Halo 5: Guardians Review

I was never sure what the hubbub around Halo 4 was. People went absolutely bonkers for it as I was sitting on my couch playing co-op with friends to an utterly lackluster finale. That moment was recycled in AAA games from that point on. I feared that was the way video game conclusions were heading. Halo 5: Guardians removed that fear.

SPOILERS ABOUND

Halo 5 Guardians

Halo 5: Guardians is huge in comparison to its predecessors. I don’t want to make this review about a prior game, but I must compare and contrast to spell its improvements and general better design. Prior to popping in the disc, worries consumed me of having to race to the end of a campaign map to hit a button. We can admit already. That’s what the other game was all about. As someone who strictly plays Halo campaigns in co-op mode on the first go around, having a meta-game race was the least bit enthralling.

Guardians destroyed that archaic notion. Playing on “Heroic” with more than one person, the way the game is designed to be played, was challenging from the first sixty seconds. Running in and gunning resulted in absolute deconstruction of myself and teammates. Thankfully, my fireteam learned quickly, as always.

Like entries before it, collectables can be found in various locations. These locales are tough to find, but when found offer heaps of information that fill in minor gaps. In essence, they’re essential to completing Halo 5’s story and back story simultaneously. Attaining the information was hard on the selected difficulty. Clever platforming is often required and dangerous enemies use their heavy artillery to do everything in their power to ensure you don’t learn why “x” caused “z”.

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There are fifteen missions in total, most of which are played with Team Osiris, led by Spartan Locke. During early moments of story mode, I thought Locke and his team weren’t fully realized. That didn’t make it any less exciting, but there was a constant desire to know why Locke was doing what ever it was he was trying to do. After a while, I understood, whether or not I personally liked it. Locke’s mission in the game is the mission that he’s given, no questions asked. He’s a Spartan soldier obsessed with doing his job, and from my understanding, he loves doing his job. The beauty is in the simplicity.

When not Locke, players receive full control of Blue Team, led by Master Chief. Those moments stand out. Chief and his team are chasing an embodiment of Cortana, old friend and A.I. companion to Chief. For those who were following the social media “#huntthetruth” campaign, just know we’re all heavily rewarded in a double chase uncovering why Chief and his team are currently outlaws and why it’s Osiris’ mission to stop Chief’s blue team. I argue that if attention is kept, player won’t miss a beat.

Levels are designed to confuse and intimidate. New musical compositions fill alien worlds with wonder and scientific fantasy, occasionally paying tribute to original Halo scores. An over abundance of enemy combatants perched at rooftops and flying towards my team created frightening moments forcing us to aim with precision. That wasn’t a problem seeing as we had dozens of weapons to play with, some obtained by smashing through walls revealing hidden corridors with rare stuff inside.

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Every new weapon is great. The best and most important is the Hydra Launcher, a weapon with the capability to take out the largest of enemies if handled with care. The gun won’t do much damage if enemy strafing isn’t accounted for. I had to study the movements of my opponent before charging and launching my devastating launch. If I missed the target then I had to toss the weapon since it was low on ammo to boot. Discipline was key.

In the event that a friend went missing, A.I. retained control of an extra spartan on the team. In game A.I. were great on fighting enemies and reviving human controlled players. My favorite option was the ability to tell them where to attack next. They weren’t slouches.

Some levels are walking simulators, which goes to show us that independent games trash talked by people that “don’t get it” do have value. As games today use RPG elements of the less popular genre of yesteryear, 343i took the niche “walking sim” and added it to their campaign in Halo 5: Guardians. I spent so much time in those few levels talking to everyone, learning about things that happened, things that will happen, and happily collected skulls. I appreciated the fair amount of Easter eggs plopped into those areas.

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The latest entry brings back some key characters from Chief’s past. A civil war still rages on and that’s probably the reason why I loved the game so much. There are multiple factions that skew cause and effect. Being part of these conflicts started with ambivalence and always ended with sureness. Shaking hands with creatures of wisdom for the greater good never had me more excited playing a Halo game.

Multiplayer is groundbreaking, from head to toe. The newest mode is “Warzone.” Think Battlefield meets Titanfall.

There are two variants of the mode. The first requires players to capture multiple outposts for points and rid of enemy A.I. for extra points. The first team to reach the most points is granted victory. The other flavor is slightly different, forcing one team to play defense and the other offense. Offense must try to take over defense in fourteen minutes total and destroy defenses core during an extra long seven minutes.

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REQ packs are new to Halo and aren’t to be worried about. Points are awarded left and right. Won a match? Here’s some points. Upgraded commendations? More points for you!

The packs offer “cards,” similar to “burn cards” in Titanfall. Certain cards can be equipped before a match starts. Those cards usually guarantee extra experience points to level up. Other cards are irritating to enemies. Someone may have a card that enables them to use an overshield in a specific match for example. The beautiful thing is while they may be using an overshield you might be using a sniper rifle, a card they don’t have.

The unpredictability had me returning for hours. One player could be hovering in air preparing to perform a ground pound as another player might be running from behind tackling them to their demise.

Halo 5 is anything but lackluster.

WRAP-UP

By taking a deep breath and digesting every story element, Halo 5 became one of the more potent futuristic space-marine stories in recent years. Gun play is tight, new weapons require patience to master, and multiplayer has evolved with the times. Best of all, it still feels like Halo game.

9/10

Daniel Mihailescu
danjamllc@gmail.com