Halo 5: Guardians (2015) review

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What’s it about?

Peace is shattered when colony worlds are unexpectedly attacked. And when humanity’s greatest hero goes missing, Spartan Jameson Locke is tasked with hunting the Master Chief and solving a mystery that threatens the entire galaxy.

 What did I think?

Halo 5: Guardians is the big one – the game changer. Something that I think fans and critics will be talking about for years to come, maybe even long after the series – or Master Chief – has retired. But we’ll get to the story later – and don’t worry, I’ll leave out any spoilers.

How does the game play? Beautifully. Levels are beautifully detailed and are massive, allowing for many different paths to take on the enemy and command the team.

Yes, a new option in Guardians is the ability to command your team. Go here, flank this enemy, pick up this weapon, for the love of everything holy, please heal me before this hunter comes out on top – it’s all there and is an interesting new addition to the series. I found myself using the team and strategizing and you know what? They’re not too shabby at all. They can be useful. I mean, their driving still sucks but half the time you won’t even notice that feature.

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Halo 5: Guardians is the halo experience. I mean, if you asked me what made the series what it is, I can now point to what we see in Guardians as where the series should stay. The massive scope of the worlds, the enormity of everything around you, the weapons, the action – it’s all there and mostly, it is in spades.

I say mostly because, well, the story leaves something to be desired. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s often quite spectacular and in some ways, improves upon Halo 4’s weaknesses. But it suffers from the same weaknesses that Halo 4 did: the story is pretty underdeveloped.

Events, and characters are thinly drawn, leaving me either with minimal information or confused and wanting to know more. I think there’s a fine line between leaving the audience with enough information to connect the dots and being annoyingly vague. And Guardians, unfortunately, leaves a lot of things up in the air.

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This isn’t about the lore being a confusing underlying thread in the games as well – newcomers are fed enough information to understand everything I would say, no I was more wanting to game to take things further. You can’t set out to do a big emotional science fiction game and not draw enough character development. And story is something that is going to be quite important for Halo 6 so I hope they take this factor on board.

That point across, even without deeper development, the game manages to be engaging and emotional. I’m not going to lie, the story tugged on the heart strings in the end. Chief’s arc is effective and it works.

On the other end, Fireteam Osiris was an interesting narrative device to use for this particular chapter but the game didn’t sell me on them. They aren’t bad by any means and the game does it’s best to fill you in on their backgrounds but they weren’t really interesting and didn’t have much personality. I would hope Halo 6 primarily follows Master Chief, as I feel the next one is going to be a personal journey for him.

Guardians ends on a cliffhanger. It’s devastating and slightly annoying but it is what it is. And I want more of the story so the cliffhanger has worked – it has it’s hooks in me.

I finished the campaign in just over eight hours. Mind you, I do normal because hey, I want the story while not getting game rage at the difficulty. But at eight hours, the campaign feels like a good length. There was a lot of developments – thin as they are – that I have had to absorb in and this makes me feel like the length is solid.

Guardians is a blast to play and the look, sound and feel of the weapons, worlds – everything contained within is gorgeous. And yet, the story needed a polish. I feel that with Halo 6, 343 need to be quite careful about how the story and characters they are working with because that one’s got a lot of questions to answer.

Multiplayer views:

 Halo 5 multiplayer is engaging as always. The new abilities – like ground pound, dash, etc – breathe life into your interactions with people. There really is a new dimension to your battles now.

The new maps are just like the ones in campaign, offering multiple alternatives, advantage points, etc and basically, a lot of fun.

The new hyped mode Warzone is a blast to dig into with friends. A general match lasts around thirty minutes and offers plenty of encounters that would have you pumping the air with your fist or chuckling to yourself. There’s a lot to love about Warzone and I’m interested in exploring it more so.

The REQ system is an interesting idea. I like that you can unlock anything between rare and legendary items to use in a match. That intrigues me because now my Spartan player can stand out and look pretty swish.

The lack of Forge or Infection or Big Team Battles at launch is a bit of a disappointment but hopefully they make an appearance in the near future. Also: new free maps incoming so there’s that to do as well.

J’s Verdict: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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