One of the most anticipated Xbox games of the year is finally here. But the one question on everyone’s mind: Does it live up to the hype? Many are still questioning 343’s ability to make a good Halo game after the release of The Master Chief Collection, which was considered a major failure. But they tried very hard to make Halo 5 amazing, and it looks like their hard work has paid off.
First, I’m going to talk about the campaign. Throughout the fifteen missions, you take on the role of two Spartans. Obviously, one of those is Master Chief. The other is named Locke, who is tasked with the mission of hunting down Master Chief after he goes AWOL. They are both interesting characters, but you spend a lot more time playing as Locke than you do Chief. It’s safe to say that the game is definitely about Locke. If I could have it my way it would be the other way around, but it still makes for a pretty good story.
The second thing you should know is that the whole campaign is designed for co-op play. You play in a squad of four and are never alone. That means you won’t be going on any solo missions. I would of been fine with this, save for the fact that there is no split screen. The co-op being online only means that you won’t be able to play on the couch with your friends. Playing together online just isn’t the same, so I could do without that feature.
However, there is one thing I like about the squad of four. They are able to heal you when you take too much damage, whether they are other people online or just AI. Once your health runs out instead of dying you will fall to the ground and have a certain amount of time where they can run over and help you up. There are a few exceptions to this. One, if you are killed by a powerful enough weapon and two, if you are hit by a vehicle or fall off a cliff. Some people may not like this because it takes some of the challenge out of the game, but trust me, I have played on legendary difficulty and it is challenging enough.
The third part of the campaign that I should mention is the gameplay. It feels a little too much like Destiny for my taste. I didn’t notice this as much in the multiplayer, but there is something about the campaign, I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, that makes it feel too close to Destiny for comfort. I’m not exactly complaining, the gameplay is still great, and it still feels like a Halo game. It’s just a little something that I noticed.
Now for what you really want to know. How is the multiplayer? As I mentioned above, 343 industries had a rough patch with their previous Halo game, The Master Chief Collection. At launch matchmaking barely ever worked, causing many to doubt what they’ll be able to do by the time Halo 5 came out. They did run a pretty good beta, which raised some people’s hopes, but a beta isn’t close to the scale of a full game. There’s just so much more that can go wrong. Luckily, as I’ll address more in the rest of the review, the multiplayer is actually great.
I really don’t know where to start with this. There’s just so much to talk about. First of all, matchmaking is a breeze. 343 is really learning from the mistakes they made with MCC, and they really couldn’t of done better. It has almost never taken me more than two minutes to get into a match, and once I am in there are barely any problems.
Next I’ll go with the two new modes, Arena and Warzone. I have put quite a bit of time into each of these, and in my opinion both are welcome additions to the Halo franchise.
I’ll go into detail about each of them, but I’ll start with Arena. It pits two teams of four against each other. The teams have to compete in different game modes, including Capture the Flag, Slayer, and more. These are usually “first to something” games. For Capture the Flag, it’s first to capture the flag or eliminate the other team five times. For Slayer, it’s the first team to 50 kills. You probably understand what I’m getting at by now. Anyways, I really enjoyed this mode.
Next is Warzone. Warzone matches are where you’ll find the huge, 24 player battles. The basic objective is to destroy the other team’s core, but if neither team manages to do that it is decided by the amount of points that they have earned. Warzone is now one of my favorite Halo multiplayer modes to date. This is also where all those REQ cards you’ve been hearing about come in to play.
In case you were unsure about what those are, here’s the basics. When you play multiplayer in any mode you earn points. When you earn enough points you can redeem them for REQ card packs, which contain a selection of cards that give you weapons, vehicles, and power ups that you can use in Warzone. Naturally, the more points that you spend on a pack the better items you’ll get. They also offer cosmetic items, such as helmets and emblems that you can use to customize your Spartan and show off in other modes as well as Warzone. To get back to the point, when you earn these items you can redeem them during a Warzone match to use.
The online gameplay is also great. It is similar to other Halo games, but there are a few new features that really help it. The most notable of these is the ability to aim down sights. When announced, this was met with a lot of controversy. However, I actually welcome it now that I have used it. It isn’t necessary to use, and most veteran Halo players probably won’t use it that often. But anyone new to Halo will most likely be using it as it does slightly zoom in on whatever you’re aiming at. The other thing it’s useful for is when you are in the air you can aim down your sights to have a few extra seconds where you aren’t falling.
When it comes down to it, Halo 5: Guardians is really an amazing game. For a shooter, it has a better than average campaign, and the multiplayer stands out over any recent fps. The removal of splitscreen is unfortunate, but is something that I feel people will adapt to easier than they think. When I think about it, Halo 5 is not just one of the best Halo games, but also one of the best online experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Original Release Date: October 27, 2015
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed)
ESRB Rating: T – Teen
*A copy of this game was provided for review.