Halo 5: Guardians is a sweeping epic that only 343 Industries could have imagined, with the 9-10 hour campaign taking the player on a thrilling chase across the galaxy. Set several months after the tumultuous events of Halo 4, the galaxy is in chaos; with the Covenant remnant continuing to cause trouble for the UNSC and their Sangheili allies. Amidst this chaos, several human colony worlds go dark as all contact is lost. To make matters worse it seems Spartan 117, humanity’s greatest hero, has gone AWOL. Tasked with tracking down the wayward hero, it comes down to new hero Spartan Locke and Fireteam Osiris to discover the force devastating the colonies and stop it if they can…
The changes to the core Halo gameplay are apparent as players start the campaign: literally dropping into the bombastic first mission allows players to execute earth-shattering ground-pounds or hover in place for a few seconds while aiming to take precise shots. As the player’s boots hit the ground they find themselves in the middle of a fearsome battle between the Forerunner Prometheans and their former Covenant allies. With two enemy forces raining down fire, players would do well to make full use of the simple but effective Squad Commands available in the single-player campaign. Similar to those seen in Left 4 Dead, commands can be used to heal downed teammates or have them heal the player. The commands also extend to teammates taking certain firing positions or operating a vehicle or turret.
This new mechanic perfectly complements the improved level design: while remaining a linear game, 343 Industries have given the player more flexibility in choosing how they complete missions. Finding yourself blocked by a tough squad of Elites does not mean resigning yourself to an entrenched firefight: instead, a vent or ledge to the side could provide a perfect opportunity for flanking or even sneaking past the enemy. Combine this with the fluid squad commands and your computer-controlled teammates can keep the enemy distracted as you go in for the kill.
However not all the changes have been universally welcomed. The zoom-scope aiming mechanic of the previous games has been replaced by Smartscope, a down-the-barrel system reminiscent of aiming in Call of Duty. While this certainly streamlines aiming in combat, something vital considering the competitive online element of the game, many fans have complained that it detracts from Halo’s unique gameplay. Similar discontent has accompanied 343’s introduction of REQ packs, a form of micro-transaction whereby power weapons, vehicles and powerups can be collected for use in Warzone, the game’s teambased pitched battle mode. While the average player will earn enough points in each match to build up a fearsome REQ collection players also have the option to buy them, calling into question the fairness of such a system.
Overall, these problems do little to detract from what is undeniably an amazing game and the best shooter of this console generation. The engrossing campaign will have the player enthralled and leave the Halo lore fan satisfied with the game’s emphasis on a more complex story (as well as the return of fan favourite characters Buck and the Arbiter). While the title is perhaps not the flawless masterpiece that some expected it to be, it is by no means a gem in the rough. With continued updates to the multiplayer, the game will keep players entertained for years to come.
- Beautiful graphics at a stable 60fps
- Varied gameplay for a shooter with multiple vehicles
- Dumb AI who sometimes decide to admire the scenery instead of revive you when you die
- Microtransactions that induce a pay-to-win situation