- + Engaging campaign backed by an upbeat score
- + Multiplayer offers robust, adrenaline-filled matches
- + Looks gorgeous
- - Lacks split screen multiplayer
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full review below…
Start Replay: “Prometheans Incoming!”
I remember when I first laid eyes on Halo, my dad upgraded the family computer and received a free copy of the original game in the process. I didn’t have an Xbox, so for me this was the best chance of playing one of the most influential FPS titles around. What followed were short bursts of gameplay on a machine not-quite-powerful enough to run it.
Textures were even worse than originally developed and I often fought with the keyboard controls to guide any part of the action. I have never been a loyal follower of the series, but I’ve always appreciated each iteration. Its titular character is a badass, who wouldn’t want to clad themselves in chunky green armour complete with a cool golden visor? Since those days, however, a lot has changed.
After crafting a critically acclaimed trilogy, original developer Bungie moved on to conquer new ground while newcomer 343 Industries shepherded the series and rebooted Master Chief into a new generation. Though I never reviewed their work on the 4th game, it was clear that gameplay mechanics had been streamlined. I immediately noticed the similarities to faster-paced titles such as Call of Duty, but didn’t find it surprising given the need to make the series more accessible.
Their latest title, Halo 5: Guardians, continues the trend; advancing gameplay and introducing a four-player campaign, removing the series’ staple of split screen multiplayer in favour of an online-only audience. I understand the backlash this decision has received, split screen coop has been a major part of the series and its absence must be heartbreaking for veteran players. That said, branching out to a wider audience online is understandable and, ultimately, more beneficial.
My knowledge of Master Chief’s adventures isn’t up to date, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find the campaign any less interesting. Halo 5: Guardians tracks Master Chief’s search for his formerly deceased artificial intelligence, Cortana. Sticking to tradition I’m not going to dive into story details and spoil anything, but the narrative has been built with four players in mind. This is satisfying to see after playing the latest Call of Duty’s first multiplayer campaign, which doesn’t have four characters present at all times, but shoehorns in 4 player co-op without amending the story for any real purpose.
Gameplay runs at a solid 60 frames per second, which results in everything feeling silky smooth and hectic battles therefore feature zippy gun action. The ability to aim down the sites of every weapon has been added, which I find has given a lot more control to each gun. Amongst the handful of new weapons littering the battlefield, Master Chief’s trusty assault rifle returns and a few other fan favourites, including the Needler, get the spotlight too. When you’re not firing a weapon, the newly-added “ground pound” allows you to freeze mid-jump and aim to the floor for a devastating blow to enemies, handy when facing big groups.
Alongside Halo’s rich tapestry of characters are a few famous faces filling the shoes of new Spartans. This includes Firefly’s Nathan Fillion and the likeness of Mike Colter who currently plays Luke Cage in Netflix’s Jessica Jones. Strangely the studio decided to have Colter’s character re-voiced, though kept his in-game model intact. Speaking of which, all characters in the game are meticulously detailed and offer a breath of fresh air through the series’ new graphics engine. As the first Xbox One-developed title, the team at 343 has accomplished a great job visually.
Unlike Call of Duty, I’ve always been far more interested in the campaign of Halo than its multiplayer. Regardless, I dipped into enough matches to get a feeling of what was on offer. Your typical death matches and capture the flag modes appear, alongside larger War Zone maps that include a maximum of 24 people, but for me I instantly fell in love with the mode, SWAT.
Pitting two teams against one another, this mode requires a headshot in order to defeat an opponent. As soon as a bullet strikes an enemies’ head then he or she is out for the count. People who had been playing the game for a fair while were dashing across the map and swatting down players in quick succession. Many times, as soon as I spawned, I’d die straight away and be unable to move from incoming fire. It’s an addictive mode that reminded me of my time playing Call of Duty’s Gun Game, only a little harder.
The more I play first person shooters, the more I question how much further they can evolve, maintaining fun and interesting campaigns. All elements are either introducing online components or going all the way and heading persistently online. I’ve had a great time engaging myself into the latest Halo, but I’m becoming increasingly worried that traditional campaigns will soon become obsolete.
I’m not the worlds biggest Halo fan, but I do value and enjoy the series. Its online campaign is focused and is accompanied by a fantastic score. The multiplayer, too, feels refined and full of content. The lack of split screen is a heartbreaker, but to be honest, how many people actually invite friends to their house to play games anymore?
*Halo 5: Guardian was provided to Start Replay on Xbox One by Xbox