Platform Xbox One
Developer 343 Industries Publisher Microsoft Studios
Genre First Person Shooter
Reuniting players with the iconic Master Chief, Halo 5: Guardians sets out to provide players with a compelling story in addition to the quality multiplayer modes they have become accustomed to over the past decade. With a few tweaks and modifications made to the formula used in previous titles, 343 Industries has provided gamers with an intriguing story and a strong offering of varied multiplayer modes, although requisition packs in multiplayer and the campaign ending will undoubtedly leave the audience divided.
Halo 5′s campaign splits the playtime between both Master Chief and Spartan Locke, offering both perspectives on the plot as the game progresses. It feels like an awkward approach at first due to how distant both parties are in regards to one another at the outset of the campaign, but the design choice makes significantly more sense the deeper you go into the story and events get closer both in time and physical space. A strength found in Locke’s team is the varied personalities, each incredibly human and possessing different approaches to assessing situations. Some may joke about dire situations while others are so focused on completing the mission at hand that they do not mince words or have lengthy monologues. This is not something so noticeable in Chief’s team of Spartans, providing an incredibly subtle way of slowly separating the player from their bias to intrinsically side with Master Chief in any situation due to past experiences. Each Spartan has their own strengths and abilities, which playing co-op will highlight and adds an interesting twist to the traditional co-op formula, but in single player mode, this is unseen and you are left only with personalities to base your opinions on. Slightly more time is also spent with Spartan Locke and his team, allowing the player to establish more of a rapport with their group, placing another small wedge between you and Master Chief. The story unfolding in Halo 5 is undeniably compelling although in order for it to reach its full potential, the audience must be able to identify as Locke or Chief at will. The writing and direction of the story is masterful in this regard, as the development team acknowledged the players would be predisposed to brush off Locke almost immediately in favour of the more established character, so subtle choices have been made to undo some of the bias and give the newcomer a fighting chance at earning the empathy or players.
There is a phenomenal variety in campaign missions, providing gorgeous environments, all kinds of vehicles to pilot, new enemies, new weapons, and collectible intel in the form of audio logs strewn across all of the chapters. At no point during any mission does it feel as if there is only one available strategy to approach a battle, with a great number of altitude differences found through each level. Combine this design choice with the ability to command your squad to move to a specific location or focus fire on a particular enemy and Halo 5 easily takes the crown for offering the most strategic options in the franchise. Classic Covenant foes make a return, as do the Promethean enemies introduced in the last title, although the latter have brought along the Warden Eternal this time. The Warden is the most formidable foe ever found in a Halo title, replacing Hunters and Promethean Knights with relative ease. Despite being the seventh core title in the franchise, introducing such a ferocious and fearsome new threat keeps the formula from becoming stale and ensures the players are still being given a challenge after mastering the weaknesses of previous behemoths.
Unfortunately, the campaign does possess a significant weakness: the ending. Without going into detail, the ending leaves a great deal open for the next title in the series. It was foreseeable given that Halo 4 was touted as being the first game in a new trilogy so Guardians is not the finale, but it does not change the fact that after witnessing the closing cinematic, very little has been seen through to a satisfactory conclusion. A handful of conflicts have been resolved, but there are some very pressing issues at large, presumably to be dealt with in the next game. Epic sagas are not something unheard of in the video game world, but each title needs to be able to stand alone in story, and unfortunately the conclusion of Halo 5: Guardians leaves much to be desired in this regard.
Moving on to the multiplayer portion of Halo 5: Guardians, there has been quite an overhaul in game design. Custom games and the ability to watch videos of previous matches still exist, but Arena and Warzone are new to the series. The Arena mode offers a more competitive 4v4 game, although the type of each match will vary. Capture the Flag, Slayer, and Breakout are all examples, ensuring that even those who do not wish to venture into the world of requisition packs will not have a shortage of maps or games to play. Out the aforementioned game types, Breakout is easily the most enjoyable, putting a far more competitive spin on Halo. Each round affords players a single life, forcing them to a spectator role once deceased. This mode generally takes place on small maps, ensuring the action is fast and frantic but rewarding those with skill (or luck). For gamers in search of a quick round of Halo multiplayer, Breakout will quickly become a favourite.
Warzone presents battle on a far larger scale, housing up to 24 players in a single match. Two teams attempt to complete objectives and kill their opponents in order to obtain points. The objectives range from capturing bases to killing AI Covenant or Promethean enemies who spawn, to destroying the opposing team’s power core. Each full Warzone match is fairly lengthy, but rarely dull as the new REQ system is found in this game mode. Through playing multiplayer matches you earn requisition points which can be used to buy requisition packs. Packs contain various consumables for you to utilize during Warzone matches, including powerful weapons, vehicles, and power-ups. Considering each spawn in Warzone only grants players an assault rifle and a pistol, these consumables cannot have their value overstated. Over the course of a match, your REQ meter will slowly fill as you kill opponents and complete objectives, granting you access to the more powerful requisitions you have such as a Banshee, Mantis, or Overshield. This prevents players from immediately spawning Scorpion tanks at the beginning of a match, but can also ensure a match stays one-sided if it is a complete blowout. If a team is losing and not doing well, their individual meters may not build too quickly, meaning items such as powerful vehicles might not become available at all before the game finishes. As previously stated, this REQ system will likely have players feeling divided. To say it is frustrating to watch your opponents spawn a Wraith and Scorpion while you carry your requisitioned Needler would be a severe understatement. Conversely, it can feel incredible to swing the tide of battle in your team’s favour by spawning an Energy Sword or Mantis at a crucial moment. The balancing is in need of some tweaking to minimize how unfair the matches can get, but it is an enjoyable new concept, and those looking for games centered primarily around skill will still find that in the more traditional Arena mode.
The maps currently available in Halo 5 multiplayer are just as varied as the levels found in the campaign. Layouts range in size, colour scheme, which race they appear to be based on, and general environment. The constant feature seems to be the numerous pathways leading to any given location, all but eliminating the possibility of players camping in specific locations and forcing them to always be on the lookout for enemies. Without a doubt players will eventually locate positions on the map in which to hide out, but they will likely have a difficult time as the maps are far more open and branching. This may seem like a downside to some (i.e those who like to camp), but to the majority of players this should come as a relief, particularly in the Arena when fast-paced action and skill will not be undone by someone sitting in a corner with a sniper rifle.
Halo 5: Guardians is not a perfect game, and the ending will most likely leave players disappointed, but the strengths greatly outweigh the negatives found throughout the title. The narrative found in the campaign is compelling and will easily grab the attention of every player, particularly those who have played earlier titles in the franchise. Collectible audio logs are a great source of additional plot insight, and as usual, co-operative play is more fluid than ever and the unique abilities possessed by each Spartan bring a fresh spin to the campaign. The REQ system may not be enjoyed by everyone, but for those who do not like it, the Arena is a great multiplayer mode more faithful to traditional Halo online play. It is obvious that 343 Industries is looking to keep the Halo series fresh with each new installment while keeping the same high level of quality expected by fans, and Halo 5: Guardians stands as a testament to their hard work.
- Plot design expertly manipulates players into empathizing with Spartan Locke
- Arena provides competitive, balanced multiplayer while Warzone offers new experience
- New weapons and foes keep campaign fresh and exciting
- Fantastic variety of level design in both the campaign and multiplayer
- Ending leaves several large conflicts unresolved
- REQ system can ensure a multiplayer game remains one-sided
The Score: 9.0
Eric is an Xbox editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.