As a die hard Xbox fan, one who has owned each console since the very first original black box way back in 2003, steadfastly refusing to play on any format since, you’d think I should be down with everything that the Halo universe throws at us. Whilst I’ve played each and every title that has been treated to the glorious name – yes, I’ve even played that good old Spartan Assault, I couldn’t possibly begin to tell you the backstory to the Xbox’s most famous franchise. Shoot me for admitting that I am really not too bothered about Master Chief, Spartan Locke, Cortana and co – all I want is a decent playthrough and the chance to go hands on with some of the best multiplayer modes that Xbox Live has ever seen.
And those are two things you’ll be getting in spades with Halo 5: Guardians. The biggest, baddest, bonkerest but by far the bestest Halo yet!
The Chief is back, but this time the story takes more than just a little bit of distortion, so much of a twist in fact that we are constantly flip flopping between two unique paths; one in which sees Master Chief go out in search of Cortana, attempting to rescue her before corruption turns her against Chief forever more and then that of Jameson Locke in his quest to hunt down the absent without leave Chief.
You will therefore get to play as both the iconic Blue team and the lesser known mortals that make up Osiris. Both seen through a first person perspective, the whole story that is in place works reasonably well, criss crossing numerous times in the 15 missions that are in place. I say 15, but at least three of those are nothing more than fillers that see little action taking place, foregoing the explosions and devastation that normally accompanies Master Chief for a somewhat more serene story telling period.
Going into battle with a team of AI soldiers alongside you, you needn’t worry too much should things start to go slightly wrong. Get battered a bit too much by the enemy forces and you’ll need to request the help of your AI friends in order to get you back up and battle ready. Strangely, none of your three colleagues even hesitate for a second should they see you down on the floor, life draining from your body ever so slowly. In fact, even if you’re surrounded by a number of bad guys, all armed to the teeth, that good old AI friend will be more than happy to stand around reviving you as much as possible. It’s a little strange to watch, especially knowing that should it be you spending the healing points, you’d be shot down in an instance. Perhaps the only way to compensate for this is to play through the campaign on Legendary. C’mon, that’s all you really wanna do isn’t it?
All the usual weapons, vehicles and enemies that we’ve come to know and love over the last ten years or so are in place, just this time all hit with a visual quality like nothing ever seen in a Halo game. Jumping into a Scorpion tank with a few buddies, or zipping around on a Ghost by yourself never gets old and I’m glad that the options to run and gun, or hop aboard a lethal combat machine are all in place…even if it does take a fair while before we get to go hands on with the big guns and most fun vehicles.
The visuals are obviously of a high quality, but I’m not sure they are the best we’ve seen on this generation of consoles. In fact, playing it prior to checking out the latest Call of Duty title will highlight a few slack moments in the graphical stakes. For the most part the campaign has been well realised, so I’m not sure why certain aspects have been unloved, but it is all fluid with not an ounce of lag, stutter or other problems that gamers love to pick up on.
Everything you do in the solo campaign can be replicated with up to three of your favourite friends. Online only (yep, I’m afraid there is no split screen couch co-op in Guardians), the campaign plays out exactly the same as it would if you were to take on the Covenant alone. Just this time you can forget about relying on the skills of your AI team, instead hoping and praying that those on your friends list will be good enough to help drag you through.
And then we have the multiplayer modes; the modes that really set Halo 5 up and above anything else we’ve seen on Xbox One. Split into two main areas, Warzone and Arena, if you’re a solo player just looking to blast your way through half an hour of intense run and gunning, or a squad player looking to help improve your clan, there is quite easily something for everybody.
Warzone is the spot you’ll need to hit if you are after some massive 24 player battles. Taking on not only the opposing team, but also a whole ton of Covenant, Forerunners and Wardens; the maps are huge and it’s a fight to the death with the first team to hit a set score turning out triumphant. Points are scored with each kill, with additional points going to the team which finally dispatches the slowly introduced AI bosses. If you’d prefer to focus more on taking down the enemy bases instead of picking off the Spartans one by one, then working together is essential and communication is key. Without that, you’ll fail more often than not. Something I’ve found out to devastating effect.
Which, to be honest is much the way things seem to go with the other multiplayer section housed in Guardians. Arena gives you the chance to experience something a bit closer to the usual Halo multiplayer mashups we’ve come to know and love. Filled with the deathmatch obsessed Slayer, classic Capture the Flag and the rather awesome King of the Hill style Strongholds, Arena will keep you busy for many hours. My own personal favourite, the slower paced, strategic affair that is Breakout is also present, seeing your team of four jump into action with just the one life each, sneaking your way around a small map. You have two choices; go for that flag and get it into your opponent’s base, or pick off the opposing team, one by one. It’s a superb addition to the, somewhat frantic, madness that accompanies the other game modes and although I’m guessing it won’t be for the hardcore Halo players, for someone who is a bit averse to the quick pace that usually accompanies first person shooters, it’s a joy to participate in.
Even if you prefer to sit around in a custom game, the 15 maps currently on offer, inclusion of various other game modes that seem to be added to the playlists at a considerable rate and an absolute ton of setting amendments, player traits and weapon adjustments will ensure that you’ll find plenty to get involved with on Halo 5. If you can’t, then I’m afraid you must be the one with the issues as the sheer amount of delicacies on the menu mean that even the most fussy of FPS eaters will find something to tingle their taste buds.
If you’re bothered about rank, then you’ll need to get busy with each and every mode that Arena is comprised of, as without a minimum of ten matches played on each mode, you’ll find 343 Industries don’t even want to acknowledge your achievements. A good call? I’m not too sure as I’d like to start comparing myself from the get-go.
With everything you do in Halo 5 multiplayer being logged and converted into Requisition points, there is a whole new reason to continue playing Guardians well into the future, especially the Warzone side of things. These points can be traded for REQ packs, bringing you a ton of new weapons, vehicles and special power ups whenever you take to the battlefield. You won’t necessarily be able to rely on the big guns from the off though, as Halo 5 only allows higher ranked REQ items to be thrown into the field whenever the accumulated points are high enough, but should you manage to do so, will find that they can be real game changers. It’s a darn good idea to limit these power weapons and upgrades to specific times in the multiplayer, otherwise those with bank balances fit for a king (or indeed the kids who have access to a parent’s credit card), would immediately be ruling the roost in the multiplayer affairs. Credit to 343 for firstly introducing them and then holding them back somewhat.
Collectors will love the REQ system, whilst those just interested in going into battle will find it deep enough to allow them to change the battlefield at the most opportune moments, saving their team – or indeed themselves, when all hope seems lost.
So surely there must be something I don’t like about Halo 5: Guardians? Well, aside from a couple of graphical issues – ones that occasionally make Chief and Locke’s journeys look like something out of the last generation, it would have been nice to see a split-screen co-operative option…possibly even allowing a couple of like minded sofa buddies the chance to jump into a Slayer match, or take on the world with a few rounds of Warzone. If it meant adjusting the visuals slightly to accommodate, then I for one would have been happy to see it. But is that omission a real game killer? Not in the slightest.
In fact, Halo 5: Guardians is so good, that even I, self-confessed Halo disregarder and first person shooter hater, have found a huge amount of enjoyment from what it offers. Especially the online multiplayer modes.
This one could just appeal to a whole ton of new gamers!