Halo 5: Guardians has finally arrived and is 343’s second game in the Halo universe. Halo 4 was the beginning of their vision for the franchise and Halo 5 does an amazing job of not only continuing that vision but also leaving you wanting more. In addition to the Halo narrative continuing on is the popular multiplayer suite that features Arena gameplay as well as Warzone where it is you against everything. Finally all of the social features are there that you would expect with a co-op campaign, the theater mode in multiplayer and more. Halo 5: Guardians is an exceptional title that leaves me wondering where they are going to go next.
The story of Halo 5: Guardians focuses on Master Chief and Spartan Locke. Throughout the campaign you will get a chance to play as both individuals although you will play more as Locke overall. You also have your team with you with Master Chief having Blue Team and Spartan Locke having Fireteam Osiris. Leading up to the release of Halo 5: Guardians, Microsoft and 343 did an exceptional job with Hunt the Truth. This is an audio drama that is centered around Master Chief and looks to answer one very important question: is Master Chief our savior or a traitor? The story in Halo 5: Guardians aims to answer that very question but don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this review. There are fifteen missions in the game that took me roughly around nine hours to complete. My journey through the campaign took me to different worlds with different locales. As I was going through the missions I was happy to see that there were different ways for me to achieve a goal. In one of the later stages in the game I needed to get into a location that had a force field surrounding it. Instead of trying to take down the force field I found another way by discovering a secret passage underground that allowed me to get to my destination and keep out the enemies since the aforementioned force field was still in place. There were also other instances such as a turret trying to pin me down in the distance so I would find a fake wall to destroy and then take that passage to flank the enemy on that turret. You will end up in the same place no matter which path you choose but I did appreciate being able to somewhat pick the path I went down.
I also really appreciated my team. In my experience the A.I. seemed to be really smart and there were a few times where I would get taken out by a Covenant soldier and one of my AI teammates would rush to my side to revive me. I, of course, would return the favor when needed and that definitely helped me out of some sticky situations. It should be noted though that if your teammate does get taken out and you don’t revive them in time that they aren’t gone permanently. After some time passes you will notice that they are back there with you. If you let your team do their own thing then they are pretty good about eliminating enemies and generally watching over each other. One aspect I really enjoyed though was being able to order everyone to focus on one target. When I had a giant Hunter barreling down on me, for example, I would tell everyone to concentrate on him and it became much easier with four people trying to take down that brute instead of just me by myself. While in combat I found that the Promethean soldiers were much more challenging than the Covenant foot soldiers. There were times when the Covenant would run straight at me or just stay in the same place while the Promethean guys were always on the move and it could be hard to pin them down. Add that to the fact that they aren’t exactly pushovers so during those times when you have to deal with a lot of them at once the action can get pretty chaotic. You can also go through the game with friends via the online co-op which is a lot more fun than going through it by yourself. I had a blast going through it with some friends as we both would discover different things. Everything seemed to work well and the whole experience was very smooth. There is an achievement for going through the game on Legendary by yourself though so if you are an achievement hunter you will get to experience the game both ways.
Moving over to the multiplayer side of things you have the “Arena” and “Warzone” modes. Arena is your basic multiplayer experience. You have you popular modes like “Slayer,” “Capture the Flag,” “Swat,” “Shotty Snipers” and more. A couple of my favorite ones was “Breakout” and “Shotty Snipers.” In “Breakout” you have to win rounds by eliminating your opposition or by taking the flag to the enemy base. It is a bit of a crazy mode as you only have one life so if you get taken out then you are going to be forced to watch the rest of your team until the next round starts. Fortunately these rounds tend to go by pretty quickly so even if you are on the sidelines you won’t be there for long. “Shotty Snipers” is a very interesting mode due to the juxtaposition of the two weapons you are given. Obviously you are given a sniper rifle to try and eliminate your enemy from a distance but you are also given a shotgun to allow you to get up close and personal. It is an interesting contrast since both weapons have such different strategies and I found it pretty fun to sneak up on a sniper and blast him with my shotgun. Halo 5: Guardians launches with 15 maps available so you have a wide range of locations to select from. Personally speaking I seemed to do pretty well on “The Rig” as well as in “Plaza”. I also really enjoyed the touch of the lower left hand screen telling you where in the map you are. So say for example there are a bunch of enemies converging in one location and I want to alert my team to their presence. I can quickly see that they are at the “hotel” part of the map and tell my team where to go instead of just having to give vague directions like they are on the west side of the map or something along those lines.
The other mode which I feel is going to be very popular is Warzone. This mode has been marketed as “Player vs. Everything” and it is exactly that. Not only do you have to worry about the human players you are going up against but there is AI you have to deal with as well. You might have a team pinning you down in a warehouse somewhere and then all of a sudden a Legendary enemy shows up and you have to deal with them too. The game will warn you too if your teammate seems to be getting overwhelmed so you can go and try to help out. In addition to all of that there are certain places that your team must control if you want to win. If there are four locations on the map that are up for grabs and the opposing team has three of the four then they are obviously going to be getting points at a much higher rate than you and will probably walk away with the victory. On the flip side you can choose to create a temporary alliance with the other team to team up and eliminate the AI opponents if you want…or if the AI is beating down the other team you can join in with the AI and help to wipe the opposition out. There are many different ways to do things and it is going to be fun seeing how the game evolves as people learn how the mode really works.
Warzone allows up to 24 players to participate with two teams of 12 people and then another team of AI controlled bots. One of the really nice things is that the maps in Warzone are up to four times larger than any previous multiplayer map in a Halo game. The objective of this mode is fairly straightforward. You simply need to be the first team to reach 1,000 victory points or you have to destroy the enemy’s core. The way that you can destroy the core is by controlling all of the territories on the map. When you do that the core inside the enemy base becomes vulnerable and it is your job to destroy it before the enemy retakes a territory. This is a great secondary option to try and win the game if your team is getting dominated in the points category. There were definitely times where I would hover around the entrance to the enemy base and then once I could get in and the core was available I would try to destroy it and end the game quickly. It’s another dimension to Warzone that can be a lot of fun and add to the already chaotic action.
As you are playing through both of these multiplayer modes you will be using the new Requisition System (REQ Sytem). This rewards you for playing in either mode. How this works is that you will be awarded REQ points after each game in either Arena or Warzone. Once you have enough REQ points you can redeem them for REQ packs. Each pack contains a variety of items with the more expensive REQ packs having better items. You’ll get items such as unlockable weapons, assassination animations, armor mods and more. Some of my favorite ones were the “upgraded shields,” “increased strength” and “auto-medic.” There are quite a few for you to earn so you will have to play for quite a while before you get everything. In addition to all of that you can get some power weapons like the Beam Rifle, Fuel Rod Cannon, Hydra Launcher and more. It doesn’t stop there with active camo, damage boost, a Scorpion tank, a sword ghost and, well, you get the point. There is a lot here and I’m sure 343 will continually add on to it over time. Unfortuantely you don’t really get to pick what you get. You can pick a gold REQ pack and then you’ll have items that are randomly selected for you.
The REQ pack system seems to work really well in my experience with the game but there is something important that needs to be addressed. Even though you can earn REQ points in both Arena and Warzone, only cosmetic items can be used in Arena. What that essentially means is that great gun that you just unlocked can only be used in Warzone. They did this to level the playing field in the competitive multiplayer and make sure everyone has access to the same weapons. It makes sense since it would be really bad if you are someone that doesn’t play this game until Christmas, for example, and then you can’t do anything in Arena because everyone brought over their powerful arsenal from Warzone. It also needs to be mentioned that you can also purchase REQ packs with real money, however, this is 100% optional. You can earn everything in the game just by playing it and you don’t have to spend a penny (other than buying the game, of course).
With all of that said and out of the way, you can’t really talk about Halo 5: Guardians without discussing the atmosphere. Aesthetically speaking this is a beautiful game. The environments look simply amazing and there were many times when I would say “Xbox, Take a Screenshot!” while I was in the heat of battle. The vistas are spectacular and I highly encourage you to just look around the environments that you are in instead of simply rushing through them to get to your next objective. The audio in Halo 5: Guardians is also top notch. There is that iconic Halo music that we are all familiar with and it made me feel right home when it kicked in during the cinematic that lead up to the second mission in the campaign. The soundtrack is an absolute masterpiece and something that I will listen to even when I’m not playing the game. A little while ago 343 Industries even uploaded it to Soundcloud so you could listen to it for free which I have been doing. The voice acting seems to be top notch and I really enjoyed the banter between the two teams. It helped to establish how close each team really was as well as convey how they were feeling about the task at hand. The enemy audio was also really funny. I had fun listening to the grunts talk before they knew I was there and seeing what they had to say. There was one instance where one of the grunts was talking trash about how if he was in charge things would be a lot better. There was another comment that really made me chuckle when one of the grunts commented that he missed the good old days when they only had to deal with Master Chief instead of Blue Team and/or Fireteam Osiris. The audio, whether it is the music or the conversations, helped set the mood perfectly and helped draw me into the experience. The Halo soundtracks have always done an amazing job getting your blood pumping and then throwing you into the action and making you feel like a complete badass and Halo 5: Guardians does not disappoint in this regard.
Halo 5: Guardians is a masterpiece from 343 Industries. The campaign is a ton of fun to go through and my time spent online in the multiplayer was lag free and ran beautifully. I can’t think of any complaints that I have about the game. Halo 4 was the beginning of their vision and Halo 5 helps to set the stage for some really big events that are going to happen. The only bad thing about having completed Halo 5: Guardians is that I now have to wait until Halo 6 to find out what happens. The events of Halo 5 set into motion some very interesting stuff and I am curious to see everyone’s reaction. As I watched the credits roll I had this feeling that I might actually enjoy what 343 is doing more than I enjoyed what Bungie did. I want to wait until I see what happens in future titles before I say that for sure but, in my opinion, 343 is on the right path. Halo 5: Guardians is a must buy for Xbox fans and, in my opinion, is worth jumping into the Xbox ecosystem if you don’t have an Xbox One. The question remains though as you begin your journey: is Master Chief our savior or a traitor? Enjoy the ride as you hunt for the truth.
Originally posted on Gaming Target