Developed by: 343 Industries Published by: Microsoft Studios Reviewed on: Xbox One Halo 5: Guardians is the latest entry in the long running Halo series. It’s actually the third game to come out after 343 Industries took the reigns from Bungie to develop the game, following Halo 4 and the remakes of the original games found in Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
You jump between playing as Master Chief and Spartan Locke throughout the campaign. As Master Chief, you go AWOL and start searching for your AI companion from the earlier games, Cortana, who went rouge after the events of Halo 4. As Locke, you are charged with hunting down Master Chief and his squad, Blue Team, and bringing him back to the UNSC with the rest of your squad, Fireteam Osiris. Both of the characters ultimate goal, however is to stop the Forerunners, the alien AI race from destroying the entire galaxy.
When the story jumps from one character to the other’s perspective, it feels like some info gets overlooked and some scenes are skipped, which can make it a little easy to get confused at times. There’s a good amount of having to play ‘fill in the blank’ in between scenes.
The weapons in the game felt pretty good to use. The battle rifle is still very satisfying to use compared to the assault rifle. The Spartan Charge is fun to use but I found myself hardly using it against enemies. That may just be how I personally have been playing because there were a few online matches where I got Spartan Charged off a ledge like it was 300. In the single player, it felt like looking for the little cracks in the wall and throwing a bomb there will give you an item, except you are in fact that bomb, and instead of an item you get to flank the enemy.
Flanking is incredibly important in this game. If you play through the campaign solo, then you’re going to have to learn how to manage your team in certain points. In games like Mass Effect, you had control over your squad mates but the AI was still smart enough to know how to properly draw fire away from you at times. In Halo 5, there are plenty of moments where you need your teammates to draw enemy attention away from you to get the upper hand in a firefight, especially when going against an enemy turret or a boss where you have to get behind it to attack its weak spot. You can attempt to distract it by having your squad mates shoot to draw fire but the moment the boss notices you they drop everything and start attacking you immediately.
Of course this can all be mitigated by playing co-op mode. While local co-op is no longer possible in Halo 5, you can either queue up with strangers online or you can play with up to three other friends to go through the story mode together. So as long as you and your friends can communicate properly, you could even overcome the campaign on legendary if if everyone is skilled enough. Of course that would all change of there’s someone who may not be as skilled as everyone else, but that’s where Halo borrows from Gears of War and has a state similar to the “down but not out” state, where teammates can revive each other if they can get to their injured comrades fast enough. The game only ends and reverts to the previous checkpoint once all four members of the squad go down.
Staying in the same topic of multiplayer, online head to head matches are mostly the same. The Warzone maps are probably my favorites in this game. 24 man skirmishes between two bases trying to capture and dominate the map while fighting a combination of CPUs and other players while defending your base and armory depots. Have too many friends who are all online at the same time and want to play together? You can enter the mode with 12 members in the same team so you won’t get separated.
The other modes are still fun too. Capture the Flag and classic Slayer are still there and you can still create your own games and miss like before. The Requisition are basically the burn cards you get in Titanfall giving you weapons and boosts in experience points and also bonuses to change the look of your Spartan.
The game is not even close to being as fun playing alone as it is with other people. The only point I skillfully struggled was with the boss of the game. But I mean on an enjoyment level, it’s just not as fun as playing with your friends. Fighting CPUs over and over can only offer so much fun before it gets boring.
The story, while it is cool in some parts, it’s mostly a bunch of leaping from one moment to the next. It feels like there’s a great deal of fill in the blank when wondering about what happens when Master Chief isn’t on screen. Just when I thought I really knew what was going on I felt a little lost again. Towards the end of the game, I didn’t really care as much as I’d like about what was going on. If anything, they undersold the other Spartan characters that were with you the whole time. It would’ve been nice if they went into more detail about Fireteam Osiris and not just shave it get glossed over in the final mission where suddenly little tidbits and fact were suddenly revealed. But probably my biggest gripe with the story is that considering that the advertisements went in the direction of Master Chief vs Spartan Locke; they actually spend an incredibly small amount of time even talking to each other, much less fighting each other.
In the end, playing the game was always the stronger part of Halo when compared to the story with some people. The gameplay alone is more than solid with enough modes to play online. It’s still a game worth playing if you either have a group of people you can regularly play with or if you just absolutely love Halo. The campaign is more of a one and done deal unless you’re the type of player who loves to go back to Halo games and play through the game on Heroic or Legendary modes and collect achievements. Halo fans new and old will not want to pass up Halo 5: Guardians.