Halo 5: Guardians was released Tuesday on Xbox One after much anticipation to see where 343 Industries was going to take the saga with their second installation apart from Bungie. Like many Halo fans we couldn’t wait to get our hands on this and played hard through the week to bring you our Halo 5: Guardians review.
The campaign includes 15 story missions which let you play as Master Chief and as Spartan Locke, allowing you to see two sides of the same intertwining story. The story lets you travel to 3 different planets, one that was glassed by Covenant, the Sangheili (Elite) home world, and to another Forerunner planet that is nothing like the one you visited in Halo 4.
First, as with every Halo game I get, I played through the story on legendary. The first playthrough was very difficult and rough. I didn’t look up any tips or tricks to get past certain areas and was hung up on a few parts for a good while trying to come up with my own strategy of how to complete it. I would say that this is the most difficult campaign of the Halo series. Also, it is noticeably more difficult when playing co-op. It seems like the AI gets more accurate and a bit of a damage boost as well when you are playing with friends. I guess it makes sense for that minor tweak because you are still playing on legendary for a challenge and don’t want to make it easier by adding more people to just walk through the game. Speaking of co-op, you can start a co-op mission by yourself and friends can join and leave mid game if they want since each story, Master Chief’s and Locke’s, has you playing in a fire team of 4 Spartans. Co-op also played very smooth without any type of lag issues thanks to the dedicated servers that 343 Industries now has for the game. No more relying on someone else’s Internet to host the game while someone else is streaming Netflix on the same connection.
The story left me satisfied and anxiously awaiting the next game. From beating the game you can pretty easily conclude what the goal of Halo 6 will be and from the legendary ending you do get a bit more of a glimpse into what will be happening. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I won’t go into anymore detail. It is definitely an interesting series of events and worth playing if you are intrigued by the Halo lore.
The gameplay is much more reminiscent of the original 3 Halo games rather than Reach or Halo 4. 343 Industries has added the ability to do a ground pound where you hover in the air then smash the ground in front of you doing a small area of effect melee attack. In addition to that there is a shoulder charge where you melee while sprinting to dash into your opponent. There is also a nifty auto-stabilize feature which will let you hover briefly while jumping and zooming in with a weapon, but you will be knocked out immediately if you are hit by any damage while floating.
Finally, they added a boost where you can juke in whichever direction you’re moving to give you an added bit of mobility whether you are strafing in a fight or backing away from a grenade. Some of the weapons, mainly the Promethean ones, were tweaked as well. The Boltshot no longer lets you charge to fire a shotgun like explosion. It now shoots 3 shot bursts that track the enemies akin to the needler. The Suppressor was given the needler tracking ability as well but is still a fully automatic assault rifle-esq weapon. The light rifle now is single-shot only whether you are zoomed in or out. The Incineration Cannon now fires two shots if you tap the trigger and if you hold it down it fires a much more powerful straight line burst that can take out almost anything that you aim it at. The Binary Rifle also got an interesting tweak where now you hold the trigger when you shoot and one round will fire a really fast automatic barrage at the enemy almost like a briefly concentrated laser beam.
The graphics in the game are awesome and the scenery of the different areas you go to is beautiful. They also added some minor details to make some things seem more realistic. My favorite addition is that when you’re in one of the Scorpion tanks and fire it, there is a large shell of the round that pops out of the tank and tumbles off of it with each shot. Nothing spectacular but I love seeing minor attention to detail things like that added into the game. There was one level that I was a little disappointed in the background graphics for but overall I was very pleased with how everything looked in the game.
Aside from the graphics the sounds in the game are great as well. The battle rifle sounds much better than it did in the last game and the other weapons all have great sound effects as well. The Warthog has a much improved sound from Halo 4 as well. It sounds much more beefy and when you are riding the Gauss one there is nothing more satisfying than hearing the Gauss cannon fire off those rounds taking out enemies in your path. Also, the music, although not done by Marty O’Donnell, has a very good Halo feel to it. It isn’t the same iconic music from the original Halo but it is close enough that you can tell what it is.
The multiplayer is very fluid and feels like they have gone back to the roots of the shooter. It is fast paced and balanced as a Halo game’s multiplayer rightfully should be. Again, the dedicated servers have made the game smooth and lag free from my experience so far. The multiplayer is all ranked, except for Warzone which I will get to soon, and comes in 5 different varieties. Team Arena is 4 on 4 and a mix of slayer, capture the flag, breakout, and stronghold. Slayer is still the same 4 on 4 game of killing the enemy team to win. Breakout, a new game type in Halo 5, is a fast paced single life game played in rounds on very small narrow maps. You start with a pistol and SMG and have to eliminate the enemy team to win the round. You don’t respawn until the next round – first team to win 5 rounds will win the game. Free-for-all, again, pretty standard. Swat is the final game type which is slayer but without shields; one shot kills if you can aim for the head. The way the ranking will work is that you will get put in a division after your first 10 qualifying games. The divisions are bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond, onyx, or champion. Onyx and champion are special and don’t have subdivisions, but for the rest you will have to progress through 6 levels of that division before moving up to the next one. Champion, the highest rank, is special because it will belong to the top 200 people in that playlist, that’s it. 343 Industries has said that the only, and I repeat only, way to improve your rank is by wins. You could have 0 kills and 10 deaths but win because you kept rushing for flag captures and your rank will still go up. It won’t benefit anyone to sit back and just farm kills for a good kill/death ratio because if you don’t get the objective and get a perfection for going 15 and 0 you will still lose rank. The ranks, I believe, will be reset monthly so each month you can start over and try to work towards a higher one.
Warzone, the replacement for big team battle, honestly sounded pretty horrible when I first heard about it but is surprisingly more fun than I thought it would be. It is a 12 on 12 objective and slayer hybrid game type. Each team spawns and has to clear their base out from AI enemies. Then there are 3 objectives to fight over. Holding more objectives gives you more victory points for Spartan kills which will eventually win you the game, which ends once one team gets to 1,000 points. Killing the enemy adds up but will only get you 1 to 3 points per kill, what you really want to look out for are the AI bosses that spawn in the game. Some will be worth 25 points per kill, but others are worth 150. Don’t expect to fight a boss uncontested though, 150 points can drastically swing the game in either your favor or the enemy team’s depending on who gets the last hit on the boss and it is always a battle surrounding them. This is the game type where your requisition packs also come into play. You can go to a terminal and pull out one of the weapon cards that you’ve unlocked if you have enough requisition points to spend on it. For example, a Spartan laser would run you 5 points that you would then have to work on getting back by killing and taking other objectives. This is a nice touch because it prevents you from just stockpiling Scorpion tanks and calling them in one after another. This game mode is pretty hectic the first couple times you play it but once you do a few times it can be quite rewarding playing with a full team and working together to defend and attack objectives while going after the bosses as well.
Speaking of the requisition packs, they are an optional in game purchase if you really think you need them. There are 3 to choose from, gold, silver, and bronze, which will run you $2.99, $1.99, or $0.99 respectively. You do get requisition points for every multiplayer game played as well and can unlock them with those points for 10,000, 5,000, or 1,250. Unfortunately, this is the only way to unlock armor customizations for your Spartan, and those seem pretty few and far between from what I’ve seen. It is all random though and some people I know have gotten more blessed by the random number generator than I have. Playing games will net you anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand requisition points depending how much you do in the game; more kills get you more points.
343 Industries also added a ton of choices for customizing your Spartan once you get lucky enough to get them from the requisition packs. There are 175 different armor styles, 175 different helmets, 53 different visor colors, 220 different emblems, 14 stances, 18 different assassination animations that you can set, and a handful of weapon skins for the main UNSC weapons as well. I just wish there was a less random way of trying to unlock some of the armor so that I could work towards that instead of just hoping I’ll get something I like in a pack.
Overall the story and the multiplayer of Halo 5 has provided me with an awesome experience so far and I look forward to playing the multiplayer even more to unlock many more of the armor customizations for my Spartan. It is definitely a fun game and feels much more l like Halo than Halo 4 did in my opinion.
*We reviewed a retail copy of Halo 5: Guardians which was purchased by the reviewer.
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