Brendan and Kochie battle their way through 343 Industries’ newest addition to the franchise.
The Halo franchise has been with us since 2001 and it has now spanned across three console generations. We’ve seen Master Chief battle his way through some harsh environments within the galaxy, along with excellent storytelling and gameplay to follow suit and this has not changed even in the hands of 343 Industries. The Chief is back for another adventure and this time, he’s brought a few more Spartans with him.
Halo 5 – Guardians is the latest offering from 343 Industries and Microsoft Studios, exclusive to the Xbox One. The story takes place eight months after the events of Halo 4, where Master Chief is reunited with his original Spartan-II unit, Blue Team consisting of Linda, Fred and Kelly. Shortly after the game begins, an event occurs causing Master Chief and Blue Team to go AWOL. This prompts the UNSC to deploy another Spartan team, known as Fireteam Osiris, to track down the Blue Team.
Halo 5 is played from the perspectives of both Master Chief and the lead Spartan of Fireteam Osiris, Jameson Locke. Throughout the 15 missions of the campaign, the game alternates between the two with a slight bias towards Locke as he is effectively on a manhunt to bring the Blue Team back to the UNSC Infinity. With that said however, there are reasons as to why the Blue Team defied orders and Fireteam Osiris eventually learns of this.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen a Halo title alternate between playable characters (such as Halo 2), but at times, Master Chief is viewed to be ‘the bad guy’ with Fireteam Osiris going after him. The Chief is in no means the villain to the story, but to have the hero character of the franchise depicted as if he’s on the run makes you question if is this really a Halo title. It’s great that 343 Industries have thought to show the storyline to players from another perspective, but there should be a larger emphasis on Master Chief so the audience can be assured that he knows what he is doing.
There is very little background provided for Locke and Fireteam Osiris save for the fact that their mission is to find Master Chief and one of them is actually Nathan Fillion. When you are playing almost half the game as this team it would have been nice to actually learn about the people you are playing.
The story may not be exactly robust but the gameplay is incredibly solid throughout the entire campaign. As soon as you start the first mission, you’re immediately thrown into the combat and it’s all fast-paced from there on. It is engaging, it captivates the player and it interweaves correctly with what is happening with the story. There is not a single moment in the game where the gameplay feels repetitive, boring or dull. This is also complemented by the graphics as the game runs in native 60 frames-per-second, along with stunning textures and visuals.
The only issue that was really noticeable was at long ranges the animation quality of enemies seemed to dip fairly severely, and as someone who likes to keep range to a maximum, Kochie seemed to experience this quite a bit. Not necessarily a game breaking issue but it was quite jarring from time to time.
Regardless of which character you’re playing through the campaign, the introduction of fireteams can be utilised to your advantage during heavy combat. You can command your team to focus on a target or move to a certain location, effectively allowing you to plan your way through a battle. This is especially useful for when you encounter more challenging enemies such as Promethean Knights and Covenant Hunters.
Thanks to your increased squad numbers this allows you to come back from the brink of death and be saved by your fellow members. Instead of dying and loading back at the last checkpoint, you go into a armour locked state where you require assistance from your teammates as you struggle to get back on your feet. This is an impressively handy feature as it essentially gives you a second chance to get back into the fight after copping a Hunter blast to the faceplate. There is a caveat to it, though. You only have a grace period of 10 seconds for a teammate to come to your aid before you die the old fashioned way.
The campaign seems to be designed with co-op play in mind which means there is a requirement for your AI teammates to step up and actually do some of the work, but this isn’t always the case. Multiple instances through the campaign, we found teammates looking at a wall or shooting at nothing until they were given a target order. This eventually caused the team to bum-rush that enemy in particular and forget that there were about 10 others in close proximity. With Normal difficulty this wasn’t a problem, but as you reach higher to Heroic and Legendary, the AI still performs the same which leads you to do all the work and die a lot more in the process.
There are also a few new movement changes that have been added to Halo 5. To increase movement fluidity, team members are now able to clamber up ledges and boxes to obtain higher positions in each of the levels. Along with this two other abilities have been added, Ground Pound and Spartan Charge. Ground Pound allows you to charge at a target from the air immediately after jumping. It requires a bit of skill to properly master this move, but it’s a pretty sweet feeling when you get the drop on a group of unsuspecting Grunts. Spartan Charge is effectively a powerful burst of speed while sprinting and is mainly used to break through obstacles or charge into opponents. Both of these moves are very helpful within the campaign and can be used to their full potential within multiplayer.
Halo 5 introduces two new multiplayer modes, called Arena and Warzone. Arena is your traditional multiplayer experience with two teams of four on a rotational game type basis. Essentially, each multiplayer match will be one of four game types, being Breakout, Capture The Flag, Slayer or Strongholds. If you’re after big team battles then Warzone is what you’re looking for. With two teams of 12, each team battles to earn 1000 Victory Points to win the match. This can be done by killing players on the opposing team, killing AI mobs in the match or by claiming an instant win by taking out the opposing team’s core. Simply put, Warzone is slightly akin to a MOBA match.
Prior to Halo 5 launching, we had the opportunity to experience an early look into the multiplayer environments and test its plethora of features. Unfortunately, due to the amount of players available at the time we only got a small window of actual game time in. This is not representative of the full release so we are holding our opinions until after launch, where we will be able to fully experience what Halo 5 multiplayer has to offer us.
While the story of Halo 5 – Guardians may not be as solid as hardcore fans would like to see, the gameplay covers for it with impressive captivation and usage throughout the entire campaign. For the first standalone Halo title for the Xbox One, it’s certainly a worthy addition to the franchise with a long multiplayer life ahead of itself. From what we have experienced so far the multiplayer is a well crafted experience with increased longevity thanks to a variety of customisation options available to players. 343 Industries have created a title that Halo fans are going to enjoy.