Review: Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One)
It’s the series that made the Xbox format a force to be reckoned with since its launch many years ago in 2002. Since then the Halo series has grown from strength-to-strength and with every new release there’s been the anticipation of it pushing the FPS genre forward on console. Halo 5: Guardians is next in line to take this step forward, but just how big a step is it?
Halo 5: Guardians takes off exactly where Halo 4 concluded. Master Chief and his Spartan-II Blue Team takes off without anyone knowing their reason for their disappearance. The United National Space Command (UNSC), not being all that sure about Master Chief’s motives, sends out Spartan Jameson Locke and his team, Fireteam Osiris, to in essence hunt them down and establish what they’re up to. Right out of the gates the hunt is on for you, Locke and company, to track down Master Chief as it’s the first mission you’re thrown into after a mouth-watering cinematic introduction.
‘Pretty graphics’ porn heading your way
First things first – Halo 5: Guardians is a gorgeous looking game. Yes, it’s generally running at 900P, but that does not deter from the designers art work coming to life. Seeing a Covenant fight taking place in the distant subdued skies now feels more lifelike than ever before. The attention to detail when it comes to textures and ambient visuals is, as before, unequalled. Every weapon, when zoomed in, has its own unique hud. Finding yourself avoiding the action to gaze at the visuals, if even for a few brief moments, is something you simply can’t help. Thankfully this is made possible as the rest of your team will take care of matters while your mind is off in some distant world.
The big emphasis in Halo 5: Guardians is the inclusion of your team. Not only can you issue orders to have them cover a particular section, by pressing up on the D-Pad, but should you be downed by an enemy they’ll run in to rescue you. If they’re not responding you can press the X button to have either of them dropping everything to save their leader. Should any of your team members hit the deck you’ll also be able to resuscitate them. As you’d imagine this is something that becomes very handy in an online co-op game with real life mates. That’s not where the new features come to an end.
When jumping up towards a ledge you’ll now be able to pull yourself up, automatically, should you reach the lip of the ledge, which brings a much more fluent feel when traversing battlefields. It also makes searching for collectibles (skulls and mission intel) all the more immersive. Press the B button, and a direction, and your Thruster Pack will now have you dodging incoming bullets with ease. Sprint and press the B button for you to perform a Spartan Charge to bash through particular walls that will often present you with hidden items and collectibles. Jump and charge up a Ground Pound by holding in the B button in mid-air to bash a foe to smithereens. Get the knack of using these new features and it’ll help you survive many close calls. Make no mistake, the enemy does not plan to appose you by singing Kumbaja. They’re there to hurt you, and they’re tougher than ever before.
The Covenant has not evolved all that much, and will generally pose a threat as before. The Prometheans on the other hand is a different kettle of alien fish. The AI for the Prometheans have obviously been much improved as they’ll now attack you with more tactful teamwork than before. You’ll get to meet a new Promethean and is a force to be reckoned with, but that’s as much as I’ll say about it. The improvements in this current generation Halo game is evident, but there is however a little glitch in the system.
Time and time again
The campaign in Halo 5 is exceptionally short, for an average Halo game benchmark. Depending on your skills you’ll finish the campaign in between 8 and 10 hours when playing on normal difficulty. It’s also very apparent that, once finishing the game, Halo 6 is already in development as it ends on a similar note to THAT Halo game several years ago. I found that the set pieces weren’t quite as jaw dropping in Halo 5: Guardians, as it was in Halo 4, though you’d have to admit that it was a tough benchmark to live up to. There’s also a problem with the difficulty spikes. Not in-game, but rather the difficulty you choose to play it on. Heroic difficulty, that’s on par with previous Halo games, feels at home. Move to Legendary and you’re in for the battle of your life. Playing it co-op with 3 other buddies online won’t make that experience any easier either. The AI is ruthless. You will die. Lots. You can’t help but think it’s to make up for the short campaign. So what about that multiplayer experience?
Arena mode, in the pre-launch mode, sets you in 4 vs. 4 random selection battle modes: Slayer, Capture the Flag, Strongholds, Breakout, SWAT, Free-for-All Slayer, Shotty Snipers and Neutral Flag. (I should note that it’s stated that more playlists will be made available once the game officially launches). It’s what you’d typically expect from a Halo multiplayer game, though you now have those new moves (Ground Pound and Spartan Charge) at your disposal, which is often a better option than an expected melee attack. These new moves also deal way more damage. Get the hang of it and chances are good you’ll come out of a battle victorious. Of course there are custom games too, that’s pretty much what you’d expect from a Halo game, but if you’re in the mood for something new and fresh (and something that’s more addictive than any drug on the street right now) then you should turn your focus to Warzone.
This is where you get into the Halo zone
It was tough finding Warzone games, but I was lucky enough to play at least 3 rounds and what I played was phenomenal. In Warzone players are divided into two teams of 12 players each (minimum of 9 players a side) with your main objective being to take over the base of the opposing team, by destroying the Enemy Core. The maps are generally massive as you’re tasked at capturing the East and West Armory, as well as the Fortress, on your way to the enemy base. Capture these posts and you’ll be able to respawn closer to the enemy base. It’s a basic concept, but here’s the catch – there are random Covenant and Prometheans thrown into the mix who’ll attack both you and your other human opponents. Kill the enemy (be it opposing team, Covenant or Prometheans) and you’ll level up your REQ (Requisition). Level 1, which you start with, will give you access to basic weapons such as the Storm Rifle, the Assault rifle and the pistol. Upgrade and you’ll slowly but surely unlock the stronger weapons and vehicles. But these weapons and vehicles aren’t just available for you to pick from.
For every match you play you are awarded REQ points. Build up enough points and you’ll be able to buy a Gold (10 000 REQ points), Silver (5000 REQ points) or Bronze (1500 REQ points) pack. In this pack you’ll receive a set of random requisitions. Think of it as a pack of random cards. This’ll unlock various suits, weapons, vehicles and boosts. Boosts can be activated ahead of any match and can, for instance, boost your warzone RP, XP and claim extra XP for Assists. There are several more boost requisitions, though I’m yet to unlock it all. (Note that these boost requisitions can also be used in Arena matches, but it’s only cosmetic to keep things fair as there’s no requisition revelling system as in Warzone).
It’s important to own more than one weapon requisition as you can change your weapon loadout at a requisition station mid-game. Once you’ve used that weapon it drops down by one number. Run out of a weapon and you have to build it up again by buying more requisition packs. So, though you can sell any requisition you receive it’s a good idea to hold on to as many of those as you can. You’ll also receive Open Requisition Packs when completing commendations or when ranking up your Spartan, so not everything needs to be paid for, though you can also spend real world money to buy packs. Sadly.
These Warzone battles are fierce. Increase your requisition up to level 4 and above and you’ll soon drive a Scorpion tank and fly Banshee’s in to destroy all that’s in your path. There’s so much going on that it genuinely feels like one of those many action-packed Halo cut scenes. It’s just that now you’re not watching it from a spectator point of view as you’re in the thick of it all. Though it may be chaotic it’s incredibly fun and definitely the highlight if this Halo package.
Halo 5: Guardians feels like a step towards whatever will be concluded in Halo 6, when focussing on the single player experience. There’s no Spartan Ops to prolong your game this time round, which makes the experience feel a little short-lived. The multiplayer on the other hand is once again an absolute joy with the addiction that is Warzone. Halo 5: Guardians is not as perfect as Halo 4 was, but it’s the stepping stone to Halo 6 bundled with some of the best multiplayer gaming you’ll find on console.