Note: I would like to start off by saying that there are no spoilers about the story within this review. I have split the review into two parts: Campaign and Multiplayer. I hope you enjoy it.
It's very hard to maintain a franchise. It takes a lot of work and dedication to in order to prove that your title is worth money and time. After some time you wonder if what you are producing can continue to stand on it's own. As games evolve over time, and new standards are put into place, it becomes harder for an old franchise to stay relevant. You figure after 14 years, Master Chief and Halo wouldn't be as big but Microsoft and 343 Industries refuse to let this legend die. Halo 5 is the Chief's most emotional adventure yet, and once again he shares that journey with another character: Spartan Locke. Of course a story isn't the only core aspect of the series, as Halo 5 has a lot to prove on the multi-player front. In a world dominated by other contending franchises, Halo 5 has a lot to prove to a rather huge and split community. Does the multiplayer live up to the Halo name? Does the story pack any punches? Is it worth $60? You'll find out.
In Halo 5, you are quickly introduced to Spartan Locke, a character established several years ago into the Halo mythos. His presence became important in the updated Halo 2 game released in the Halo: Master Chief Collection. Locke is a character who is on a mission to hunt down Master Chief, a very weighing task on a very fresh character. He is new, but also very emotionally thin. He lacks depth, and seems to only keep his mind on the mission at hand. Locke has very little room for nonsense. Locke isn't a complete tool for the Navy, but an essential key that would help spread the knowledge of the return of the Forerunners. My biggest concern with Locke is if they have any intention of keeping him as a core character in any future Halo titles.
Master Chief takes a back seat in this adventure, and it's more drastic than any game with the Chief in it. During the 15-mission campaign, Locke takes the helm with being the main playable character for a majority of the missions. Almost 9 or 10 to be exact. With the split of missions, it seems that Locke has longer levels, packed with more story and a lot of combat. Master Chief on the other hand, has fewer missions, but the quality of the missions seem to be more gripping and exciting. The story in this case can't exactly exist from just a single angle.
Playing as Locke was a reminder that the entire galaxy wasn't aware of the return of the Forerunners, and how this effects the overall galaxy, while Chief deals with a more personal vendetta. Of course both Locke and Chief aren't alone in this adventure. Locke is backed with the rest of Team Osiris for support. Buck from Halo: ODST returns, while vale and Tanaka as fairly new characters.
Master Chief is assisted by the rest of Blue Team, who consist of Frederic, Kelly, and Linda; characters in previous Halo stories. This dual team based gameplay makes playing with these fireteams interesting. You can do basic commands as you play through the game, issuing where you would like your teammates to be, and what enemies need to be taken down quickly. They are good for drawing fire away from you and causing distractions as you take down enemies from behind. Most importantly, they are able to heal you instead of dying giving you additional chances to continue on. Of course the same goes for them. So you can't just blindly send the rest of your team ahead, you need to be with them. To top it all off, when playing co-op, friends control the other characters instead of being dropped in as multiple Chiefs or Locke's
Having a squad isn't the only change introduced to the series. As a newly found tradition from Halo 4, sprint is readily available at all times. You can also use a thrust ability to quickly move out of the way of grenades or duck for cover when needed. You also have an airstomp ability, and a shoulder charge ability. The biggest of changes for me is the ability to finally aim down sights (ADS). This ability allows you to get a better view of your opponent. This is the first time that Halo implemented this feature which has been a core component of most modern shooters. ADS has it's own drawback, once you are hit you are instantly taken out of ADS mode, which is frustrating at times but still remains to be a huge improvement. These abilities will come into play more when you dive into multi-player.
Halo has been known in the past to deliver top notch console based shooter action on a multiplayer front. It was so important that Xbox Live was originally built with the Halo 2 online community in mind. While games like Call of Duty and Battlefield remain to be the current children of first person shooters; Halo is the father of these games, and it looks like Dad might have learned some new tricks.
Halo 5 delivers the same top notch quality that isn't present in Halo 4 or the Master Chief Collection. What I mean by that is that the multiplayer doesn't seem to be plagued by the constant issues that both games had. Halo 4 was trying too hard to be like Call of Duty and seemed to be a rather big mess that didn't feel like Halo. Master Chief Collection was riddled with networking issues and bugs so devastating that it seems like Microsoft just gave up on the game as a whole. Halo 5's multiplayer makes it abundantly clear that they found their niche. 343 Industries found a way to keep multiplayer fresh without having to go completely overboard or attempt to be too much like the plight of more modern shooters.
Multiplayer has been split into two core modes: Arena and Warzone.
Arena is a core list of 4vs4 game types, featuring smaller maps and more aggressive close quarters gameplay. Warzone is larger, objective, big team battles where a lot of situations are happening all at once.
If you played Halo before, then you know what exactly to expect when it comes to Arena. But in this game, Warzone is what really stands out. In Warzone, you are tasked with taking over positions on maps and defending them from the other team. While that is happening; AI controlled enemies will randomly appear on the map and if you take them out you gain your team some bonus points. The battles are longer, take up a ton of time, but are very rewarding. To be honest, the new mode is fun. It's a great new version of big team battle, and other massive first person shooters can learn from a fresh game variant like this one.
There is also a whole new system called the REQ system, which can be better explained in this video, voiced by Parks and Recreation star: Nick Offerman.
As we speak, the multiplayer portion of the game will continue to receive free maps in the future. This comes at the cost of the microtransactions (these were detailed in the video above). Having some free maps in the future is a great idea, because the game doesn't ship with that many to boot. Warzone has only about 3 maps, while I have only played about 4 or 5 maps in Arena mode. In December, Forge will open up for all to use, which will give us an even greater number of user generated maps to play around on.
All in all, I give Halo 5 an 8.5 out of 10. Even though the game is wonderful and has done a great job giving Halo a breath of fresh air that it needed, I can't help but wonder how some of the the other flaws got through. Checkpoints are still kinda odd, the REQ system caters to some of the best players around opposed to less skilled players, and there seems to be less game modes than any previous Halo title out there. Most of all, the campaign didn't feel as epic as the commercials made it look. Does this work against 343? Most likely not, since most Xbox One players will end up getting this game either on launch or for holiday gifts. But to release a multiplayer-centric game with less content than the games in the past just seems like a missed opportunity. The lack of split-screen seems like a loss for some other players out there. The main question for 343 Industries: How many gamers will come back and play this after other major holiday releases come out? How much future content is planned? Will Microsoft win players back who have gone off to play other modern titles? I don't expect these questions to be answered right now, and only time will tell with due time. I hope that 343 Industries can do their best to keep everyone interested in this new, and fantastic iteration of Halo. Besides the wonderful graphics and amazing sound; this game has soul, and I'm happy that Microsoft is giving it the love that it deserves.
Halo 5: Guardians was purchased by me. Campaign was completed on normal difficulty. Multiplayer was played up to level 8, where I completed several Warzone and Arena game-types.