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Halo 5: Guardians Review

Halo 5: Guardians Review

Microsoft’s flagship franchise Halo has now officially hit their next-generation console and while the ill-fated Master Chief Collection had an abundance of problems from the beginning. The next iteration in the series has gone smoothly. This is Halo 5: Guardians.

Developed by 343 Industries, Halo 5: Guardians takes place less than a year after the events of Halo 4. Master Chief makes his return along with his devoted team of Spartan comrades in search of his closest companion Cortana, who may still be alive. However, this story isn’t all about our iconic John-117. The focus is on the team sent to find and retrieve the Chief, one way or another. From the get-go we are introduced to some impressive in-game cinematics that give an over-the-top introduction to team Osiris, a new team of Spartans lead by Jameson Locke. Drop-jumping from a pelican and sliding down a mountain, the team skillfully takes down the Covenant in a blaze of gunfire and explosions, but once you hit the ground and you’re handed the controls things take a step back and from here it is difficult to talk anymore of the story without revealing too much.

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The issue isn’t about giving away the plot or spoiling; it’s simply because Halo 5 is disappointingly short. The dedicated fans of the series’s lore and history will appreciate the story the most, many of us making their return to the franchise, will be left somewhat baffled due to the lack of direction in story. Clocking in at around five hours on Normal difficulty, there isn’t much worth talking about. It’s good, but not great and with it being so short; it feels catered to those who like to play on the harder difficulties; especially for those going for Legendary as there are enough close quarters and open spaces for a variety of combat.

With the focus on Halo 5’s campaign being co-operation you’ll be working within a team of four, player-controlled or AI, if solo. Co-op has been a standpoint for the franchise, but what is bizarrely lacking within Halo 5 and which removes a lot of the fundamental enjoyment from the game is the lack of split screen. Now, this may not affect all players out there, and we know that newer titles are slowly removing this feature, but within a franchise, that stood proud by having co-op and multiplayer split screen it just doesn’t feel right.

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Playing solo I found my playthrough rather irritating in some places. At first it was fine, I was perfectly capable of pushing ahead with little to no help from my AI comrades, which are pretty useless unless you continuously give out orders to move or attack using the d-pad. Further on however, when things started ramping up, you feel punished for not working co-operatively. When downed you can be picked up by allies, but this became such a hindrance when relying on AI. Finding myself ahead of them most of the time, by the time they reached me to revive, they’d usually end up getting downed themselves which resulted in me having to restart the checkpoint and babysit my useless team. Still, not an issue if you play with a group players online who work together, but for many like myself who don’t always have that option it only makes things more heart-wrenching when there is no split screen.

Having it not featured for the next-generation is a let-down and the reason for this is Microsoft’s focus upon having 60FPS. 343 Industries have developed a more advanced engine to handle the new set frame rate. Having a consistent 60 throughout the entire campaign is an impressive technical feat, but it does come at a cost.

Visually speaking Halo 5 is a beautiful game, the best in the series. The environments, skyboxes, weapons are impressive in their detail and geometry, but only to a certain extent. With the keeping the frame rate locked, a lot of design choices have been made and the level of detail suffers as a result. Combined with a tight field of view, everything within close range is highly detailed, but beyond you start seeing its shortfalls. This is not say that other games don’t do this, but in Halo 5 it's different and can only be seen as technical limitation of the Xbox One. The most jarring of which is enemy animations, which even at a close proximity run at half the frame rate. Many may not notice at first, but once you do it’s distracting and off-pointing, but with fast paced action and movement you’ll soon get accustomed to it.

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The gameplay within Halo 5: Guardians is perhaps the most satisfying in the series to date. Your Spartan is kitted out with some awesome new abilities, which improves mobility and offensive capabilities. You’ll be able to boost a short distance, mantle on ledges, sprint and slide. Offensively you can build up momentum from a sprint and charge into your enemies and the same from above with a powerful ground pound, which when timed just right can decimate. They have also introduced the ability to aim down sight (ADS) called smart-link, which could suggest that Halo is going the way of other first person shooters and isn’t right, but Halo 5 does this differently. When using smart-link any hit taken will flinch your character out of the mode, so it’s worth only using for quick precision shots. Not only that, you can also use smart-link to hover in the air for short period of time.

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Combined with this everything else is kept in line with entire series, and the additional improvements are built on top of solid gameplay that the series has been known for. This brings everything neatly to the component many will purchase for: multiplayer, or should I say multiplayers, as there is now two and both are played different from one another. You’ve got your traditional Halo Arena multiplayer, featuring all the modes all the fans will remember fondly, and I can happily say that its launch went very smoothly with very little interruption, unlike The Master Chief Collection which was cursed with issues for months. If this had happened with 5 it would have been a true disservice to the fans and worrying for the future - especially considering its release so close to Black Ops 3 and Battlefront.

Fortunately this isn’t the case and the multiplayer is a blast. Up to eight players can fight as Red or Blue in Team Arena, Slayer, Swat etc. The interesting one of these mode is Breakout which has been heavily advertised as the mode for pros. It’s round based, you’ve got one life and you either capture the flag or eliminate the opposing team. All the team modes are skill-based, meaning that after playing ten matches on each mode, you’ll be matched with a qualified rank, once qualified you’ll be matched with players at your skill level. Arena is hectic, good old fashion Halo combat that will have you coming back for more - at least for me it was. That is if I could break away from Halo 5’s most interesting addition: Warzone.

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Warzone is multiplayer on a large-scale. Featuring up to 24-players (12 vs 12) in big battlefields containing AI-controlled components and bases that must be captured. Each team has their own start-off base and more can be captured to control territory. The AI components can be mini-bosses dotted throughout the map, taking down these reward victory points. In order to win you have to either reach 1000 victory points or destroy the enemy team’s core. This mode also features the new requisition system, which can provide you with weapons, vehicles and other equipment to use within the warzone - they are of course just a way to get microtransactions into the game, but fortunately they are easy enough unlock without the need to pay. Warzone is good fun, matches can last a great length of time and it’s certainly the highlight of Halo 5’s multiplayer. Outside of multiplayer, just like before you can customise your Spartan with variety of colours, helmets and armors, but the way to unlock these is done with the same requisition system.

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Despite its shortfalls Halo 5: Guardians still holds strong as being an excellent contender as the current best shooter available for Xbox One. Afterall it is Microsoft’s flagship title, but with a short lackluster story that only the diehard fans will appreciate, the multiplayer is truly where the focus is. 60FPS makes a world of difference and is here to stay with the franchise, but I just hope that they take the feedback from the community and make things better in the next installment.

7.50/10 7½

Halo 5: Guardians (Reviewed on Xbox One)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

Despite its shortfalls Halo 5: Guardians still holds strong as being an excellent contender as the current best shooter available for Xbox One. Afterall it is Microsoft’s flagship title, but with a short lackluster story that only the diehard fans will appreciate, the multiplayer is truly where the focus is. 60FPS makes a world of difference and is here to stay with the franchise, but I just hope that they take the feedback from the community and make things better in the next installment.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Calum Parry

Calum Parry

Staff Writer

A bearded fellow whom spends most days gaming and looking at tech he can never afford. Has a keen eye for news and owns a dog that's a bear.

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Mister Woot
Mister Woot - 08:24pm, 23rd November 2015

The introduction of the phase IV spartans like Locke and Eddie Buck really rock.

Calmine - 08:48pm, 23rd November 2015 Author

The introduction was great, shame about the rest. It felt a little like one of those trailers where it says "CGI doesn't actually represent gameplay"

Mister Woot
Mister Woot - 09:07pm, 23rd November 2015

That can often be a problem though. Developers can end up relying franchise names or big name voice actors to pull people in.