Review: Halo 5: Guardians
Halo is undoubtedly the most iconic franchise linked to the Xbox consoles license. The arrival of Halo 5: Guardians, the first real opus on Xbox One (disregarding the remakes with Halo: The Master Chief Collection) is an event as important for fans as it is for Microsoft. Halo 4 did not unanimously appeal to the fans, which didn’t help the case for Microsoft and the new leading development team: 343 Industries. In this fifth installment, the developers wanted to innovate while respecting all that has brought success to the series. Have they succeeded?
Difficult to talk about the history of this fifth Halo while avoiding mentioning a couple of key plot points. Master Chief and his Blue Team refuse to follow orders given to them and cut off all contact with their superiors after a key mission. The Spartan Fireteam Osiris lead by Jameson Locke are then put on the mission to catch Master Chief and his rebel Spartans. The narrative style of Halo 5: Guardians is reminiscent of Halo Reach, in that it focuses on multiple characters plots. There are lots of dialogues, including during missions, and multiple personalities of the many protagonists emerge throughout the campaign.
Halo 5: Guardians is clearly the most Hollywood-esque episode of the saga. Halo 4 and Halo 2 Anniversary had both beautiful cinematic scenes in rendering, but this fifth installment continues the tradition and gives even more intense shots. If I refrain voluntarily from mentioning some of them to not spoil your experience, know that this restraint is frustrating. That said, if there was a small complaint in this campaign, it is the little time spent as Master Chief (and discover more of its team). For the purpose of the plot, the writers at 343 Industries have focused all attention on Locke’s Fireteam Osiris. If this choice is understandable for the story told here, it would have been nice to be able to monitor more closely the historical adventure of the saga iconic hero.
Nevertheless, for those that played and completed the Halo 4 campaign, I’m sure you were intrigued by the turn of events and themes that were addressed, and the potential conflict between Master Chief and his superiors. And even if Microsoft has played a lot with this element in its communication around Halo 5: Guardians, it turns out that 343 Industries had another surprise waiting for us in this installment. While I obviously will not go into the details, and spoil the surprise, I will at least say that the series takes a surprising twist in its story, and you should look forward to discover it.
Over the past few months, the topic of the campaign lifespan emerged on several occasion. The truth is that it is not particularly long. For a regular player of the saga, the solo campaign in Normal difficulty will take less than eight hours to be completed, which I therefore strongly advise to aim immediately for the highest levels of difficulty like Legendary. If you want to finish it with a friend, do the same with the coop mode.
And speaking of coop in Halo 5: Guardians, it is essential to point out that local two player gaming or splitscreens has been removed from the game in this fifth episode. 343 Industries and Microsoft tried to justify why several times but the general public doesn’t really want to know why, considering all previous installments had offline coop play. Most players obviously do not play local co-op as they used to with the rise of high-speed internet and stable Xbox Live, but families and large group of close friends who used to take advantage of the split screen are going to feel left out. Myself, have some of the best player memories of gaming parties in split screen on previous episodes of Halo and It is truly regrettable that the tradition was not honored in this installment.
With Halo 5: Guardians being the first true episode to launch on Xbox One, it is obviously expected to be amazing from a technical point of view. Like most of its predecessors, the game does not try to be compared to a graphical benchmark. That said, all is generally very clean and has a steady 60 frames per second as well as very beautiful effects of light and particles, thanks to a new progressive resolution system, allowing the game to scale resolution dynamically depending on the load on-screen. And if it is normal for the player to be focused on action, it is advisable to take the time and look at what is happening around the area and the sceneries. 343 Industries has worked on quite a large work environment and the game is impressive even in certain outdoor scenes, with huge war structures that move in the background.
For people who used to play cooperatively or with splitscreen, the experience is still good. The levels have been designed to give players multiple ways of looking at the progress (frontal attack, gain altitude, or bypass the enemies) and incidentally avoiding to disturb each other. In previous Halo, the indoor levels were relatively linear, in comparison to Halo 5 where they are generally much larger and have many hidden passages and back alleys. The overall experience offered by the campaign of Halo 5 is worthy of the license, but it’s too bad this lack of split screen leaves a bitter aftertaste.
At E3 last June, we were introduced to Warzone as a headline feature of Halo 5: Guardians – A new game mode which is clearly the surprise addition to the series. A PVP clash for up to 24 players, who team up in teams of 12, this multiplayer mode got so many objectives and way to win: capture key objectives on the map, and then destroy the heart of an enemy base, or earn 1,000 points. These points can be obtained by performing kills on enemy players or AI hordes around the map.
AI enemies? Yes, because this PvP mode has a hint of PvE elements in it as well. In addition to the Xbox Live led Spartans who defend their bases, many of the game’s AI enemies are also present on the map. You are even given the choice to face them, but it would be a wise choice for a team to do so, to grab quick winning points, and reduce the chance of dying in the crossfire between these Covenant or Foreruner enemies and opposing Spartan team. At times stronger AI bosses emerge, which are harder to kill, appear on the map and give you even more winning points.
To succeed in winning a match, players necessarily need equipment. Over each points earned in a match, your level increases, which then gives access to weapons and vehicles increasingly powerful, selected during respawn phases. But choosing a weapon shall return its level to zero, and from what I noticed the most patient user, most of us Spartan don’t use them so they can unlock more powerful equipment. The possibilities are many, and conduct of the teams is less predictable than in some previous Halo multiplayer modes in which was more of race to the most destructive vehicles like the Scorpion.
The Warzone mode in general is a great new gaming mode without distorting the kind of multiplayer experience enjoyed by fans of the license. It’s new but it is clearly stamped as a Halo mode. And even if the series is known for the online multiplayer experience it provides, there are still people reluctant to play online. And that, for various reasons, such as the high level of play that is required, especially when you are pit against veterans of previous titles. Warzone on that front, allows these newcomers to take part in a multiplayer war effort without necessarily being in the heart of the PvP action. With the freedom it gives to the player, this mode can be used as an excellent introduction to the competitive online multiplayer element of the game, and highlight the demanding strategic aspect. In short, 343 Industries were right to highlight Warzone when announcing the game.
Parallel to Warzone mode, players can take part in multiple types of multiplayer modes, teamed in group of four in the Arena mode. With its stable 60 frames per second framerate, the gameplay is extremely gorgeous, even if game designers have decided to return to a simpler system. All players start the game with the same equipment and better – or prefered – weapons are scattered throughout the maps (while stronger ones like Sniper rifles appear at regular intervals). This result is more brutal and pleasant for teams, as well as closer to what made Halo 3 the multiplayer shooter of its generation. I should also note that the behavior of different weapons was revised to increase the sensation of its impact and firepower, as well as having all a new iron sight mode (which also affect the single player campaign).
This fifth episode offers a high quality gaming experience served by gameplay that always works well, and for me, I think that’s the point
For the timid players who do not want to chat with other players, (or let them hear you rage) the developers have added soundbites to the Spartans avatars on the map. The latter are used for example to inform the appearance of special weapons on the map or the presence of enemies in a particular area. Convenient, but after hours spent playing the different multiplayer modes of Halo 5, the chatters get annoying, and feel a little bit comparable to a “bro” dialect, but at least reduced from what it was in the Beta earlier this year. Compared to its predecessor, this fifth episode seeks less to reinvent the recipe that made the success of the series, and it’s a very good thing for me, as a purist of the franchise.
In terms of the multiplayer game graphics, it seems clear that improvements have been made since the beta phase from earlier this year. Rendering is generally thinner and the aliasing was greatly reduced. Furthermore, the environments of some maps clearly manage to stand out, with special mention to Fathom, a map in a submarine base around which has an enormous underwater creature in the background. Halo 5: Guardians is not the most beautiful game of the moment on the new generation consoles, but the graphics were never the true interest of the series. This fifth episode offers a high quality gaming experience served by gameplay that always works well, and for me, I think that’s the point.
Halo 5: Guardians was reviewed using an Xbox One copy of the game purchased by the writer. The game is exclusive to Xbox One. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• A timeless gameplay.
• The difference between all other Halo
• The Warzone mode is a real nice novelty.
• A multiplayers that is still addictive.
• That epic Soundtrack.
• The shooting mechanics
• The grunts are funnier than ever.
• 60 frames per second.
• The endless customization possibilities of Spartan.
• No more offline coop or splitscreen.
• The ever-present aliasing.
• A rather short campaign.
• Master Chief is kind of put in the background.