends during campaign will certainly be a memorable time.
Here is a sampling of some of the multiplayer modes:
Arena is a 4 v 4 battle that takes place on small maps that are almost perfectly balanced for all facets of game play. Though I haven’t been a fan of Capture the Flag game modes since Halo 2, I found myself looking forward to playing them in Halo 5. There are your familiar game types like Slayer, Capture the Flag and Swat, there are new game modes as well. Breakout is a mode where you have only one life and a flag in the middle of the map. Your team must eliminate all enemy players or capture the flag on the enemies side of the map. Strongholds is a “Domination” or “King of the Hill” gameplay for teams. 3 territories are available to capture for both sides while you battle against each other.
Arena also has a fantastic ranking structure similar to previous iterations. As you do well, your rank increases. Lose a game, your rank may very well go down. You will be competing against members of your rank and division standings in what 343 hopes to be a fair matchmaking process.
You can gain XP and REQ points in your play through of Arena or War Zone game types. The more REQ points you earn, the more REQ packs you can unlock. Each time you complete a level or significant challenge in game you will also receive a REQ pack to open and collect various items inside. The items vary from base weapons to custom versions of weapons or vehicles. You can also unlock new helmets, visors, armor or weapon skins to customize your Spartan.
Warzone is an all out battle of 12 v 12 players. Each team has missions or objectives to take while the opposing team is doing the same. It may be a match where one team captures while the other defends, or it may be each team must progress against some AI characters before it can get to a point where it takes a territory. In these game types a “Boss” may drop into the battlefield and the teams will compete to defeat the boss first to gain VP points to help win the match.
Warzone is where your REQs come in to play. As you progress through a Warzone match, you will increase your REQ level. Each weapon, vehicle, boost or armor mod are assigned their own REQ levels. The most devastating of course are your higher level items such as Wraiths and Scorpion Tanks. You can spawn these REQ items before you spawn into the game after death, or you when you go up to a REQ station during battle. This adds to the chaos of the Warzone because there is fighting all around you. Warzone reminded me most of a Destiny Strike or a match of Star Wars Battlefront. You don’t know where your enemies are coming from, and you will die a lot.
Whether you play Warzone or Arena, and no matter your preference Halo 5‘s multiplayer has something for everyone’s taste when it comes to online game play.
If vehicle battles were ever your thing in any of the previous Halo games, there is no shortage of them here. You will experience riding in Scorpion Tanks, Banshees, Ghosts, Gungooses (rocket Mongooses) and more. Though the levels are mostly linear, there are options in routes to take to make progress to your end goal. You may decide to take an enemy head-on or assault them with a vehicle you found. It’s up to you.
From the moment you watch your first cut scene you will recognize that Halo 5 was built with Xbox One in mind. The character models, voice acting and environments are beautifully captured and presented. Each character is so intricately designed and modeled that you will feel like you are watching a live action movie. You will see and experience raw emotion on the actors faces as they interact with each other and tell the game’s story.
The environments on each mission are beautifully crafted and vary from grey, drab battlefields to lush tropical landscapes. The lighting effects for the weapons will leave you in awe of the detail placed into their design and the animations for character death are equally entertaining. The first time you see a Promethean explode you will know exactly what I’m saying when I say “wow!”
The soundtrack in any Halo game from the past has always been inspiring and epic sounding and you will not be let down in Halo 5. The moment you fire up the game and the start menu appears you will hear the famous chanting call of the Halo theme. I’m not one to be sentimental but my heart beat a little harder every time I heard the Halo battle music.
I enjoyed playing every single mission in Guardians but my real enjoyment came from the revival of multiplayer. Usually I will play a game to establish a solid and well thought out review, but I genuinely look forward to the hours I will spend playing Warzone and Arena. Halo 5 has restored my faith in the Halo franchise and has allowed 343 Studios to make a statement that a great game can remain a great game even when developers change.
The Bottom Line
Halo 5 Guardians is a refreshing addition to the Halo game series that will remind fans of why they first fell in love with the game.