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Halo 5: Guardians Review

I can’t help but feel that after playing through Halo 5’s short single player campaign (15 missions) that the series should have ended when Bungie gave up the mantel with Halo 3. Don’t get me wrong the game has its saving graces and this is with the Multiplayer, but from a single player point of view the game was a big disappointment in my eyes!

While this is classed as a Spoiler alert I can say that what made Halo so great for me was the Master Chief and taking most of the campaign away from the Chief in Halo 5 and sharing the screen time with Spartan Locke (plus three other supporting characters) was half the problem.

On top of this the Halo 5's single player campaign was almost trying to act like a giant tutorial or advertising board for the Multiplayer; gearing you up to the new abilities, such as ground pound and jet pack side steps.

While graphically the cut-scenes were of movie quality I couldn't say the same for the in-game graphics, plus the character Locke was as wooden here as he was in the Nightfall series (though the voice actor was different in fairness). 

For the most part you can get away with the up-scaled resolution from a distance, sadly when viewing the game close-up - as I have been doing for the past few weeks (I was testing some Gaming monitors) - you can see how poor they are by modern standards.

This is why I was surprised when some reviews have stated how technically advanced the up-scaling engine has been to keep this game running silky smooth at 60fps. While this may be the case on paper, in reality its certainly been at the expense of the in-game graphics which look similar or if not worse, to Halo 4 (a 4 year old game)! I know its all about the gameplay, but the locations are bland and there has been pretty much zero advances to the engine i.e. from a destructible environment point of view. Granted you now have new abilities and an animation effect when going over platforms, but I can’t see where the real advances have come from.

Anyway the campaign can be played in 4-player coop now (your mates take over the AI controlled Spartans) which could be a reason why the in-game graphics have been dumbed down to maintain 60fps. I have to admit on the first few missions it does feel pretty cool zipping about with the new abilities (which also includes being able to revive fallen team-mates) and your buddies fighting by your side! However this soon ends and while you can have up to three other players joining you I found it better to play the campaign on my own; most of the time I spent trying to chase my buddies into action only to find all the Prometheans (which sadly make a return) and The Covenant had been mopped up already! Thus the coop should have been left at two-player and the couch-coop split screen should have remained in place!

On a positive note the AI has improved to the point the enemy will give you some challenge in Normal mode (albeit not much) and there are some stand-out missions involving controlling the Mantis and Scorpion tank. Additionally the whole game in single player plays out like one continues movie, but I knew that when playing the game that if I was looking forward to playing the multiplayer more than the single player experience that the latter was doomed from the start!

Multiplayer

For once in my gaming life I have to admit that the Multiplayer is what I was more excited about playing and this saves the game from gathering dust at the bottom of my shelf!

I will admit to not being a huge fan of multiplayer games, per-say, but as with Titanfall, Halo 5 hits the mark in a big way!

Unlike the Halo: The Master Chief Collection the devs have learned from the pitfalls of the latter and produced a blomin good multiplayer experience; so kudos to them! For example matchmaking is quick, the games are exciting to play with balanced maps/weapons and the time-limit is about spot on!

Even if you are rubbish at Multiplayer you still feel as if you can make your mark thanks to having shields and the new abilities; which gives you a fighting chance!

Speaking of Titanfall

The game also introduces a new mode called Warzone. There are two variations to this, one that pits 12 v 12 Players alongside AI opponents and the other which is 12 vs 12 PvP. The objective is to capture bases until you reach a 1000 points or the time runs out (PvP mode).

Warzone is spread over larger maps with the ability to utilise REQ cards; let’s just say they are ripped straight out of Titanfall’s handbook.

However unlike Titanfall you can only use the cards once you have reached a certain REQ level – achieved with kills, scoring points by holding bases or killing AI bosses.

Additionally you can only activate a REQ card via one of your bases REQ machines or before you respawn. Plus the perk lasts for a limited time or of course until you die!

Perks though are great, you can get better weapons, power-ups for your shields or the ability to utilise some of the many Halo vehicles; this includes scorpion tanks, Mantis and the like. The question is when to use the REQ packs, as this can turn the course of a game. However the REQ system feels well balanced, so it feels like no team has the upper-hand.

You can earn more packs by levelling up or achieving certain objectives within the game. The only thing I don’t like is the option to buy these packs with real-money!

Arena

The other side of the Multiplayer is Arena and this features several game modes, including a community driven playlist – which runs weekly.

For me a lot of the modes were familiar as I did participate in the BETA. However like I said at the start the multiplayer side has been nailed here.

Unlike the Warzone maps, the Arena maps are smaller and are perfectly designed for Slayer modes or Free-for-all PvP!

Slayer, as the name suggests pits two teams of 4 against each other with the aim being to reach 50 points or achieve an objective, such as capture the flag or hold points in a domination style mode.

Here you also have a high-powered weapons that appear on the playing field within a set time limit; which adds new strategies to the gameplay. You also have special badges appear when achieving certain in-game objectives, such as double kill; Close call (when you just miss out on being killed) and Misdirection (misdirect an opponent while an opponent kills him/her).

On the whole the pace is spot on, plus with the in-game audio clips (shouting out double kill etc) and smooth 60fps in place this all adds to the excitement of a traditional good old fashioned shooter! Graphically it’s similar to the single player, but the graphics sort of work in Multiplayer.

Swat is tough!

I must admit I struggled with the Swat game mode; which removes the shields and grenades from your person. The number of headshots I received makes you want to rage quit, but stick with it and you can use this mode to improve your skills (if you can stay alive long enough).

The other mode you have is Breakout. Here you have 4 vs 4 with the game won by eliminating the opposition (or by capturing the flag in some variations). It’s a first to 5 scenario, but what’s different is that once you are killed you sit out until the next round. While this may sound boring, it’s far from it, and each round is over really quickly.

For example I was playing a game the other day and we were down 4 to 1, so they needed one round to go, but my team fought back to level this 4 all. It was down to the last game and last man standing. Unfortunately for my team I was the last man standing and we lost. However the whole point is that the game is never over until you reach those 5 victories. It was an exciting mode to play and I can see this being popular with the e-Sports community.

Finally the community driven playlist does change each week. This past weekend it was snipers and shotguns, so that’s all you had to work with! Again it’s not the best mode, but it at least shows a variety to the gameplay/modes.

It’s interesting to hear that 343 will be adding another game mode soon; by offering this as free DLC. So Halo 5 will certainly get support from a multiplayer point of view.

As for the Single player, well I think that’s about your lot really, which just shows that the game's core focus is on the multiplayer side foremost.

Theatre Mode

I nearly forgot to mention this but the Theatre mode is back in Halo 5 and it’s a brilliant feature - if you like to view back your multiplayer games! Basically in the theatre mode it records your gameplay footage and then (using a series of intuitive controls) it allows you to view this back in a variety of ways. For example you can switch to different players, so you can see how you were killed in-game, or you can do super cool slow-mo’s, which are great for gameplay videos. Check our gameplay footage below which showcases this in action.

Summary

For me having played through all previous Halo games since the original Xbox - through to The Master Chief Collection Xbox One reboot - I have to admit the campaign was a massive disappointment. It’s not that its over in a heart beat, it just doesn't work! The story is poor, the voice acting likewise and the in-game graphics are something you would find on a previous gen-console. As a result if you were going to buy this for a single player experience then don’t bother and save yourself some money. However on the flip-side if you like your multiplayer than I would buy this game for this reason alone!