Friday, 4 December 2015

Guardians of the fifth halo

Halo 5: Guardians

Platform tested: Xbox One

There's no Xbox generation without a Halo game, and while Halo: The Master Chief Collection last year put the Spartans on Microsoft's latest console, it was only a remastered collection of previous games in the series. Halo 5: Guardians then, is a brand new entry, following closely to Halo 4, both visually and presentation wise. Once again 343 Industries aims to deliver a Halo experience worthy of Bungie's efforts that ended with Halo: Reach.

Let's divide this review into two parts; the single and multi player modes. But before going more in depth on each, let's visually comment the game as these are a common nominator. It's a beautiful game and reminds me a lot of Halo 4's artstyle, only with far larger scale and a rock solid 60fps framerate (remember that the original Halo 4 on the Xbox 360 only was 720p@30fps). Halo 5 achieves it's performance by scaling it's resolution on the fly, a technology used in the latest Wolfenstein.

I appreciate that they went for the high framerate, it makes gameplay seem so precise and smooth. Much like how the Halo MCC collection proved this series needs it. While the arenas in multiplayer are sharp and detailed, the visual excellence of the game really shines through in the single player. Vast and beautiful areas with sharp textures that not only work as backdrops, but look really good close up too. It's the best looking first person shooter for the Xbox One to date.


Halo 5's storyline follows closely to Halo 4, and sets you in the role of two different fireteams; Osiris and Blue Team. The latter is led by the legendary Master Chief himself. The player changes control of each fireteam as the story progresses. It's a great way of showing the story unfold from two sides and quickly shift from one location to a completely different one. There are many returning characters from the Halo lore too, such as "Buck" (voiced by Nathan Fillion) from Halo: ODST. Often revisiting old cast throughout the Halo games gives the whole universe a good sense of continuity.

The story is conveyed with extremely well crafted cutscenes scenes and excellent voiceacting, also following the narrative style of Halo 4. Though I do wonder why they went from ingame rendered scenes and have opted for CGI instead. I always prefer that custscenes are rendered in-game to give a cohesive visual appearance throughout a game. The actual story though, is a mixed bag for me. I felt the end and the build-up towards it became confusing and sadly the inclusion of Cortana once again feels unnecessary. Even though I really liked her character in Halo 4.

"The large canyon locations are perhaps the most impressive, featuring some incredible design and awe inspiring scenery."

Back when Halo 4 released I felt that the size of the locations had been sacrificed for the graphical upgrade compared to Halo 3. Halo 5, luckily, feels like the combination of Halo 4's stunning visuals and Halo 3's map sizes. We are treated to some large areas to roam.

These areas have multiple routes and angles to attack the enemies in, some are even many stories in height, putting vertical depth into the combat. The large canyon locations are perhaps the most impressive, featuring some incredible design and awe inspiring scenery. Overall the variety in environments are diverse, but I felt the more minimalistic and futuristic design of the later levels became somewhat bland. Kudos though, for having secret paths and areas to find by smashing through walls in many areas. 

While I enjoyed the large and more free roaming feel to combat. There is nothing actually to do in these open areas when they appear in non-battle sections. Take mission 9 for instance; I'm in this grand canyon sort of base with lots of red tents and covenant soldiers walking about. But I can't really interact with anything. They could have added a store or somewhere I could level up, customize or buy weapons. Maybe some dialogue that lead to some side-missions to multiplayer maps against bots for instance. Just small things that would have given the game some more depth and lifespan. Instead I get a marker telling me to go speak to someone, and then the game moves on, leaving the area and not really utilizing it for the potential it could have had.


Probably one of the most popular franchises for multiplayer, Halo continues it's huge popularity online with Halo 5. This time multiplayer is divided into arena mode and warzone. Arena mainly consists of small maps where team deathmatch, free for all, capture the flag and elimination types take place. They are incredibly fast matches, often lasting no more than 12 minutes. It's a classic take on multiplayer and a well proved formula. At times it reminds me of Unreal Tournament with the small and more chaotic maps.

Warzone is the new large, I would like to say Battlefield inspired, multiplayer mode. There are only a tiny handful of maps, but these are gigantic in size. Each team tries to take over bases and hold key buildings in their possession to earn points. Individual points for kills can be used to require more powerful weapons and vehicles to outgun the opposing team with.

While I initially was intrigued about this mode it quickly just ended up as a standstill at the buildings in the middle of each map, like a frozen trench war. Even adding some bots in the mix, which Titanfall did in a way better manner, just falls short. One can't shake an empty feeling of an oversized map. The intensity only builds up if somebody drives in with a tank or large vehicle.

What I really miss, are medium sized maps. Especially a team deathmatch mode with a few vehicles, but not on the huge scale warzone offers. I was a huge fan of the big team playlist in Halo 4. In Halo 5 you either have the small arena maps or the gigantic warzone maps. There's no middle ground that should have been catered for in my opinion, like the size of the classic Halo 3 map Valhalla for instance.

The end result is that multiplayer becomes very divided in either a chaotic and very intense small-mapped deathmatch multiplayer or a huge scale Battlefield-ish one. I'm guessing people will be sticking to one or the other much more than jumping back and forwards between them, 


On the technical and gameplay side Halo 5 delivers a fantastic end result, it's a beautiful and incredibly smooth game to play, but the content and story are disappointing. A divided multiplayer and a singleplayer that simply walks the safe path from beginning to end, pull down a product that could have been far better. I just would have appreciated more substance and variation in both single and multiplayer.

That being said, it's still a solid game and it's a welcome release to finally play a Halo that takes full advantage of the Xbox One. Nothing groundbreaking, but a safe release, for good or worse that's up to you.



    + Plus points

    • Visually rich and with a solid 60 fps framerate to boot.
    • Multiplayer is a fast and well presented affair.
    • Story now supports four player coop and features large open areas.

    - Minus points

    • The actual storyline is confusing and ends rather disappointing.
    • Multiplayer either has tiny maps or very large ones, no in-between.
    • Singleplayer could use more depth, like leveling and customization of weapons.

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