By Kenneth Shipp
“Hunt the Truth” was the tagline that 343 Industries has been pushing for the past year in preparation for Halo 5. The narrative presented in the trailers and what we actually get in the game don’t exactly line up. However, what we are given sets up what could be amazing cap to the second Halo trilogy.
Initially, I was conflicted even considering that they would turn the Master Chief into the villain, but that’s not exactly the case in the single player campaign. I’ll go ahead and get the two major flaws out of the way with the story: tone and clarity. While I realize there was supposed to be some ambiguity with what the Chief was doing, the tone set by all the promotions doesn’t add up to the story we get. Yeah, Locke is chasing Chief, but he’s just as clueless as the Chief. Everyone is trying to get answers and understand what is going on. What would have helped establish the tone better would have been seeing one of the colonies get wiped out. They are mentioned several times, but for all the promised destruction we are warned that a Guardian could bring, they never deliver. In Halo 4, when the Didact says he wants to destroy humanity, he shows us and we believe him. Thus, going to to Earth and stopping him has weight to it. The lack of “show me” in the campaign is what made the motivations seem lackluster.
Where this game lacks clarity are in the cinematic to gameplay transitions. They relied on in-game audio a lot more than usual and if you are not paying attention, you will miss those critical plot additions that would have helped this game flow better. That being said, I was able to keep up with them, but I still would have preferred some of those being saved for the cut-scenes. The speed of this game may have played a part in the lack of focus or clarity as well. You can easily knock this campaign out in an afternoon; that’s not uncommon for a Halo game, but it goes quickly. If I recall correctly, I knocked it out in about 7 hours which still seemed faster than previous iterations.
Some high points in the campaign involved the Warden and Buck, it was refreshing to have a new tier of enemy dropped in that was a level above everything on the field. And when the Warden starts to come in pairs or more, it really gets interesting. Buck’s witty banter was only on display during ODST and a short mission in Reach but having him here with Fireteam Osiris adds a level of humor that has been missing since Sgt Johnson in the first trilogy. The controls to direct your team towards a target actually work. This simple addition to the game is invaluable against the new Warden level enemy and alterations to the Promethean Knight. You’ll need to attack them from front and back and the squad controls make it possible.
The Cortana thread is excellent; obviously, I’m not going to spoil it here. It is the natural progression of this arc given everything we know and events leading up to Guardians. The motivations here make sense and while you may need another replay to catch everything, the stage is set for a great ending for the 6th game, or finale of this trilogy.
Let’s be honest though, you’re not here for the campaign, you want to know if the multiplayer is legit. I’m here to tell you it is marvelous. Warzone and Arena are the new modes, one is very familiar (Arena) while the other (Warzone) is the shiny new gem you will be playing forever. Arena encompasses the Slayer versions you recognize and introduces CSR (Competitive Skill Ranking) with the following levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Onyx, and Champion. You gain or lose these by winning or losing, although you are not penalized as hard for losing. The rules change a bit once you get into Onyx and Champion; wins in the lower ranks advance you through the tiers of each level. But once we reach the final two, you can only compare your CSR score to those in Onyx. Reach a CSR that puts you in the top 200, and you’ll make Champion level.
Warzone is nuts and rightly so, it allows a lot of ways for you to win. If you’ve played Titanfall, it has similarities to the AI NPC’s running around as threats. But they were rather easy to take out. However it’s a lot different facing human opponents mixed with Promethean Knights or Covenant Elites, and those AI’s are not pushovers. The combination of killing opponents, destroying base cores, etc along with the REQ system can easily turn the tide of battle. If you save your in-game points for a tank instead of using them every respawn, it can come in handy when your team is down. Finding a balance will be a key to winning matches and getting your team to adopt similar strategies. They have situated the player experience well for the eSports community and it shows in the dedication towards Arena and Warzone. The lack of split-screen will be missed dearly, but if that helped the quality of this experience, you may think twice before criticizing that move; time will tell…
Halo 5 excels in it’s multiplayer experience with gameplay modes that will keep it interesting and take a bit out of Call of Duty’s pie for sure. The campaign however leaves a lot to be desired in the plot although the experience is still very much Halo in feel and direction.
Halo 5: Guardians 8.5/10
Check out some of our other posts here!