Spanning my teen years until now, I have gone through a lot of covenant scum. I’ve done business with the cartographer, made my mark with the Arbiter, and blasted my way through Prometheans. Halo 5: Guardians continues down this epic and legendary path, welcoming you to pick up your Spartan armor and continue the fight. You will remember why you loved Halo before, and why you should be excited for its future. Top echelon storytelling, new gameplay mechanics, vast and beautiful landscapes, and a superbly designed multiplayer, has soared Halo 5: Guardians to my favorite in the series.
Picking up after the events of Halo 4, you begin Halo 5 by jumping into the boots of ONI Agent Jameson Locke and his Fireteam Osiris. You’re tasked to extract the creator of the infamous UNSC Spartan program, Dr. Halsey. At this same time Master Chief and his Spartan brethren, Blue Team, begin to embark on their own journey to recover their AI partner, Cortana. The only problem here is that Chief pursues this quest without any warning or consent from the UNSC. They are less than amused by Chiefs defiance. Upon Osiris’ return they are briefed on Blue Team’s rogue activities, and are sent to seek them out and recover them.
From here, the story opens and twists into what I believe is the biggest breath of fresh air the Halo series has seen to date. It can not be understated how amazing of a job 343 Industries did with the writing and implementation of plot in Halo 5. It felt new, engaging, thrilling, and full throttle at all times. You touch ground in unexplored environments, equipped with pristine weapons, fresh abilities, and new mechanics never before seen by players. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, excited and intrigued to see what unfolded next in this Chief/Locke clash.
343 Industries continues to successfully maintain the series high standard of buttery smooth controls and gunplay. Not only does Halo still feel great, it’s plays better than it ever did before. The controls are intuitive and modern, and refuel exactly what was lacking. The new mechanic of clambering up onto surfaces while sprinting or traversing the environment, is a more than welcomed feature. It adds fluidity and ease to maneuvering your Spartan in ways Halo never had previously.
Another defining ability is the Spartan thrust. Pressing B allows the player to boost forward in any desired direction. This is pivotal for close encounter firefights in single player and multiplayer alike, and gives the player more of a grasp of the fight at hand. A key feature that I absolutely love is the shift to ADS sighting. There used to be a weird adjustment when going from other modern shooters back to Halo. Clicking the sticks to zoom in felt archaic, and clumsy at times. Finally being able to just hit the left trigger for a zoomed in scope, puts Halo right in line with my favorite shooter control schemes.
Halo 5’s multiplayer is the best I have played since the original. No question. It’s fresh and exciting, with all new original modes, and time worthy customization. It’s the first time since Halo 1 where I find myself truly looking forward to jumping online with friends, and playing until my eyes grow heavy.
Warzone is one of the new gametypes that for the first time in a Halo multiplayer, bridges PvE and PvP all in one. Each match consists of 12 vs 12. Within the match you are given varied tasks to complete. You can control bases and armories, you can defeat bosses that fly in during the match, and of course, kill the opposing team traditional slayer style. Doing each task awards you points which cumulatively grant your team the win.
This is such a cool addition because sometimes it can feel like Halo multiplayer is only for the hardcore and competitive, making the barrier of entry difficult for the casual player. Not with Warzone. Every player can make a contribution to their Fireteam. Don’t care for competitive slayer? No problem aim for the bosses and earn points that way. Only like objective based playlists? No worries go for capturing the multiple points on the map. There is something for everyone in Warzone. It’s a sight for sore eyes to capture all the madness on screen during one of these savage matches. Now players of all types and skill sets can feel the same sense of comradery in one playlist.
Another new mode definitely worth highlighting is Breakout. Here your goal is to eliminate all players on the opposing team and capture their flag. There are no respawns in this mode though, leading to very strategic and intense moments. Also with there being no radar, Breakout opens the idea to carefully planned movement and stealth. This is a new play style Halo multiplayer hasn’t really seen. It reminds me of Gears of War elimination modes like Warzone and Execution, but blended with Halo’s signature capture the flag. It’s unique and a blast to play. Most of my time went into this playlist. It’s quick, with the first to 5 rounds wins, and extremely replayable. There is a certain joy of being the last left alive on your team and sneaking along the edge of the map, trying to make it to your base point for the victorious capture.
Completing multiplayer matches also awards you an in-game currency. This currency can be saved up and used to buy REQ packs. Opening these packs has a shot of granting you new skins, armor, emblems, and even perks. It’s an awesome idea thats breaks the “no reward, match after match repetition” mentality. I found it to be the hook that dove me into more hours of play. The more currency you have, the better packs you can buy. The better packs you buy, the better sweet, glorious loot you can nab.
In terms of visual presentation, Halo 5: Guardians is a powerhouse. I remember being a kid and pondering the day when video games will look just like real life. That time is now. The CGI work is flawless. The characters are photo realistic down to the strands of hair that sit over their ears. This game is a technical feat of next generation gaming and hardware.
Gameplay graphics I can honestly say are the best on the Xbox One to date. Extremely rich environments with fully detailed textures bring every moment to life. The lighting is the absolute best I have ever seen. Turning yourself slightly can catch the sun gleaming off of your gun and burst the screen with hues and particles of pure eye candy. The scale of the levels are massive, and full of nooks and crannies to explore for mission intel or skulls. The glow of the weapons as they fire can be mesmerizing. Each part completely detailed with scratches and battle worn marks. The armor and enemy animations are top notch. Nothing is more satisfying than watching a promethean burst into a firework display of yellow luminous particles. This is the way Halo is meant to be seen.
Sound and audio in Halo 5: Guardians is hands down the series best. The voice work is so well done that each scene and interaction feels like you’re a part of a movie. Gunfire sounds are thunderous and piercing, making my chest rattle through my headset. The sound of the clinking and clanking of your armor as you run, the dirt and rocks shuffling under your boots, are all so well engrossing to the experience. The in-game orchestration and classic Halo theme are memorable and perfect. Halo 5 is a game where you want the volume loud and the room noise low, let this game purr.
Halo 5: Guardians stands the tallest amongst it’s other series entries. 343 Industries exhibits they can take this coveted franchise to new heights, while still respecting it’s past. If there were questions about Xbox One having a killer app, Halo 5: Guardians is your answer.
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