In case you were somehow immune to Microsoft’s marketing, Halo 5: Guardians recently released, marking 343 Industries’ second entry into the Halo series.
Being a longtime fan of the previous, I decided to pick up a copy. After waiting for a hefty nine gigabyte update, I jumped straight into campaign.
Halo 5’s campaign was marketed as being the deepest, most expansive in the series.
It was supposed to feature new characters, a duo-tagonist system where the player gets to enjoy the story through both the eyes of Master Chief and the newly introduced Locke, and the most engaging gameplay of any Halo title to date, all at a stunning 60 frames per second.
As it turns out, 343 Industries enjoys celebrating April Fools Day year round because the campaign was anything but what they promised.
The new characters lack, well… character. Most of the characters’ dialogue is strictly exposition, as if the whole purpose of them being present was to explain why they are present.
There are maybe one or two instances when the characters have anything interesting to say but the rest just sounds like bad fanfiction.
Halo 5’s advertising built the story up to be some manhunt for a rogue super soldier, as if the master chief had suddenly turned traitor.
In the actual game, Master Chief is only a couple of missions, spanning maybe a few days at most. On top of that, the scene where he “goes rogue,” consists of him saying he’s going to check something out really quick and be right back.
It seemed like an overreaction to declare him dead, make up a false story about how the hero of the galaxy was killed, spread that story across all of known space, and assemble a team to hunt him down.
The actual gameplay of the campaign isn’t much better. They advertised the 60 frames per second as if it would revolutionize the game, but I didn’t really notice the change from 30 frames per second. Considering that they dropped co-op gameplay (something the Halo series is known for) and a lot of graphical fidelity to acquire this, I’d call it a tremendous loss.
The levels looked interesting but lacked any replay ability. The friendly AI, designed to help out and revive you when you need it was so dumb it hurt. More often than not the AI would get stuck trying to figure out the best way to walk around a boulder.
There were very few interesting encounters. The largest “boss” battle was a gigantic, menacing machine that looked like a cross between a reaper from Mass Effect and one of those tripods from “War of The Worlds.”
Sadly, just as I was getting excited to fight this monster of an enemy, I found out it had one very obvious weakness and it was nothing but rubble in under a minute.
This type of experience is a trend in Halo 5: build something up, make it look interesting, then throw it away as quickly as possible. Halo 5’s campaign can best be described as a chocolate Easter Bunny filled with lint. On the outside it looks like a lot of fun and you can’t wait to get your hands on it, but after one bite a wave of regret washes over you.
The outside still isn’t bad, but you’ll never get that taste out of your mouth.
While the campaign may leave a lot to be desired, the multiplayer is actually quite good.
The new 24 player mode called “Warzone” is large scale Halo chaos which only escalates the further into the match you are.
The beginning of a match consists of entire teams engaging each other with regular assault rifles and pistols. By the end all the stops have been pulled out and the game becomes a wonderful mixture of heavy ordnance and guerrilla warfare.
The addition of REQ packs makes Warzone all the more engaging, as players can earn one-time-use cards which can be used in game to spawn vehicles, weapons or power ups.
Each item is given a different tier based on how powerful it is, and as the game progresses, players are allowed to use increasingly powerful tiers. This prevents players from spawning something like a tank at the start of a game.
My experience with the classic multiplayer was also incredibly fun, for as long as it lasted.
My first game of the classic multiplayer (called “arena”) was far more engaging than I was expecting. My team was winning, I had the second most points, and all was going well. That is, until I threw one of the new grenades.
The function of this grenade is to explode once, then explode again if anyone walks where it was thrown. Five seconds after I threw it, an unsuspecting teammate rounded the corner and met an explosive demise.
I didn’t think much of it, after all, it was an explosive, it happens. A few minutes passed and I found myself in a firefight with another enemy player. I threw another grenade, this time sticking him right in the chest, when he ran up to my teammate and caught him in the explosion.
Immediately and without warning I was kicked from the game for being a team killer.
Once this happened, I started to have concerns. I hate being betrayed as much as the next guy, but such a strict system means it could be very hard for somebody who is just starting to learn how to play.
Furthermore, why put extremely powerful explosive weaponry on a very small map? Considering the cost of betraying a teammate, why not just disable friendly fire?
With these questions in my head I decided it was worth a second shot, so I started up another game.
This time I was extra careful not to disgruntle the easily agitated automated ban hammer.
I kept my grenades to myself and ended up making it all the way to the end of the game. As the screen displayed the “Defeat” message and the game wrapped up, I was suddenly disconnected from the match.
Games often have these problems right after launch, so it wasn’t a huge deal. The ban hammer overlord disagreed with me, and I was immediately slapped with a ban lasting three hours.
Thus ended my exploration of Halo 5: Guardians.
In summation, the campaign was a disappointing mess, the lack of split screen leaves a large portion of the Halo audience abandoned, the sacrifices to ensure 60 frames per second are more noticeable than the payoff, and the only multiplayer modes that don’t seem to want to ban you on a moment’s notice are Warzone and free-for-all.
Honestly, the multiplayer gameplay by itself is actually pretty great and the game might even be worth buying solely for it, but that’s like saying a house fire is pretty good as long as you just want to roast marshmallows.