The new Halo experience is exactly like what you would want a next-gen Halo game to be. With classic and new multiplayer modes, gorgeous environments, smooth gameplay, and really well designed maps to use the new move set, this new installment feels like a fantastic addition to the almost 15 years old franchise.
Halo 5: Guardians
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
Available on: Xbox One (tested)
Campaign and Gameplay
You can play the story either as a single-player game with three AI bots, or co-op with online friends. Guardians starts with a breath-taking action sequence that sets a frantic pace. This is something you will experience through the entire game: impressive, truly amazing cinematics that lead to a nice setting for us to shoot at enemies.
But there is more you can do in this new installment. Spartans are way more agile than before, and they can clamber over walls, dodge deadly bullets and melee strikes, you can run forever –as long as you don’t need a shield recharge-, unleash a devastating shoulder bash with the Spartan Charge, and even kill multiple enemies with a Ground Pound. Yes, Spartans are more than bullet sponges now. They feel contemporary, and the power suit gives them a really cool move set. Everything combined leads to a really nice gameplay.
If you need more than deadly athletic moves, it is safe to say that the gunplay also feels excellent. The constant 60 fps are big factors here. Aiming and shooting while moving on the battlefield is always smooth, even in large environments and intense firefights with dozens of enemies at once. You also have a fair range of guns, from deadly plasma pistols through needle guns. Rocket launchers, sniper weapons, shotguns and rifles. You name it.
Every single weapon feels nice and useful, and this is one of the most important things to enjoy a Halo game. If you have played a title before, you know you can’t simply stick to your favorite weapon: the game doesn’t give you enough ammo for that. You are forced to swap guns in mid-combat, but you never get the feeling you are being forced to use something boring or useless.
The campaign’s structure is everything you can expect from a Halo game. Huge maps connected by a mix of cutscenes and gameplay sequences where you will need to progress by shooting everything that moves. From abandoned ships to futuristic alien spaceships, the graphic quality of the game is top notch, with stunning vistas.
Unfortunately, the fast-paced combat and the high-quality textures can’t make up for the lack of enemy variety. The campaign is really short. It has 15 missions, and some of them can be completed in 5 minutes or less, but even in such a short piece of campaign the lack of different enemies is notorious. Even more tragic, you fight the same boss over and over, leading to a point where the game only adds another copy to fight at the same time. And then another. And then it tries with four. Vehicles and tanks are there to save the day and kill waves and waves of enemies in a different way and refresh the fun, but I didn’t feel it was enough. I had to rely in the multiplayer aspect of the game to take a break.
Arena and Warzone
Even when I didn’t like the campaign that much, the multiplayer alone is worth the game. The Arena is the classic 4 vs 4 competition set in smaller battlegrounds where players are grouped together. There is a new competitive skill rating system that hopes to rank and deliver participants a good quality matchmaking.
We can play different playlists divided in several modes. Breakout is where players try to kill each other in rounds and with only one life each. Free-for-all for when you feel like Rambo, SWAT allows you to play without shields or motion trackers, Slayer where everything that matters is your kill count and Team Arena.
Ok. You are right. There is nothing new. Classic is classic, but Halo makes of each mode something really entertaining to play by designing perfect maps to take advance of the new move set and rewarding athletic Spartans for using them. Everything combined makes for a great experience at those sweet 60 fps. They are big enough to not spawn you next to your enemy, but small enough to never end the constant battle. With simple objectives and fast paced combat, I quickly spent more time here than in the campaign. 343 is aiming for Halo 5: Guardians to become a popular eSport, and the quality of the well balanced maps speak for themselves.
But while classic Arena is fun, there are those who prefer large battlefields packed with constant action. Warzone is a beast of its own where 24 players and a bunch of PvE elements fight in huge battlegrounds for control over different objectives.
Additional AI forces are dropped into the battlefield constantly, either to provide a small defense to your objectives or to reward you extra points by killing them. Teams will need to quickly make smart decisions and form smaller teams to take or defend the objectives, creating an always chaotic environment where strategy matters.
Warzone Assault is a variant where one team assaults the other team’s nodes with the objective to take out the core in their base. Both modes are there to deliver really large battlefield packed with action. You can attack a base, deal with the PvE bonus threat or simply defend your own from the opposing team. There is a cool spot for everyone and a more friendly environment since players are not fighting to rank up but to have fun.
In Warzone, we also have the REQ system. Packs of cards that you can buy with REQ. You earn them by playing both multiplayer game modes, completing specific objectives, or you can buy them using real money. Inside each pack is a random selection of items, such as unlockable weapons and armor, vehicles, and cosmetic items like different assassination moves and stances. Some of these items are one-off use, while others are permanent, such as weapons with specific augments like long-range sights.
There are more than a thousand of these cards, and they come in three kinds of packs that vary in cost. The cheaper option has common, less useful cards while the more expensive pack can have rare, legendary and even mythic items. Any cards that you acquire go into a collection that you can sort and administrate whenever you want.
REQ stations are located in Warzone maps in your occupied bases. By logging into a station, you can quickly change your loadout, swap weapons or even spawn vehicles if you have the right cards – and enough energy to use them. Energy is generated throughout the battle, and, depending on the card you’re using, it has a specific cost to activate. As you might imagine, the more powerful the card, the more energy you need to cash it in.
Get it for the multiplayer, not the story. As a whole, Halo 5: Guardians is a really fun game. While the campaign mode is mostly an excuse and setup for a future Halo, the Arena mode side seals the deal with interesting and well-balanced maps that deliver really intense and fast-paced combat. And if you want to take a break, the Warzone is a full scale combat mode with endless action.