At the end of Halo 4 developer 343 Industries left us heart wrenched and broken as Master Chief laid floating in space after a harrowing move to save his life. It had appeared to be a self sacrificing maneuver dealt forth by his blue AI companion Cortana. She had produced an encapsulating protective bubble of energy generated from within herself to save the one she affectionately called John from an all consuming blast.
True- our hero Chief was saved from space as he was picked up by a searching UNSC vessel, but what he wasn’t saved from was the unending feeling that somehow his main side kick had been lost to more than just rampancy. -Death- even for an AI companion was very possible, and the thought of it coming for her filled him more inside than his over-sized armor could hold.
Intro, Halo 5: Guardians as Dr. Catherine Halsey makes way through her lab and recalls back to the day she prepared a containment tube of sorts with the very AI companion (the same that she had invested so much of her life developing for the UNSC) which had been so emotionally lost at the end of Halo 4’s campaign.
What is said next in this sequence by Dr. Halsey is riveting to say the least. It’s as if she knows something very bad is yet to happen to herself and Cortana. As if, she sees it coming and has no power within herself to keep it from happening.
– These encounters are the bread
and butter of true Halo campaign –
Halo 5’s narrative is enthralling, and much better in structure than the series’ predecessors. The characters feel multidimensional and have strong personalities, running in stark contrast to past clichéd heroes and villains. If you will remember in the previous installment, Master Chief had undergone a personality overhaul of sorts to make him more than a generic intergalactic hero. Cortana’s slow deterioration (rampancy) had forced a personality out of him, creating the Chief everyone imagined, but wasn’t really there — the interesting, complex, and (more importantly) broken man he was always said to be. The Spartan program tore him apart and put him back together, and though he didn’t let it show in the original games, this mental scarring is deep, and has grown into fruition in Halo 5, explaining the stoic character completely.
This story is held up on the shoulders of wonderful core game play, and a campaign that keeps things varied by traveling between interesting locations to make for varied battles. Halo’s combat has always had a certain physicality to it that makes it feel more substantial and tangible. This is something which not only exists in Halo 5, but thrives. Seeing a vehicle in the distance means you can destroy or pilot it, and firefights often take place across sprawling mountain tops, rivers, and even fields. Personal, intimate encounters with foes exist, but they’re spread between massive battlegrounds where the Chief is tasked with taking on dozens of enemies in vehicles.
These encounters are the bread and butter of true Halo campaign, and though other action-packed cinematic elements have been weaved throughout the story, there’s still plenty of classic action, and it’s as good as it’s ever been.
The full size of the campaign is rich and robust clocking in at around 8 hours (solo mode) on Heroic and a good deal more as the difficulty is ramped up to Legendary. The pacing is perfect as moments of intense (guns blazing, grunt smashing, body flying action) can be had, or simple exploration of tunnels and canyons looking for data pad entries or the always sought after skull locations.
Now before you head off to get your pitch forks listen up! 343i have taken allot into consideration with this feature. You can sprint for as long as you want but there’s a price to pay. While sprinting, your Spartan’s shield WILL NOT recharge. So, even though you may run, you cannot hide from the final blow awaiting your armor. You use the sprint to aid in getting away from the situation at risk that you will be at lower shields until you stop sprinting.
A new aerial maneuver that smashes nearby enemy targets to bits.
To Ground Pound you jump into the air, holding the appropriate button to charge the ability, you will see a round target of sorts. Quickly release said button to see your Spartan thrust across the open terrain where they will deliver a smashing thud of energy upon landing. It’s a great way to achieve more than one kill at once, but it’s difficult to pull off on moving enemies.
Your Spartan arsenal now includes a custom smart-link/scope that provides greater aim accuracy that can even be used while in the air via the HUD, whether jumping or hovering. Before you think about hovering too much though, keep in mind this leaves your character temporarily exposed.
You can improve your aiming capabilities by aiming down sites at anytime, and while in the air, a stabilizing burst of thrust can keep you aloft for just enough time to land that perfect two-for-one.
Ever made a leap towards an object only to be left sliding down the side of it without bound? With clamber you can now press a button while jumping towards a ledge to grasp it and pull yourself up. It’s a very easy to “grasp”, (pardon the pun) gaming mechanic that will help you traverse the heavily stair stacked terrain in Halo5.
Think of it as a juke in NFL football, giving you the chance to boost in any direction, even in the air. Simply press the corresponding button and tilt your thumb stick in the desired direction. Remember there’s a cool down between uses that can be seen in the upper HUD.
A devastating shoulder bash guaranteed to surprise your foes. Hit top speed while sprinting and tap the corresponding button to charge into enemies like you’re smashing through a line of fools standing between you and a million dollars. (This one was exceptionally enjoyable during my play through of the game!)
Slide lets you avoid incoming fire or quickly get behind cover. Similar to Spartan Charge, go into a sprint, then click the appropriate button to go into a slide.
** It’s interesting to note that these new Spartan abilities can be combined to give your heavily armored clunky character a graceful slide, dash, bound, smash feel that comes in very useful not only in the campaign game play but multiplayer as well. **
The developer has upgraded features where it makes the most sense. You can tell that careful thought and testing has gone into making sure that though these features are enjoyable to play by yourself, they will not break or adversely affect the initial intent of the game – to have fun.
The aforementioned changes definitely make things feel more advanced. One could even say that, “Combat Has Evolved” in Halo5. The multiplayer side of Halo — which has always been among the best when it comes to online shooters — has defiantly been modernized in this Halo experience. Though veterans to the game will have some catching up to do, it’s easily the most solid changes that have ever come to the Halo franchise.
We will be talking with you more in the months to come about multiplayer seeing that the decision to add Forge at a later point in time will affect the overall rating of not only the multiplayer but also the overall rating of the game in general.
Form Up Soldiers – Double Time!
Halo 5’s campaign has taken a very fresh new approach to the franchise that features the ability for you to command your own squad of super soldiers. You will battle through the campaign as Master Chief, with his Blue Team, as well as the new protagonist, Spartan Locke, and his team, Osiris. These teams of four will be at your command with a new set of button prompts that have assigned to the D-Pad of the Xbox One controller.
Instruct your team to engage with enemy targets. Instruct them to hold a position as to draw fire so that you can flank behind and gain the upper hand. You can even tell team mates to pick up weapons and drive, pilot, or ride along in vehicles.
Though this took some getting used to, I found it almost imperative at times to use the other members on the team. You can tell that these guys are much smarter than your standard issue UNSC tag along. With that being said – they are still a computer driven mechanic in the game that can be instructed by you.
At times it felt as though my character was being a little bossy – barking out orders to “stand down”, “hold this position”, and “focus fire on that jackal!” It’s very important to utilize this new team command mechanic but I felt as though the dialogue with the commands could have been more random at times. A light hearted, “go kick his ass!” could have happened and it would’ve been very authentic depending on the heat of the situation.
Halo 5 is built from the ground up on co-op play seeing how they have fitted you with two different teams of four members. Gone is the day of feeling like it’s you against the world all alone with Cortana. This new Halo has you taking on the forces with a full squad at all times.
Wait.. did you say four players!?
One of the biggest changes in the co-op Halo experience will be the highly requested four player co-op campaign option. The powers of the cloud and dedicated servers have finally come combined to bring us the ability to enjoy all the Halo 5 campaign has to offer with our
friends and family.
Sure some will be disappointed to learn that Halo 5 does not support split screen mode, a decision that was made under great scrutiny by 343i, but the choice to either cut spilt screen or sacrifice end game quality was made correctly in my humble opinion. It’s been hotly debated amongst the community as if this should have in fact been done but in the end it’s the quality that should always take precedence when creating a new product.
– Help, I’m in need of assistance!
One of the new features with the campaign is tied into the way that you die and respawn.
In previous Halo titles the player has a shield indicator at the top of the HUD. When the player takes damage and the shield is fully depleted the character would appropriately do a ragdoll flop to the ground and send up a black screen returning the player to the most recent check point. In Halo5 Guardians this mechanic has changed slightly.
Once the shields are fully depleted the character now takes a kneeled position on the battle field. A small square indicator comes up over the characters body and the shields start to flicker and pop as though they have malfunctioned. The character will call out for assistance and if they are reached in time can be revived by holding down the X button.
If assistance doesn’t come soon enough the familiar black screen comes up returning the player to the most recent check point as before. At times the option to revive is skipped all together seeing that the player has taken such critical damage and is deemed unable to be assisted at which time the reset to the last checkpoint goes into effect.
Though this is a new feature to the Halo campaign sandbox it is not something that is new in gaming. This type of help & revive sequence can become stale when you’re playing at higher difficulty levels like Legendary and even Heroic. At times the team would take turns trying to come to my assistance only to be picked off one after the other due to the amount of time it takes to bring someone back from the downed state. I would like to see a change in this mechanic if possible. It would be nice to be able to actively decide as a player if the “save” was relevant or even plausible. Give me a [Hold LB + RB to die] option or some other way to negate sitting and watching my team take turns dying on my already lifeless body. It’s frustrating and really slows down the pace when playing at a higher difficulty levels which is where I find myself enjoying playing in previous Halo titles.
-Bring on the Boss!
No Halo experience would be complete without an epic boss encounter and Halo 5: Guardians set’s the bar high for other FPS’s in this latest installment.
In most shooter games it seems the boss encounters are forged from a larger variety of an existing member of enemy target and most likely will take allot of hits to take down. That’s the general rule, but not is the case for Halo 5. True- You will encounter enemy targets that vary in size and may look similar to each other but when encountering a boss in Halo 5 you will also be facing a much more formidable opponent. An opponent that is not just “large and in charge” but is also out to get you. Whereas some shooters leave you dumping large amounts of ammo into a large mostly static target (IE: Bullet sponge), Halo 5 Guardians does not.
Bosses in Halo have never been better! Without giving to much away here, you will be encountered with foes that not only want to see the end of you but are agile and all the while taunting you and your ability (or lack thereof) for even attempting to take them on. It’s the blood chilling moment when the Boss isn’t just standing in the corner or on a ledge but actually chasing you and laughing at your feeble attempts as a mere mortal.
These moments don’t only happen once but thought the campaign, and moments like these is what brings me back to play again and again. I can see myself playing the Halo 5: Guardians many times over with friends and family just to see how they react to the action that is happening on screen.
RCG: Halo 5: Guardians Campaign Scored
9.5 out of 10
This is an initial score of the Campaign and is not reflective of the game.
We will be holding out full game rating until Forge is introduced in the coming months as we feel it contributes for such a large part of the overall score.
While 343i builds on the world, expands on characters, and adds to the lore of the Halo universe, its greatest focus in Halo 5: Guardians was refining what you do as the player.
343 Industries’ Halo 5: Guardians has established itself not as “the next” Halo game, or “another sequel,” but instead opts to redefine a new beginning for the franchise — one with more commitment to its players. It’s refreshing to see a developer admit its shortcomings and get back in touch with its contemporaries without sacrificing what makes it unique, and that’s just what Halo 5 does, grabbing a hold of its rightful crown at the top without relying on its popularity. Not allowing the overwhelming serge of industry standard to take it places it’s attempted before with and failed. Gone are the days of calling in ordinance that is randomized and creates an unknown element on the field. In are your chances of scoring REQpacks for your accomplishments and time spent hard fighting. (Something I will be covering more in my video review of the game in the coming days).
I truly thank you for reading this in-depth opinion of Halo 5 and look forward to teaming with you sometime soon!
Finally – I leave you with this:
“As a veteran Halo player I can say that without doubt this Halo experience is something that has roped me in and has made me remember the feeling to grind out playing for days on end. Though I might not be able to dedicate all the time that I could before, you can be rest assured that a majority of my time spent playing games will be taken up with Halo 5: Guardians for some time to come.”