What names come to mind when I say iconic game franchise? Sure, Mario, is up there, and so are the Zelda games and Tomb Raider. But there is one franchise that has helped shape Xbox and make it what it is today, and that is the Halo series. The folks at 343 Industries have been really hard at work to keep Microsoft’s star franchise one of the best ever made, and they really hit it out of the park with their latest title, Halo 5: Guardians. Fans have been patiently waiting since 2012 for another chance to control the Chief, and that day is here. Now let’s dig in.
Tale of Two Teams
The Halo series has a new protagonist in the form of Spartan Locke. Unlike the previous Halo games, Locke is the new main character that you control through most of the story. Now before the hyperventilating starts, you do play as Spartan 117 (aka The Master Chief) for the remainder of the story. Locke leads Fire Team Osiris on a mission to find and detain Chief, which they do very poorly.
In Halo 5, you don’t just control a single player; you command a squad. Using the D-Pad, you can give them an enemy target, move them to a specific area, or have them follow close to you. However, without any help, they do a pretty good job of shooting things all by themselves. What they sometimes fail to do, however, is execute a new reviving mechanic. When you are shot or punched enough to die, Locke/Chief will simply fall down and wait for an ally to come by and aid them. You can even press the X button to call for assistance, but sometimes the help doesn’t come. On many occasions, your teammates will idly stand by you and fail to recognize your faint pleas of revival. If not healed in time, you will die, forcing a start from a previous checkpoint.
The second team you control is Master Chief’s Blue Team. Chief has been reported AWOL and is on the run. Though he has less play time than Locke, the personality of Chief is much more powerful (although his teammates fall a little flat). This parallels Locke’s squad, who make Locke seem about as lively as the rocks in the scenery. Nathan Fillion’s character, Buck, steals the show for Osiris, who is comical but serious when needed. This made me want to be Chief more, but I understand that the story had to bring some new life to the game to keep the series going.
A Universe of Beauty
Halo has always been on top graphically for each generation of the Xbox, and Guardians is no exception. The settings are gorgeous, vibrant, and full (or devoid) of life, depending on the setting. The Covenant planet of Sanghelios is exceptionally well done. Its rocky desert like setting with ancient buildings look spectacular under the perfect lighting. You will spend a lot of time getting to know the planets and buildings, too; as always, 343 has hidden little extras throughout each mission.
Jump over rocky ledges, break through icy walls, and climb through dank caves to find broken radios, Covenant data discs, and ancient relics and weapons. Unlock more and more backstory about the game, characters, and universe. Hunting down skulls has also returned, making you spend more time searching for that little tunnel that leads to bonus content. Needless to say this adds hours of re-playability for 100% completion.
What better way to blast your way through your missions than with some shiny new guns. With three factions making weapons (Prometheans, Covenant, and UNSC) there is plenty of firepower to go around and a few cool new weapons to add to your arsenal like the HYDRA launcher. Instead of firing one rocket, you lock onto your target and fire up to six rockets in a burst. The rockets by themselves are weaker, but they have tracking – 2 to 4 normally do the trick. The Plasma Caster is a new Covenant weapon that fires out a single charge and splits into several plasma grenades that detonate simultaneously, allowing you to kill several widespread enemies. Almost every weapon from the series returns, giving you over 30 weapons to use throughout the game. And what better way to use them than against your friends and other fellow gamers in multiplayer action?
Red vs Blue
Halo has been widely regarded as one of the elite multiplayer online gaming franchises. Guardians gives you the Traditional Slayer, Free for All, and Capture the Flag modes you are used to, but then ramps it up.
Warzone pits player against player against game. You take your traditional deathmatch, add territory capture, vehicles, and computer controlled enemies. Each team plays to 1,000 points. You get points for killing high value targets, controlling bases, and killing other players. You can also use REQ cards, which give you access to weapons, vehicles, and power-ups based on your card collection, which I will get to in a minute. I have played a few warzone matches and they get pretty intense, fast paced, and really entertaining. It is something that has not really been done much in gaming, or at least, not on this scale. However, I don’t really see a way Warzone could be added into pro gaming, as it relies too heavily on random cards obtained through hours of play.
The traditional multiplayer modes are as well crafted as ever. The maps are balanced, leaving few places to hide, and the pace seems much faster than I remember. Playing SWAT, I found myself scrambling more often than not, but not in a bad way. Aiming feels more accurate and smoother than previous games, making it a little easier to get that triple kill if you are fast enough. This may be attributed to the detail in the scenery that makes your enemy stick out like a sore thumb. The matches I played came down to a two or three kill decision, which is exactly what you want in matchmaking – no lopsided advantages.
Heart of the Cards
Perform admirably in your efforts in the arena and you may earn enough experience to level up your Spartan and earn credits. When you level up, you’ll earn a small REQ pack containing cards that grant you weapons, power-ups, armor, emblems, and more. You can also get these packs by spending credits you earn through online play. There are a ton of armor pieces, emblems, and weapon skins to unlock, letting you to customize a Spartan that best suits you. The weapon and vehicle cards are used in Warzone, giving you a competitive edge over less fortunate players by allowing you to build up power in the match and use that power to unleash cards from your collection. When the card is consumed, you re-enter the game with the boost, vehicle, or weapon that the card provides. Of course, stronger weapons and vehicles will cost more in-game power to conjure up.
Overall, the system is interesting and brings a fresh take to Halo’s multiplayer action without taking anything away in the process. If card collecting isn’t your thing, then don’t worry about it – the game doesn’t depend on it.
Continuing the Legacy
Halo is not going anywhere. Meaning yes, we will see a sequel to this game! And personally, I can’t wait. Guardians is a beautiful, well told, solidly crafted piece of art. There is content for days split between campaign, treasure hunting, multiplayer, and customization, so prepare to spend most of your life in the Halo universe. If you are new to the series, you may have to pick up The Master Chief Collection to catch up on the story, but if you are a returning fan, you will have no problem jumping into the action headfirst. 343 has killed it with its latest entry, but I would expect nothing less from the premier developers for Microsoft’s elite franchise.
- Warzone Multiplayer
- Beautiful Settings
- Great Story
- Replay Value
- Locke is Boring