From the moment the game drops you into a cinematic opening as bombastic and bold as any Hollywood blockbuster, it is clear Halo 5 is holding nothing back, what follows is a review of a game that I had doubts about, from a franchise that I have played virtually every iteration of. But our Halo 5 Guardians Campaign Review is more than me and my thought, my own co-op, fireteam member, Rossco, is also reviewing the game!
Rossco is giving his thoughts on Halo 5’s campaign from the perspective of someone coming into the series now and how it works for him.
Personally though, I have set a high bar for both Halo 5 and 343, a bar based on years of replay value, a clear and concise idea of what I want from a Halo game, and a bar based on my few minor frustrations with Halo 4.
Can Halo 5 deliver, will 343 finally launch a universe that is their own, yet truthful to the one they inherited from Bungie? Very minor spoilers ahead, but nothing you probably don’t already know.
Green Light to Deploy
The game is based after the events of Halo 4, Spartan Ops and Nightfall, so to sum up the plot loosely leading into the game: The covenant and the Arbiter led elites are at war, tearing themselves apart from within, the Arbiter has sided with humanity and the Covenant have now lost the backing of the Prometheans.
Deployed to retrieve Dr. Halsey from the covenant, Locke and Osiris must fight through the waves of enemies, both living and created.
Meanwhile Master Chief and Blue II are deployed to retrieve Argent Moon and it’s sensitive information from potentially falling into covenant hands.
It is a this time that Cortana, thought destroyed during the Didact’s attack on earth, reaches out to Chief, and he and his team go A.W.O.L. to find her.
Locke and his team are the redeployed to hunt down Chief and uncover his reasons for going A.W.O.L.
Neal: So, double backing a moment, and putting the story aside so as not to risk any major spoilers I wanted to talk a fair bit about the look, feel and build of the game, first off it is an obvious thing, but it looks gorgeous, I mean, I genuinely had my jaw reattached after the opening sequence and then the lead into the actual game play – which is just as stunning.
Then there are the enemies, these effectively haven’t changed, with just a few notable exceptions, the first thing I noticed is that both the Promethean Knights and the Covenant Hunters are considerably tougher than in previous iterations.
This is largely to facilitate the squad ethic of the game (which I’ll get to shortly), it is also worth noting that the brutes are M.I.A. – I don’t recall there being a clear reason after Halo 3, maybe 343 just don’t like them as an enemy? Who knows, this isn’t a major issue, but it would have been nice to see a psycho gorilla wrestle a knight.
The only real changes thereafter are to do with the campaign now being built for four player co-op, this was my biggest concern with the game overall, many times have come that I have been playing a ‘buddy shooter’ and the AI partner has been as useful as a paper bag.
This isn’t the case with Halo 5, the AI team mates are responsive and intelligent, they also frequently change the weapons they have in their default armoury to reflect ammo shortages, there is a minor annoyance with being ‘downed’ with the AI this time seems to drain quicker, that and they tend to take the shortest route on boss fights, which isn’t the best idea every time, but this is minor.
The enemies are tough, unrelenting and seem a lot more organised, and when moving from one area to the next, looking for secondary routes can sometimes save you some bullets, or can even give you a tactical advantage, and that seems a good theme throughout the campaign.
Rossco: I’m in the world of Halo! And it’s rather stunning at that. Having caught up playing the Master Chief Collection I came into Halo 5 ready for more action and I certainly got that. But what strikes me with the game right of the bat is the presentation.
The locations, characters and the enemies are very well modelled with not one bug in my entire play though of the campaign.
While the job is very well polished, I will say this. There simply isn’t enough variation of enemies for me. Neal has talked about some being missing and I do think they should have introduced some more things to shoot at, since that is all you are doing really.
But what there is to shoot and where you go to shoot things, all look beautiful.
Did She Just Call Me Old?
Neal: It’s not all new, though, and this is where Halo really excels, the things that aren’t changed, but instead tweaked, like the fire rate and control of certain weapons, the addition of a scope to everything, this all gives the game a fresh feel, whilst the carryover of enemy types and vehicles (with a few cosmetic and difficulty tweaks) keep the game feeling much like a Halo game ought to.
The inclusion of Buck, as well as many other Halo stalwarts allows this to feel much like a classic halo, is also retains the feel of many other shooters, with its subtle and by the book combat, which is as much challenge as anything you will play.
And what else can I say? Well, there is plenty of stuff to shoot at, and many of these things you shoot at, are hard, cold, unrelenting monsters, that rather conveniently want to shoot at you, the formula of Halo survived into this variation, with a few minor changes.
But it isn’t quite all good news.
I’ve talked about the omission of Brutes, but these aren’t the only things I noticed were missing from the game, the plasma rifle, a staple of Halo from game one is M.I.A. – this may be to address balance, but I cannot say for sure.
The other omissions of note are split-screen multiplayer and dual-wielding.
The split-screen omission makes sense when you play the game and see how much stuff is going on, having half a screen would be too little for some of the more intense battles throughout, but having said that we have coped with less screen space before.
The omission of duel wielding, which is the same in Halo 4, might be a nod to the overpowering of some smaller arms in online multiplayer, and whilst I support this notion to an extent, I would have liked to go in blazing with two pistols to a plasma sword fight.
These omissions are balanced out with the adjustment to having the capacity to sprint (which as a franchise has existed since Reach) and having short burst thrusters, but none of the dedicated armour power-ups from the previous rendition, again this affords a redress of balance, whilst also keeping things fresh, the capacity to dodge in this way is also my favourite thing about the game as it allows the difficulty of Hunters, Knights and other boss fights to be heightened that much more.
Another new addition is the ground pound, this allows the player to hover a few moments before slamming into a target, this attack is overpowered to ridiculousness, but is counter-balanced by the fact that all hesitation in mid-air leaves you a clear and easy target.
Rossco: As for my take on the gameplay, one thing lies at the heart of playing Halo 5 that is one of my favourite things to see in games: fun.
It’s genuinely very enjoyable to play, shoot things and move onto the next area or take over as a different character. The other side of the coin to that is the lack of any real depth to the game other than shooting.
Now, I get this is a first person shooter so why does it need to do more right? If you’re happy going into the game with that thought you will no doubt love it. But I really enjoyed some of the well scripted and constructed story elements to the older Halo games I recently caught up on. Here in Halo 5, the story is very simple and rarely gives any moments of surprise or wonder.
Even the Cortana’s revelation in the end is rather flat since it’s exactly what’s been said all game.
I was also looking forward to seeing a storyline teased in the “Hunt the Truth” campaign that never really materialises. There is a great fight between the two that is a well done cut scene but, the promotion for the game suggested more hatred and animosity between Chief and Locke that in the game was all very respectful and chummy.
Lastly from me I want to talk about the boss battles. First of all, they are good in their gameplay and the boss, Warden Eternal is an imposing figure and quite the tough nut to kill on harder difficulties, especially while surrounded by intelligent grunts to help along.
This being said… you face this same boss over and over again with hardly any variation. The only change is there are more clones of him later in the game and you end up taking on up to 4 of him at once. Of course this is a challenge but, much like the standard enemies, some variation or taking different forms would have made for a less rinse and repeat feel by the end of the game.
Neal: So, where do we stand, Halo 5: Guardians is a romp, it is one of my favourite games to debut this year, whilst I have a few little things I’d have liked to see, I write these off purely as the fact that I have (like you the reader) preferences.
But to summarise, Halo as a franchise has finally moved away from ‘that game Bungie did’ to ‘that game 343 reinvigorated’ at least in my mind, it is up there as one of the best of the franchise (feel free to tweet me any discussion on this topic) and I for one cannot wait to jump back into the campaign and even try my hand at the multiplayer.
Halo is back. Neal Out.
Rossco: Halo 5’s campaign is fun, an absolute blast of a shooter that lacks a little in variation as for as enemies and boss fights are concerned. The locations, weapons and vehicles you can use are awesome though and it provides a lot of explosive action whether you play alone or go co-op.
I’ve enjoyed Halo 5’s campaign and consider myself a fan of the game now but I will hope that 343 remember to focus more on some rich story elements next time in the game and also add in more variety when it comes to things to shoot at. The shooting though is top class, it has some competition this year of course but it’s certainly one of the best in that department.
Halo 5 Guardians Campaign Review Format: Xbox One