Jumping into the Halo 5: Guardians campaign was something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. From the very first Halo: Combat Evolved when I played it on the PC, to Halo 4 and everything in between, I’ve always been a Halo enthusiast. I even have read several of the novels that went along with it. Between my personal history playing, the excitement and anticipation that 343 and Microsoft built around the game, I was incredibly eager to begin.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

Guardian

The hype train was set in motion very early for Halo 5: Guardians. All the way back at E3 of 2013 we were just given the hint of what was to come. At that time, we knew nothing about what was going to be going on within the story, just that some big winged Forerunner artifact was appearing before the Chief in a desert. As time went on, things were mostly quiet until E3 of 2014, where we got just a bit more of a taste with another trailer. Fast forward to early of 2015 and a promotional campaign began in March with “Hunt the Truth”. This weekly, episodic podcast followed a journalist as he was assigned by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) to do a history/origins story on the Master Chief for the entire United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and her colonies. What was initially started for a PR stunt evolved, and the listener was pulled through the real story of what happened to the Chief and how he began. This series ran until E3 2015, and even had a second season begin and lead up to the final release of Guardians in October.

All of this lead up, hype, marketing, etc should have made even the most skeptical fan put aside the failures of Halo: Master Chief Collection and it’s bugs. However, there was still a lot to be desired from Guardians. With a lackluster story told in very broken pieces, and a multilayer which will take some getting used to, it just wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be.

Campaign

Story mode of Halo is really what I love most about the series. Very few FPS games have a good story anymore. Call of Duty has become a 3 hour joke, Battlefield is better left unplayed, and even Destiny took two years to have any sort of story included in the single player aspect. So when I hopped into Halo for the first time, you can imagine my disappointment as I was constantly torn away from the different characters I was playing. The most jarring mechanic was switching between Blue Team with Master Chief John-117, Linda-058, Fred-104, and Kelly-087, and their counterpart Fireteam Osiris with Locke, Buck, Vale, and Tanaka. For a game about Master Chief, and having the core games follow his story, Guardians jumps back and forth between Osiris and Blue Team, actually giving more screen time to Osiris and follows their pursuit of Blue team due to the fact they they went rogue.

The Spartan-IV Locke was plucked from the ranks of ONI agents and upgraded to Spartan status as a volunteer. He is the leader of Fireteam Osiris, and is tasked with tracking down Blue Team who is pursuing Master Chief’s reported contact with his former (believed to be dead) AI Cortana. It was clear that 343 focused on attempting to breath life into a new batch of characters to continue the lineage, as we played as Locke for the vast majority of the missions, 12 out of 15 total. That only leaves 3 missions for Blue Team, and the development of Chief’s story about the pursuit of Cortana. For a game that is centered around Chief, this was very disappointing, and while I realize that there is more than just John-117 running around the universe, I was always more than happy to leave the other story for other games, and let Halo focus on him.

Mantis

So, with the focus being primarily on Locke and Osiris, I had hoped that they’d flush out his character and show us more about that team. Sadly, they did not. In fact, besides Locke, being the leader, and Buck because he’s voiced by none other than Nathan Fillion, I had to go back and look up the other two fireteam members since I forgot their name. Overall, the entire group is forgettable and completely underdevloped to use them as such a major story driver. Buck brings some humor to the situation, which is appreciated. On one hand, having a Spartan be so chatty and humorous seems strange, but then again he was ODST at first and moved into his Spartan role later, while the Spartan 2’s were kidnapped and molded from 6 years old to be the lethal machines they are now. Even Blue team was flat. Nothing was learned about Kelly, Fred, nor Linda. Ironically, the most developed character was Cortana, who we saw go from trusted companion in Halo 1 through Rampancy in Halo 4, and now to megalomania in this latest installment.

Other aspects which were a bit disappointing was the fact that some missions weren’t really missions, but just portions which saw Osiris running around an area talking to people. This could have easily been incorporated into another beautiful cut scene, of which there were many, or rolled into the other missions which wrapped them.

The final disappointment was the friendly AI and its lack of, well, intelligence. There is a cool new mechanic that has the entire four person fireteam running around together without having human players. They can run over to you and revive you when you go down, and sometimes you have to revive them. This will make Legendary runs a bit more manageable in solo play, so long as there are no enemies at all around you when you fall. If there are, the AI will rush to your aid, only to be killed themselves, thus starting a carnival of death until everyone is dead and you wipe. In addition to this, the driving of friendlies is still abysmal. I love to sit on the back of a Warthog and lay waste to enemies with the chain-gun, but its impossible when you’re run into, and sometimes up walls. I was literally looking vertical for two and a half minutes while the AI attempted to figure out which was way was up. (Hint, don’t let them drive, just do it yourself.)

Now, the entirety of Halo 5: Guardians was not a flop. In fact, it was only the story which had any flaws at all. In terms of graphics, audio, map design, and gameplay, I absolutely loved the game. These other parts really were beyond expectations, and at times I really was immersed into the action and felt the real experience I’m used to with Halo.

Chief_Cortana

Graphics lived up to, and broke expectations. From particle effects floating around, to the explosions, local fauna, and foliage on planets, and even the Forerunner worlds and their new little pieces which were introduced for Guardians were incredible. Everything started with the first cut scene where we find Fireteam Osiris jumping into a hot landing zone. Who needs a parachute when you’re a super soldier? Certainly not them, as they land and begin leaving a swath of death as they cascade down a snowy mountain eliminating Covenant forces, including Wraiths, Ghosts, and even Phantoms. The guns have a slightly new, more detailed look. Spartan Armor has more detail, including pot marks, dents, scratches, and paint chips. The glow put off by AI, environmental lights, and other sources of light reflect very well. The light cast from extra sources is mapped beautifully, and the faces of Spartans, Catherine Halsey, and everyone is done exceptionally well.

Audio is effective as well, with full surround effective in telling you exactly where enemies are. Metal boots on steel floors, Plasma Swords being pulled out, each has it’s own sound and is crisp and effective. In addition, music is done with high levels of quality as well.

WardenFight

Perhaps the biggest leap forward from other Halo installments is the gampelay. Slight new ways to do things including a new mantle mechanic, and a way to ground-slam, as well as a Spartan Charge make the top of the list. All these together made for an awe-inspiring myriad of possibilities when in combat. There were several times when I had a ton of enemies around me that I felt like a real Spartan, shooting, dashing and pounding the faces of my foes. Firepower was never lacking, as there were always plenty of great guns from all enemies. This helped me to always be at the ready for dishing out the damage, leaping and bashing my way to victory.

MULTIPLAYER

The real length of even Halo games is the Multiplayer. The best, most robust campaigns spanning even 40 hours can still be the shortest part of a well-developed game. This also, then, is where great care must be taken to ensure quality. 343 put out a Beta in December of ’14 into January of ’15. Obviously, several notes were taken as the Multiplayer in Halo 5 is well done. Once again, the strengths of single player shine through and continue the legacy of the game. Graphics, sound, and gameplay are solid. Movement feels good, audio is accurate, and graphics are as gorgeous as a Bacon Wrapped Bacon Sandwich.

Slayer – Team Death Match

The classic rises again in Halo with Slayer Arena taking the forefront. A new interesting aspect within Arena is a ranking system. In an attempt to better match player skill levels with each other, a 10 game trial run is required before getting into even matches with players. It is obvious that very little skill based matchmaking goes on prior to the ranked matches. Often times prior to receiving my placement, I’d have games where I’d either win or lose by 30 kills. Winning with those odds isn’t fun, nor is losing when you are powerless against the enemy team. Once ranked, it improved a bit, but is still largely unbalanced.

Other than that, the typical match modes are present. Free for all, Team Slayer, Capture the Flag, and SWAT. The only new mode is “Breakout”, a single life elimination mode. Each of these is more of the same, but in a good way. What worked for Halos in the past, works now. The biggest positive is that the Magnum finally feels like a good gun. It feels and sounds like the original, but isn’t QUITE as broken. It is still easy to get headshots with it, but isn’t the mini-sniper rifle of the original game. Capture the Flag is interesting, but the maps are really quite small. No, I don’t want to run the length of Blood Gulch to return the flag, but give me a decent arena that isn’t a circle. Of all, this is most likely the weakest link.

Warzone

Warzone

New to Halo 5: Guardians is “Warzone”, a large multiplayer zone similar to Big Team Battle of the past, but now with objectives and VIP targets to take out. This mode is centered all around teamwork. This is a great positive, but is also a great annoyance. Joining the game mode with just random people relies purely on luck to try to get people to focus on objectives and killing the VIPs which earn VP, Victory Points. You need 1000 VP to win, and each enemy player killed is only worth 1 points. VIPs, however, are work anywhere from 25 to 250 VP. This means that a well-coordinated group can easily triumph over smaller groups, and especially over groups of all random people. My hope is that there is a very smart matchmaking algorithm that only pits large groups with other groups, so things aren’t completely one sided.

Warzone also introduces a slight annoyance of microtransactions, but these are not required at all. Playing over time will achieve the same things as purchasing REQ packs, which unlock bigger and better guns for use in the game mode. If you are impatient, and liberal with your wallet you can purchase a large group of packs. As the guns unlocked via REQ packs are limited, it introduces a measure of caution you must take in order to get the most use of them. For example, it would be unwise to pull out a Scorpion tank with only 50 points left to finish the game.

Overall, Halo 5: Guardians is a fun installment. While no where near the best, it lies with Halo 2 for fun and story quality. Multiplier feels right in line with Halo 4, and is robust enough to keep it relevant util the trilogy’s conclusion in the future.

Halo 5: Guardians Review
Gameplay9
Graphics10
Sound9
Re-Playability5
Story5
The Good
  • Fun Gameplay
  • Beautiful Graphics
  • Solid Multiplayer
The Bad
  • Forgettable story
  • Weak Characters
  • Unbalanced (In current state)
7.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
7.9

About The Author

Bobby C
Director, Editorial/Reviews

Bobby C is a veteran FPS and adventure gamer, starting with the NES and Super Mario Bros. The game that really started his love for the FPS Genre was Goldeneye for the N64. Since then, the love grew. From casual, to semi-pro COD with Modern Warfare 2 and 3, and back to casual, it’s a bad week when there isn’t at least 15 hours of games played.