Review: Halo 5 Guardians

After installing a massive 9GB day one patch, hundreds of thousands of Xbox One owners booted up 343’s newest title, Halo 5: Guardians. 343 had a lot to make up for after the release of Halo 4. The multiplayer community in the previous game was bored with the content after a mere two months. At the same time the story was incredibly predictable and gameplay was repetetive excluding a couple new bells and whistle. I personally have not been a fan of the series since Halo 3 (which is easily one of the two best titles in the series), yet Halo 5: Guardians surprisingly has changed my feelings towards the series. This game, by no means is as good as Halo 3, but it certainly plays well for an FPS. Take this how you will, but Halo 5 does not play or feel like a traditional Halo game. I thought it was kind of odd to even associate the gameplay with the series, that’s how different it is. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is up to the player.

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For starters, Halo 5 looks great. The assets from the previous games that have been reused in previous games have been completely redone, providing a much needed face lift for the franchise. According to my El Gato capture device the game runs natively (yes that’s a real term) around 900p and is up scaled to 1080p. This was planned by 343 in order to have a close to 60FPS so the shooting mechanics seemed as clean and smooth as possible when compared to how choppy Halo 4 was. However, the game is by no means a precise and surgical 60FPS that one can see in a title such as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the lowest my El Gato capture device ever read on the game was around 48 frames per second during larger scale battles. This honestly didn’t matter that much to me because I was surprised by the visual quality of the effects in the game. Also, the moment to moment shooting normally stays around 55-60 FPS, so you will notice when the drop occurs but it doesn’t take that much away from the quality of the game. I just would like for developers to stay true to their promises since 343 explained that the reason why they down scaled the resolution of the game was in order to have the game locked at 60 FPS, this game is not locked at 60 FPS.

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Back to the effects, Halo 5 sounds and looks great. 343 stepped away from the sepia tint that they used for Halo 4 and instead replaced it with a vibrant palette of colors. The mere amount of variety when it comes to the hue of the different primary colors used in this game made me pause at first because this is easily the best looking Halo game (and that is putting the fact that it is the newest iteration in the franchise aside). The sound design from gunshots to the sound of a Banshee exploding all sound genuine and honestly realistic. Each gun makes distinctive sounds which are varied enough and recognizable enough that players can tell what kind of weapon enemies are attacking them with before they even see the enemy. This is incredibly useful on harder difficulties since every bit of intelligence on your enemies can help you succeed in battle. I am just glad that 343 didn’t decide to lazily cut and paste sound bits from the same weapon and apply it to all guns that fire bullets or plasma.

Contrary to what the marketing behind this game might have informed you about the story of Halo 5: Guardians, is the fact that you hardly play as the series protagonist, The Master Chief, at all. In fact you only play as Chief and his friends from Blue Team only in 3 out of the 15 missions in the entire game. This angered me since earlier this year, 343 claimed that Halo 5 would follow two stories interwoven together. One following Master Chief and Blue Team, while the other follows Spartan Locke and Fireteam Osiris while they attempt to hunt down the former. To “Hunt For The Truth.” Instead players are given a campaign and plot twist reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid 2. In Metal Gear Solid 2, the game was marketed as the next stage in the protagonists story, Solid Snake, instead players realized that they were instead going to play as a new character, Raiden for the majority of the story. This game was marketed as the next title in Master Chief’s story yet I felt like this was more about Spartan Locke and his crew. I wouldn’t mind this if 343 actually attempted to flesh out the characters of Fireteam Osiris. Sure players are given short dossiers on each member of the team, but none of these facts or backgrounds are expresses successfully in the game.

The use and explanation for Blue Team, Master Chief’s long time friends and comrades is also set up and executed in the game with an incredibly sloppy approach. To the unaware players, Blue Team is the codename for the Master Chief and his fireteam. Originally comprising around sixteen Spartan IIs, Blue Teams roster was decreased due to the deaths of over half of its members before or during the Fall of Reach which takes place earlier in the series timeline. Blue Team, like all of the other Spartan II supersoldiers were kidnapped as children in order to be augmented and trained into the  most effective fighting force in the history of humankind. The relation ship between the Master Chief and the other three Spartans, Linda-058, Frederic-104, and Kelly-087 is reminiscent of a real brotherhood that one would find in real military units. Halo 5 does an absolutely atrocious job of attempting to flesh this dynamic out. There is literally one line said by Buck of Fireteam Osiris (voiced by Nathan Fillion) during level 4 of the campaign that explains to the unaware gamer that Blue Team has completed more operations than any other fireteam and that they are a family. That’s it, nothing else is mentioned in game to further explain the actually incredible dynamic between these characters.

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Multiplayer in Halo 5 has proved to me that old franchises can be successfully reinvented in order to appeal to a larger audience and to remain relevant to gamers. Halo 5 currently features two forms of multiplayer combat, Arena & Warzone. Arena is essentially the gamemodes a veteran player would expect to find in a Halo game. Gamemodes such as Slayer, Free for All, and my personal favorite SWAT are all under this category. They all have a new twist however, these gamemodes are limited to 4v4 and are incredibly fast paced. This is partially due to the fact that gameplay in Halo 5 is fast paced and constantly moving. These Arena gamemodes also have a new ranking system to them that is incredibly similar to that of MOBA games such as League of Legends & DOTA 2. I felt that this added a much needed competitive nature to the game and would make it appeal to more hardcore gamers. This was needed in my opinion because Halo typically has an incredibly low learning curve and normally lacks any need of skill at the surface. These new additions of jump jets and cambering along with dashes help raise the learning curve for this franchise in a well executed fashion. The other gamemode that I have been playing non stop is Warzone. Warzone at its core can be described as Titanfall mixed with Battlefield with a touch of MOBA elements. Warzone puts two teams against each other on a large map that supports close combat infantry engagements along with large scale vehicle combat. The two teams fight over control for 3 different points, typically two armories and a center stronghold. By controlling these points the teams gain points. The objective is to be the first team to reach 1,000 VP points. Simple enough right? Wrong. Along with worrying for the other team, players must also worry about incredibly strong Covenant or Promethean enemies that will spawn in at different locations at different times during the battle. If a team manages to kill one of the computer controlled opponents they will normally earn a large amount of VP points that will be added to their team’s total and will also more than  likely gain a powerful weapon from the now dead enemies inventory. These along with several other features that I will let players discover on their own adds some more complicated elements to the gamemode.

I found Halo 5 to be exponentially more enjoyable than Halo 4. That isn’t saying much though considering how much of a dumpster fire Halo 4 was. Halo 5’s new elements breath life into a struggling franchise and helped it become the best selling Halo game of all time. Whether this is due to the fact that it is the first exclusive shooter on the Xbox One or the fact that it is available to a much wider audience since it is rated T for Teens and not M is up to your interpretation and analysis. Halo 5 is by no means the best game in the series but it does succeed in reinventing itself but it also loses some of its original appealing factors by doing so. None the less Halo 5 is miles ahead of Call of Duty Black Ops 3 (Do not expect a review any time soon for that pitiful “game”) and proves to be an enjoyable experience when you put the flaws in the story aside.

Verdict: 8.8/10

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