The time has come to talk about the latest installment in the legendary series Halo. The franchise has been around as long as the Xbox itself, and with Halo 5 Guardians, many folks have been wondering what this new element of co-op would do to the campaign’s experience and while it’s certainly a change of perspective, 343 Industries has managed an excellent campaign and seemingly fantastic online experience.
The biggest question I had coming into Halo 5 Guardians was how would the element of co-op and the emerging presence of Spartan Locke change the campaign experience, which historically has been a single-player focused mode. Now that I’ve had the chance to spend a lengthy amount of time with the game’s campaign, it’s now hard to imagine the campaign without co-op.
Co-op hasn’t just changed things from a fundamental standpoint, it has altered the way Halo levels have been designed and how gamers must strategize in order to succeed. Every level in the game’s campaign was designed with striking verticality, and it is in this verticality where I found the level of replayability to be a joy. Going through the campaign is one thing, but stepping into it again, and on a different difficulty, gave me a great challenge in approaching each objective.
AI difficulty varies wonderfully from playing the game on Normal compared to Heroic or Legendary. I found an increased level of importance in assigning my companion AI to calculated points on any given map, and this helped me take down a more difficult foe, such as a slew of Warden Eternals. The same wisdom is needed when playing with other gamers because your strategy and communication are essential as you progress through the later chapters of Halo 5 Guardians.
While I wouldn’t recommend allowing your AI companions to drive often, I thought they did a great job of having a real presence, outside of just being there. They made a tangible impact on each mission, though the majority of the work was still done by me. I appreciate the fact that the AI weren’t just token characters, who wandered through the campaign mindlessly. Their presence made me think differently about taking risks.
When trying to push forward against waves of enemies, I had to think carefully about where I struck and how deep into the fight to go. For example, if I ended up too far in and couldn’t survive the surrounding enemies, that put me and my fireteam at a great disadvantage. Calling for revival assistance was essentially a death sentence for my teammates, so this forced me to reconsider my approach both when I played with AI and when I played with other gamers.
Another question I had coming into the campaign was how much of a role Master Chief would actually play in this game. The emergence of Spartan Locke has given me a great chance to see a different side of Halo, as well as take away different perspectives on characters like Locke, Chief and Cortana. I do believe when looking at the greater whole, Halo is better off with Locke having as strong of a role as he did in Halo 5 Guardians.
That said, I was a bit disappointed with how much or little I was able to play as Master Chief. For the context of the story, the amount of Chief gameplay correlates and makes sense, however, it’s a Halo game and Chief is one of my biggest motivations for picking up each new iteration. The narrative required the campaign I experienced, however I did want to see more of me as Master Chief.
Speaking of Chief, it’ll be interesting to hear people’s reactions to the co-op component of the campaign because of the fact that all four people can’t all play as Master Chief. That is one of the catches of Halo, playing as Master Chief, so I’m interested to see how the de-emphasis of him in the campaign, and the fact that gamers will need to assume the role of other characters when playing co-op will impact people’s perspectives.
I found the story itself to be a wonderfully entertaining and thrilling narrative, with twists and turns that all kept my interest from start to finish. The evolution of relationships has been fascinating to watch unfold and the narrative of Halo 5 Guardians makes significantly definitive steps in pushing them forward even more. While I can’t divulge specifics, the narrative leaves Chief, Locke, Cortana and others in positions that will change the world of Halo forever, however I did find the game’s ending to be a bit too abrupt for my liking.
Halo 5 Guardians soundtrack, which was composed by Kazuma Jinnouch, is absolutely fantastic and provided marvelous auditory context to cutscenes and gameplay alike. The ability for music to help characterize a turning point or significant moment in the story is incredible to witness firsthand. Whether you’re in combat, exploring parts of the world for intel or skulls, or enjoying one of the gorgeous cinematics play out, the game’s soundtrack proves to be stupendous.
From the time I had with the game’s multiplayer, I’ve been struck by a few things that have led me to believe Halo 5 Guardians multiplayer experience is essential. First, when I look at Warzone versus Arena, I see it as a starting point for those becoming more familiar with Halo‘s multiplayer and the mode for gamers of a higher expertise to jump right into.
I always saw Warzone as the most accessible mode in Halo 5 Guardians, which is funny to say considering there can be up to 24 players in a match and more times than not matches result in beautiful chaos. I believe it’s because of the quantity that gamers who are trying to become more familiar with Halo’s multiplayer and want to work up to a higher skill should probably start here. It’s true that the skill-based matchmaking will also assist in that as well.
Arena is certainly the land where gamers who are more skilled and want a more intimate experience should go. Levels have been magnificently crafted with subtle intricacy and nuance, all there for the taking once you become more familiar with each map. Level design is varied, diverse and has the makings of an experience that will keep players coming back.
Req packs are items that I was able to purchase with points I earned and they provided me with things like legendary armor, weapons and experience point boosts. These packs are three tiered: Gold, Silver and Bronze. I loved the conflictedness I had when trying to decide which sort of pack to unlock because more times than not the Gold Req Packs yielded excellent items, though it takes a good amount of playing to earn enough points for unlocking them.
It remains to be seen how matchmaking ultimately influences the experience, good or bad, though my initial hunch is that it will largely benefit the multiplayer experience. Multiplayer has seen a stable and fantastic launch thus far, and as a result, we are considering our full review as final.
It’s always hard for fans when a new studio takes over an existing, legendary series like Halo, but 343 Industries has done a masterful job of living up to what Halo has been, while progressing it further in their own vision. Halo 5 Guardians is a beautiful, challenging and entertaining step forward for the series both on the multiplayer and campaign front, even despite the decreased role of Master Chief. Trust in 343 Industries, Halo fans.
- Excellent Level Design & Narrative
- Co-op campaign
- De-emphasis of Chief
- Story’s ending
Microsoft provided atombash.com with an Xbox One code of Halo 5 Guardians for the purposes of this review.