Halo 5: Guardians is the latest entry in the Halo series and the first to be developed with the Xbox One as the target platform.
If you’ve played a Halo game before you’ll feel right at home with this one. That’s not to say that nothing new has been added, just that this is more of a refinement than a completely new experience. The game runs entirely at 60fps which controls great but unfortunately means there is no split-screen multiplayer here and also results in the game being far from a graphical showcase for the system. That’s not to say that the game is ugly by any means, it is still by far the best looking Halo game ever made, it is just that there are times when it is obvious that the decision to run at 60fps resulted in some less than stellar graphics.
New to this entry are the ability to climb up edges as well as a short-lived jet pack that lets you quickly maneuver around (think Titanfall). You can also launch yourself at enemies from above, smashing into them, or use the same ability to break through walls, doors, etc. to unlock new paths. Also every gun now has at least some form of a scope via the new ‘smart scopes’ system.
Much has already been written on the plot of the game and how it failed to live up to the expectations set by the marketing campaign (for people who missed it the game was marketed heavily as a ‘Master Chief’ goes rogue story which really doesn’t materialize in the game). Additionally only playing as Master Chief for a very small subset of the game’s missions is pretty disappointing. Yet while these criticisms are certainly valid they should not be what defines this game. For me the fact that Halo is held up in such high regard and failed to live up to this standard does little to change the fact that it is still a really good game. It would be a shame for people to skip this entry just because they heard the plot was bad as they would be missing out on a genuinely fun campaign experience.
Still it must be said that the multiplayer is where Halo 5 really shines. This is without a doubt the best multiplayer experience in any Halo game. There are two main modes: Arena and Warzone. Arena is your classic Halo experience: fair rules, familiar game modes, etc. but everything about playing this feels better than ever. The weapons are extremely well balanced, I’ve never felt that I lost a confrontation because I had a crappy gun, and all matches are quickly setup and hosted on dedicated servers.
Warzone on the other hand is a big team based game where you fight to earn points by controlling bases, eliminating enemies, etc. Like Arena this mode is also hosted on dedicated servers but unlike Arena it makes use of this fact to throw A.I. controlled enemies into the mix as well.
At the end of each match you are rewarded with REQ (short for requisition) points based on you and your team’s performance as well as any boosts you had applied. These REQ points can be used to purchase in-game REQ packs that contain a random selection of REQ cards. The REQ cards either contain one time use items and vehicles that you can use in Warzone or simply unlock new cosmetic items (armour, weapon skins, assassination animations, etc.). All-in-all it is a very addictive system.
And yes it is true that you can buy REQ packs with real money and while I’m not one for micro-transactions in games, the way it is implemented here actually sort of works. You can’t use REQ cards in Arena mode so that remains a pure Halo experience. You also can’t constantly spawn with awesome weapons and vehicles in Warzone because you must first earn your REQ points in the match and then there is a cool down time after you spend them. This really helps to balance things out while still making it fun to play.
Halo 5 is certainly worth picking up and playing through. If you are at all interested in Halo multiplayer then you are in for a treat.