The Halo franchise has always been synonymous with The Master Chief, you think of ’The Chief’, you think of Halo. The original Halo was responsible for many of the original Xbox console purchases and the franchise is still very much loved. Halo 5: Guardians is the second game of the franchise developed by 343 Industries, arguably the one they’ve made their biggest mark on. For the first time the plot involves two fire teams. Fire team Osiris led by Spartan Jameson Locke and Blue Team, led by the Master Chief.
We completed the campaign in just over 12 hours on Legendary difficulty with three human companions, 343 Industries clearly created the campaign mode with the primary emphasis on co-operative gameplay. The game boasts the same amount of missions as Halo 4 however 343 Industries have been a little cheeky with at least three of the so called ‘missions’. At the start of a mission you choose one of four fire team members, each with a specialist weapon load-out and slightly tweaked abilities. The Master Chief for instance has quicker shield recharge and has a classic Assault Rifle for his starting weapon.
The load-out system, in theory works really well for co-operative play, however if you or your friends aren’t interested in rotating character selection you can find yourself being frustrated, starting each mission and re-spawning with the same weapon, being stuck on a long range level on Legendary equipped with a shotgun can become tedious. Weapons come thick and fast in Halo 5: Guardians, you find yourself constantly picking up new weapons and trying them out on the various Promethean and Covenant enemies that stand in your way. There are a couple of drawbacks with this, none of the weapons feel ‘meaty’ enough, you expect a booming deep blast from a sniper rifle but instead you’re greeted by a comparatively small tinny ping. This isn’t a problem exclusive to the sniper rifle either. The second issue is that you never really develop any attachment with any of the weapons, you don’t hold onto them for long enough…
Spartan charge through a fragile wall and find anything from a Spartan laser to a Scorpion tank!
343 Industries have stepped up the pace with Halo 5: Guardians, new Spartan abilities (which replace the old power up system) change the pace of the fighting. The Spartan Charge utilises the all new jetpack and combines a shoulder barge with the force of a moving train, if it lands it causes devastating damage. Each Spartan also has a limited thruster-dash move to avoid incoming hits and the jet pack can be used to either hover in the air or launch a powerful ground-pound move. Unfortunately, on Legendary your best option is to stick behind cover rather than trying to utilise these new moves as you’ll often find yourself waiting to re-spawn without actually killing an enemy.
Halo 5: Guardians really shines in co-operative play, especially on Legendary. Particularly in the later missions the campaign is actually quite challenging and 343 Industries have been very clever with the way they dealt with co-operative play and re-spawning. If one of your fire team takes too much damage they go down but the rest of the team can bring them back into the fight. Leave them too long and they bite the dust… With the added annoyance of being left out of action for anything between 5 seconds and a minute, you start to adapt your play style and try not to die. A minute out of the action feels much longer when the rest of your fire team is having all the fun. This is made exponentially worse when 343 Industries throw in instant deaths. “You’ve just been disintegrated by an enemy binary rifle, here’s a minute penalty for your troubles.”
Playing through Halo 5: Guardians means there is plenty of action and not much time is spent taking in the scenery. However, doing so is recommended you’ll find intel packs, skulls and numerous other things to aid you in your mission. Spartan charge through a fragile wall and find anything from a Spartan laser to a Scorpion tank, the missions feel larger and more diverse because you can traverse the level as you wish. The shooting mechanics have been altered by introducing enemy weak points, there are two purposes for this, to conserve ammo and to make defeating the tougher enemies easier (if you pick your shots wisely). Bosses are made significantly harder as their weak points a generally on their back, in co-op this works fairly well if your fire team is co-ordinated. In single player this can become annoying and dishing out commands to the AI doesn’t cut it. “Hey Linda attack that” Linda then proceeds to continuously fire rounds in the bosses face and not at his weak spot.
The cream of the Halo franchise is normally the narrative. Sadly, Halo 5: Guardians falls short here. The marketing campaign of Halo 5: Guardians seems to indicate a big rivalry and feud between Spartan Locke and Master Chief, in reality there isn’t much between apart from mutual respect after a small fist fight. After all of the marketing hype and build up I personally expected more than a small scuffle between the games protagonists. The storyline was also lacking in other ways and wasn’t overly clear as to where Chief’s Blue Team came from, apart from one throwaway line “they grew up together”. Perhaps other Halo lore will be able to tidy that up for us? Ultimately, Halo 5: Guardians felt similar to going to the cinema to see the first part of a two-part film. You know it’s going to be setting up the scene for the second part but you go anyway because you have to… Halo 5: Guardians felt as though 343 Industries are gearing us up for something big but didn’t want us to coast nonchalantly into Halo 6.
Multiplayer has always been a strong in the Halo franchise. Halo 5: Guardians is no exception; the addition of the Warzone game mode is a brilliant example of how multiplayer should be done. Plenty of action, varied objectives and combat. Warzone mode is an interesting mix of objective based combat versus humans and computer controlled AI. The first team to 1000 victory points wins or the first team to destroy the opposing teams core gets an instant victory regardless of the victory points. Tactics are a mix of focussing on the victory points or taking the objectives and exposing the opposing team’s core. In addition to balancing tactics, 343 Industries have added Requisition points into the equation. Every Spartan earns requisition points and can choose to cash them in at any point of the match. The range of rewards are vast and each one is capable of switching the momentum of the match. Hurtling towards the exposed enemy base with the taste of victory at your lips, only to be thwarted by a recently cashed in Scorpion Tank can be a devastating experience. There are plenty of returning modes such as the classic Slayer and also some returning map favourites.
Halo 5: Guardians is an excellent example of a shooting game, however for weaving together a coherent story Halo 5: Guardians is a poor example. Historically Halo campaigns are all about the story and bringing them together, under Bungie this worked almost seamlessly, unfortunately with 343 Industries Halo has suffered somewhat in this regard. However, the campaign is the best it has been in the franchise and the new Warzone mode has completely reinvigorated the multiplayer mode. If you’re a fan of the franchise you might feel as though you’ve been sold a little short but you’re going to buy it anyway, of course you are. If you’re a fan of the franchise because of the compelling multiplayer, you don’t need to look anywhere else.