Halo 5 was recently released after the building hype, part of which was brought forth by the mini series “Hunt the Truth” which can be found in audio logs via Tumblr or on the Halo Channel app on your Xbox. For those of you interested you can also access them via the following link.
Halo 5: Guardians is the second installment of three part trilogy in which many refer to as the “Forerunner” trilogy. It picks up several months after the events of Halo 4 and the following Spartan Ops missions also available in Halo 4. Halo 5 is met with many of most of the same old characters such as; Master Chief, Dr.Halsey, the crew of the Infinity, as well as a couple other familiar faces that won’t get spoiled for you. There are plenty of new faces as well for you to see (and play as). The first and foremost that you might recognize is Spartan Locke, formerly of ONI. You might have seen or know of Locke from the Halo five part mini-series Halo: Nightfall, another familiar face is that of fan favorite Nathan Fillion, or rather his character from Halo 3: ODST, Buck.
Another big addition to the game is for the first time you are introduced to more Spartan-II’s other than the Master Chief, more importantly you are introduced to “Blue Team”. Big fans of the Halo universe already know of Blue Team from probably having read the Halo novels, such as “The Fall of Reach” which a short animated version of was included with the limited edition of the game or higher, which also gives insight into exactly how John (the Master Chief) came to be.
Getting now into the actual game itself, stated above takes place several months after the events of Halo 4. There have been several anomalies that have occurred in deep space on several colonized planets in which entire cities have been destroyed, which is mentioned and followed in season two of “Hunt the Truth.” Master Chief has reassembled Blue Team and is inspecting these anomalies when he has a vision of someone who he thought was dead, someone who was very close to him, Cortana. Deciding to go AWOL to investigate this vision along with Blue Team, the Master Chief is then pursued by Spartan Locke and his team of Spartans known as “Fireteam Osiris”.
Halo 5: Guardians kicks off the game introducing you to Locke’s fire-team Osiris in stunning fashion through the beautiful intro below, consisting of Spartan Buck, Spartan Tanaka, Spartan Vale, and of course Locke himself. Their mission is to rescue Dr.Halsey who claims to have information on the occurring anomalies, and is still being held (and missing her arm) by Covenant leader Jul ’Mdama.
Each member of Fireteam Osiris is playable and each member has his or her own specific load-out. Keep in mind however if you decide to be a lone wolf and play through the campaign solely by yourself, that you automatically get put in the roll of Locke and like-wise Master Chief. Even when playing in co-op as well, one person in your group will always have to be either Locke or Master Chief, who that person is will depend on how quickly you can lock in and steal away another Spartan you want to play as.
During this first mission you will be introduced to a refresher course of Halo mechanics (button mapping may differ for some players depending on what your style is), as well as some new mechanics such as climbing over a ledge that you need to jump to, by using “A” to jump, and then “A” again when you’re near the edge of the ledge to pull yourself up. As well as a new mechanic called the shoulder charge, in which after sprinting you may use the right bumper “RB” to smash through certain parts of the environment, and when used on enemies will deal a massive amount of damage.
There are also two others; one is basically a dodge that you can use by pressing “B” to quickly get out of the way, but can only be used every so often. And the second is a ground slam in which after jumping into the air you will quickly press and hold the left bumper “LB”, in the air a circle will appear on the ground where you will land which can be moved to where you want to land, and after a certain amount of time you will rocket to the ground dealing massive damage to anyone around you, however if you find you are taking too much damage you can pre-maturely let go of “LB” and it will shoot you to the ground sooner but dealing reduced damage.
The enemies in the game are mostly the same you have seen before such as; Elites, Grunts, Jackals, and Hunters on the side of the covenant. While on the other hand there are Crawlers, Watchers, and Knights on the side of the Prometheans. However the Prometheans get a new enemy type called a Soldier, who appears humanoid in shape, but can de-materialize and transport itself to another spot a short distance away. This “Soldier” has a lighter version of armor like the Knights and once broken will reveal weak spots in the head and chest allowing you to finish them off.
The biggest change to the game comes from that of being able to order your squad such as telling them to go to a certain location using the up arrow on the d-pad, picking up a weapon using the same arrow but putting the arrow on a weapon, or to get in a certain vehicle via the same arrow again.
But the real game changer is revives, when playing solo or when a group of friends you have the option to be revived when upon taking damage. You character will fall to the ground and you will be able to be revived by a friend via your friend holding the “X” button, or by an AI companion who will come to your aide if you press the “X” button yourself while you are down. However there is a time limit in which you have you be revived or else you will die and have to wait for a respawn timer when playing with friends, or starting at the last checkpoint when by yourself. There are also a few instances were you won’t be able to be revived such a falling of the map, being killed while you are in a vehicle, or being vaporized by a pesky Promethean weapon such as the Binary Rifle.
Moving to the second mission of the game you will finally to Blue Team consisting of; Spartan 104 – Fred, Spartan 068 – Linda, Spartan 087 – Kelly, and finally of course Master Chief (Spartan 117 – John). And like Fireteam Osiris you are introduced to Blue Team via a splashy cut-scene as seen below.
After the second mission, you will be swapped back and forth between the two teams, similar to how it was in Halo 2 via switching between Master Chief and the Arbiter. There are a total of 15 episodes in the game, though some are more or less pretty short. But at the end of the game as you can imagine, it leaves off with lots of room for the 3rd and possibly (?) final chapter in the Forerunner series with Halo 6.
As for the actual game-play in the campaign, the controls are pretty fluid and easy to navigate around, though the melee can be inaccurate at times causing you to come up short on a punch in a few occasions. The new mechanics work well with the game, but I’m sure some people will not like the new feel that they bring to the game. The “ground slam” has a few issues with stopping your decent early by “catching” a piece of environment that you might brush to close to on your way to the ground. The biggest problem at times like with most games that have this mechanic is the AI, when calling out for them to revive you they sometimes don’t come, or end up taking the longest route to get to you often resulting in your death. This is especially true on the higher difficulty levels such as Heroic or Legendary.
The story-line is well put together for the game they have, but not being able to fill in any story up to this point kind of leaves a bitter taste in some fans mouths. Mainly regarding where the Promethean soldiers have come from, as well as holes in exactly why the main antagonist is acting the way they are (which admittedly could be explained more in Halo 6). But despite these flew flaws and holes in the story 343 delivers another masterful game worthy of calling itself “Halo”, even if some people were put off by Halo 4. The accompanying music production with the missions is splendid and fits into each mission with both pleasant and stirring true Halo quality music that we have come to expect.
Jumping over to the multi-player aspect of the game now, people might remember the utter frustration and annoyance of the match-making system in the Halo: Master Chief Collection, where at times it took over 10 minutes just to find a match and where getting your friends into your lobby with you was extremely difficult. Well I’m pleased to say that the people at 343 have fixed those issues by a mile with Halo 5, the in-game party system works beautifully and even brings your friends with you when you back out from a certain playlist to go into another one.
As far as the game modes go, three of them remain the same that you have been used to from past Halo games with modes such as; Team Slayer (4v4), Capture the Flag, and SWAT (a fan favorite since Halo 2). Along with a mode called Strongholds that is slightly similar to a past Halo game mode called “Territories”, in Strongholds the objective is to capture and defend the 3 territories on the map. However what is different is that a team must be in control of at least 2 territories to score points, unlike the previous “Territories” mode. Another new game mode is one called “Breakout” in which teams of four will jump into a symmetrical arena style map, with no shields but a little more increased health. Each player only has one life, and in the middle of the map there is a flag. There are two ways to win Breakout the first being eliminate all enemy players, and the second being to capture the flag and deliver it to your opponent’s base instead of your own. The first team to win five rounds is the winner.
Another thing that the Halo 5 multiplayer differs in is that is goes back to its arena style roots from Halo 2 and Halo 3. Every mode is “arena style” except for the mode I’ll be getting to in a little while, in arena there are five categories in which you can play and those categories are as follows; Team Arena (features Team Slayer, Breakout, Capture the Flag, and Strongholds all into one playlist), the second is Slayer (which you will only play Team Slayer matches), the third is Breakout (which as you guessed it, you will only play Breakout matches), the forth is Free-For-All (in which you will test your mettle solo without any team mates to back you up), and finally is SWAT (the mode similar to slayer except you have no shields and every player has a Battle Rifle and Magnum, and in this mode since you have no shields precision headshots are almost always a one shot kill).
Not only do you have these different playlists but you will also be ranked based on how well you do in each one. To obtain a rank you must play 10 qualifying matches in the playlist you want to play, after playing your 10 matches you will be assigned a rank based on how well you did as they take in to account; kills, assists, deaths, and objective score. There are a total of 7 divisions, 6 of which you can only get by qualifying and these divisions are as follows; Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Onyx. In each division there are sub-ranks that are numbered 1-6 for example, “Gold 3”, with 1 being the lowest and 6 being the highest. If you happen win enough games at rank 6, you move up to the next tier. However if you lose games your rank goes down, but you cannot go down a tier. For example, if your rank is Gold 5, you can go all the way down to Gold 1 and never back to Silver.
Now when you leave Diamond and enter Onyx or get put in Onyx to begin with, you no longer have tiers. You get a number rating that shows your CSR (Competitive Skill Rating). As you win and lose, this number rating goes up and down. If you are lucky (and skilled) enough to reach the top 200 in the playlist, you get Champion rank (That 7th division rank I mentioned you couldn’t get to just by qualifying). So Onyx is the last rank everyone can get, and Champion is reserved for as Halsey would say “the best of the best” basically nothing short of pro status. However you can drop from Champion to Onyx if you are not in the top 200 anymore.
And now there is a final new game-mode they added to Halo 5 which I mentioned briefly that I would get to, and a mode you may have seen some of already if you watched the Xbox e3 or and Twitch streams on Halo, and that mode is called “Warzone”. Unlike the other modes Warzone is 12 vs. 12, and not only will players be fighting each other but they will be playing against AI enemies as well. Each team will start the round in their own base which is overrun with AI enemies, which must be cleared out at the start of the game to progress. Once that is done both teams’ objectives are to capture the three bases in the outside area and to eliminate other enemy players as well as high-value AI targets that will pop up around the map to earn what is known as victory points. Now kind of like Breakout there are two ways for each team to win the game.
The first is if all three bases are captured by a single team, the enemy’s base will become accessible to that team, meaning the core inside the enemies’ base will be vulnerable. If the core is destroyed, the attacking team will win regardless of victory points or time limit. However if neither team manages to capture all bases and destroy the other team’s core, the victor will be decided by victory points. Whoever reaches 1000 VP first will be the winner. In the event that the time limit is reached before either team reaches 1000 VP, the team with the highest VP will win the game. At the moment there are only three different Warzone maps, with a forth expected to drop sometime before the end of the year, and Warzone is also the only new game-mode that utilizes the new requisition system that allows players to get different weapons and vehicles in the game via “ordering” them so to speak rather than finding them spawning across the map.
The REQ system is a feature in Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer that grants players cosmetic and in-game bonuses such as; different style armor, different color visors, and XP boosts for certain arena game modes. The REQs are unlocked by obtaining Requisition Packs, which can be earned through game-play or purchased via microtransactions. As you will be able to see in the picture below, you can get a variety of items in REQ packs like weapons and vehicles as well as armor and other cosmetic things previously mentioned, the weapons and vehicles however only affect Warzone matches and does not affect the arena playlist.
Also as you can see in the picture items you can get have a certain rarity to them, which leads to the different pack you can buy. There are three different packs; Bronze, Silver, and Gold. As you can imagine buying a bronze pack will most likely only grant you common and uncommon items, with a slight chance of a rare. While opening a silver or gold pack will grant you increasingly better items. There are only 5 tiers of rarity which range from; Common, Uncommon, Rare, Ultra Rare, and finally Legendary. Opening a Gold REQ pack will net you the best chance and unlocking an Ultra Rare or Legendary item. Some people may worry that in Warzone people might be able to use a Scorpion Tank right off the bat if they have a card for it and other person doesn’t, this isn’t the case however as the weapon and vehicle REQ cards have a “Energy” number attached to them 1-10 with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
The better more powerful cards will obviously cost more energy to use than the more basic cards, and energy tiers are unlocked based on how well your team does. For example after clearing out your starting base each team’s energy will be at 1. Then say your team captures 2 out of the three contested areas to hold, while the enemy team only has one, then that your team will probably hit the second energy tier faster than the enemy team. And finally to close out the multi-player segment 343 has announced that even though the classic Big Team Battle mode did not launch with the game that it will also be dropping sometime before the end of the year.
Now to close out, in my opinion, 343 did an amazing job with Halo 5: Guardians. The multiplayer has gone back to its arena style roots, the campaign was highly enjoyable to play, the graphics and music fill out what a Halo game is meant to feel like. Overall my experience with Halo 5 has been amazing so far, with very few little gripes, and I highly recommend that any Halo fans out there and even first time players pick up Halo 5: Guardians and give it a try. You might find that you love and enjoy it just as much as I have.
This as been your inside review of Halo 5: Guardians, and this is Fox signing off.
- A much more friendly user interface
- Multi-player back to arena style roots
- New Warzone mode is quite fun and addictive
- Some holes in parts of the storyline
- Respawning system MP bit broken