Game Review: Halo 5: Guardians (XBox One)

 

I’ve spent a few hours scurrying around the vast majority of Halo 5’s campaign digging for secrets and skulls. In that time I’ve really gotten to learn what kind of animal 343 Industries has bred for the FPS arena, and that beast is beautiful. Asides from soaring landscapes, vast vessels and disgustingly realistic human imagery, the game runs smooth as silk. 60 FPS looks damn good on Halo, which we got a taste of in the Master Chief Collection, but it’s great to see the xbox one bringing such great justice to a personal favorite franchise.

As usual the story arc provided is not one to miss when you’re burning through Halo 5’s campaign, and hopefully everyone picks up on the little nuances 343 sprinkled into the mix. I’m looking at you Nathan Fillion… Continuity is a huge proponent to Halo’s lore, and one they did not hold back on once the mantle was passed onto the franchise’s new masters. Seeing Buck in full Spartan status while still rocking his Hell Jumper gear was pretty swell, not to mention seeing the Master Chief reunited with Kelly and the others. So for me the experience brought back quite a bit of nostalgia.

 

Gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect from a Halo title, barring a few key and excellent new features. Guns all have a zoom feature, which was a welcome addition to the series, as well as having sprint as a static utility. I found myself trying to shoulder check every little bit of the covenant into oblivion, and when the opportunity yielded itself I’d leap off of an ammo crate or looming pass and rain down giant, Spartan-y justice with the new Ground Pound ability. Of course, reaching those heights is incredibly swift and seamless with Clamber and the Thruster pack at the ready. I could go on for hours in ways the new armor ability system made the overall experience that much more exciting, but I feel it could be overstated, the only way to really get the gist of them is by hopping into the game and putting them to the test!

 

Ultimately I have to say that as much as I do love this game, and am extremely happy with the direction the series that shaped my teen years is heading, I definitely don’t think halo 5 is my favorite foray into the Spartan’s world. A few really key gameplay features that met the chopping block really hindered my enjoyment a bit, from something as trivial as the flashlight, (I love to run around and try and find secrets and hidden ledges, made all the more difficult by the dark environment spaces). To the situational, such as split screen, which I know, I know this has been talked about enough but I can’t stress it enough. This series was literally BORN out of split screen multiplayer and co-op. There are players that couldn’t care any less about split screen not being included, but if you have a regular gaming buddy or buddies, you can sympathize to where I’m coming from.  Moving away from lacking features, I personally am not a huge fan of protagonist alternation. Much like in Halo 2 between the Chief and the Arbiter, the rotation between Chief and Locke makes some of the missions feel a bit choppy. And if you blink you can miss some dialogue or a scene transition and not even realize you’re now fighting alongside Fire team Osiris and not Blue Team. Some elements of the campaign just felt a bit forced.

 

I can’t be the only one that’s saying this but I miss Spartan ops and Firefight. Spartan Ops was a welcome experience that ran parallel with the main campaign, that utilized the Spartan you developed and sunk all that time and frustration into customizing, while still managing to stay relevant to the primary story arc.  Firefight needs to make a comeback in a big way, especially with such a wide array of enemies to wage war against. In my opinion, more doesn’t always mean better…But when it comes to a game with a history as immense as Halo’s, you can only grind the campaign and Matchmaking so much. All in all, I did enjoy every second I spent in the game, from the visually stunning, to the painfully difficult moments spawning over and over. And something tells me that Halo 5 has a long life ahead of it. I know I will be one of those hopping into Matchmaking this week, drowning my workweek in the fires of combat!

9/10