The Hunt Begins
After passing the baton on to 343 Industries, Halo 4 — while still great — didn’t quite manage to capture the brilliance of storytelling that made previous titles in the franchise so appealing. I wasn’t quite sure where the team would go from that point onwards because Halo 4 lacked character, but after completing Halo 5: Guardians, I believe 343 have shown what they’re truly capable of with such an established series in their hands.
Halo 5: Guardians begins with the introduction of the new Osiris fireteam, led by Spartan Locke. Locke has been tasked to track down the Master Chief after both he and his fireteam have gone ‘absent without leave’ (AWOL) which, obviously, has got the UNSC worried. You still play as Master Chief, however, and the campaign switches from both perspective giving quite a unique look at a Halo story as compared to previous entries. Each Spartan is now accompanied by a fireteam which will help support you in combat throughout every level. The fireteam also gives the missions more character than before, providing quality banter between the squad members. With Spartan Locke being all serious and thick-skinned, characters such as Spartan Buck, voiced by Nathan Fillion, really help bring great combat dialogue during the firefights with his unique brand of humour and wit.
You’re also given the ability to command your teammates to do specific actions throughout the game, too. The commands are pretty basic but still positions the player as the leader of the team and certainly helps in higher difficulty modes. The pathfinding for the other team members, however, can be quite an issue at times as when you go down and require a revive. On harder difficulty such as Heroic and Legendary, you’ll notice this more as you rely on them more than ever. The AI will sometimes react slowly and sometimes not at all which can make things frustrating if you want to complete the game on a harder mode, so it’s probably best you team up with a few buddies for some co-op Legendary runs.
One of the biggest and most noticeable changes in Halo 5 is the movement system, which feels much sleeker and fluid when compared to previous iterations. Learning from today’s modern shooters, the team at 343 Industries have fused together a brilliant blend of new and old. Players can mantle over objects easily and glide or slide from cover to cover without breaking momentum. You’re also given access to an array of melee Spartan abilities from the get-go which fits nicely into the whole new momentum-based gameplay. Players can initiate a range of attacks such as Spartan Charge, which boosts melee your elbow into the enemy, or the devastating Ground Pound, where your Spartan drops from above creating a deadly impact.
“Learning from modern shooters, the team at 343 Industries have fused together a brilliant blend of new and old.”
The levels have been designed to compliment the movement system as they’re more vertical and open, which offers more creative ways to take on enemies. Climbing up to the highest point of the level and raining death from above never gets old and with hidden pathways, the environments feel so much more interesting to explore than in previous games. All of the new changes gel together well and culminates to make Halo 5: Guardians a real joy to play.
Being the first instalment of the series on the Xbox One, Halo 5: Guardians has given the series quite the facelift but parts of it are still lacking visual fidelity. While up close, the characters are well detailed and sport some amazing designs, but at a distance you can somewhat see the visual downgrade and this is more noticeable when using the new smart-link system — also known as aim down sights. It’s not a big issue and doesn’t affect the game in any way but it does look weird when shooting enemies from afar. The visuals, however, run at a steady 60fps which is great news for FPS players who crave that silky smooth FPS gameplay.
When it comes to hitting the right notes and creating drama in epic moments throughout the campaign, 343 Industries picked up the right composer for the job. Kazuma Jinnouchi, who also worked on Metal Gear Solid, brilliantly captured the essence of what Halo is with his soundtrack for the game and I have to say it’s one of the best in a game I’ve listened to this year.
You can’t talk Halo without discussing the actual multiplayer and 343 Industries has plenty to show in Halo 5: Guardians. In my review process, I was able to play a variety of arena matches which featured classic modes such as Slayer and CTF plus the new competitive eSports mode Breakout, which is my new favourite mode in the game.
Pulling in Halo 5: Guardian’s new movement system from the campaign into the multiplayer, the matches offer more ways to approach different situations. It’s almost like a jungle gym, only with guns as you slide your way into kills or flank enemies with your mantling skills. I really like the dynamic ways you can move around the map and of course, kill your enemies.
The addition of the Breakout mode which was featured in the beta provides some exhilarating competitive gameplay where each player only has a single life per round. The maps are symmetrical and power weapons are positioned in a neutral location for each team. Where other game modes have less consequences, Breakout feels more like edge of your seat action as every step or jump you make could be your last. In saying that, this mode is brilliant for eSports because of the tense action and will be great to both watch and play.
Like previous Halo games, you can also customise your Spartan character with cosmetics. You can also change the assassination style and this is all done through the new REQ card system. REQ stands for Requisition which is in-game points you can earn playing online on Multiplayer. These REQ cards can be earnt through REQ packs you can purchase using your points. I’ve attached a video below showcasing some REQ pack unboxings we did to see what kind of items you’ll get.
343 Industries have emphasised REQ cards don’t offer any player advantage in Arena modes but will give you access to certain things in the new Warzone mode. Like most multiplayer games featuring this kind of system, it helps keep the community keep active by providing an incentive to play and I, like most others, will want that certain helmet or weapon skin you can only unlock through this method.
343 Industries has really found footing with Halo 5: Guardians delivering quite possibly their best entry into series so far. I really feel like this is what Halo 4 should have been like and it’s great to see the team explore the different opportunities with this series rather than sit in line with what has been done before. The new direction with the story and brilliant fusion of modern and older Halo mechanics have really pushed the series forward. It’s safe to say the franchise is now in great hands and I can’t wait to see what they will deliver on next. Halo 5: Guardians is one of Xbox One’s biggest game this year.
Developers: 343 Industries
Platform: Xbox One
A review copy was provided by the publisher.