Game design company 343 Studios continues to up the first person ante with their latest installment of the Halo game series, Halo 5: Guardians. No Halo 5 video game review would be complete without the requisite comparison between 343 and Bungie. Hands down, 343 knocked it out of the park. All of the elements that Bungie so painstakingly nurtured through early Halo releases can be found in Halo 5 along with other great improvements. Although the main story may be a bit hard to follow for those without serious knowledge of the Halo mythos, all will come to a firm understanding by the satisfying conclusion.
While some may argue that the Halo story defines the series, solid gameplay with tight, responsive controls wins the day for Halo 5. The addition of squad mechanics was a bold move by 343 to expand on Halo’s traditional FPS gaming. Co-op squads in Halo 5 provide players with a rich multiplayer experience that rewards real tactical play. The ability to revive fallen teammates can shift the tide of battle in the player’s favor. The only real drawback to the squad mechanic is the often poor artificial intelligence of computer controlled squad members. Simply put, the game is best enjoyed with a squad of real human friends. I’m hoping future patches will improve AI, but for those who picked up early copies, it may be best to play the campaign online.
Without revealing any key plot points, the Halo 5’s story is nothing short of epic. Told from two distinctly different perspectives, Master Chief’s Blue Team and Jameson Locke’s Team Osiris, the narrative unfolds rapidly moving the story through a myriad of unique locations all across the universe. While Master Chief chases an enigmatic vision, Locke’s Team is embroiled in an exciting chase to find Master Chief himeself (lost you yet?).
Depending on the difficulty level chosen to play the campaign, Halo 5 has about 20 hours of engaging gameplay.
Halo 5: Guardians truly shines, as Halo always does, in its multiplayer experience. The tight controls and solid gameplay remain true to the franchise, but there are plenty of new additions that freshen up the FPS standard and push the envelope.
In the “Warzone” game mode, 12-player teams attempt to control zones while also dealing with waves of AI enemies and bosses. This merger of player vs. player and player vs. environment provides an exciting and satisfying gaming experience. More traditional modes of play exist, but the inclusion of new movement styles, like the jet-boost evade and jump and grab, speed and transform the games into an experience that feels dynamic and new. No elements of the matchmaking snafu that came with The Master Chief Collection appear to be rearing their ugly heads. 343 clearly worked out all of their back-end issues ahead of Halo 5’s release.
As the first new Halo release on the next-generation console, Halo 5 took their graphics and animation to the next level in the improved quality console’s computer processor playground. Sharp 1080p HD artwork and rendering offer a veritable feast for the eyes with level after level of varying landscapes to explore. Although still a cut above most games available on the market, the musical score accompanying Halo 5 was a little less powerful and memorable than previous iterations of the game.
Despite the game’s minor shortcomings, Halo 5 stands out as one of 2015’s best games. The graphics, gameplay, storyline, and fun factor all rise to the expectations of Halo enthusiasts.