Halo 5: Guardians Review – Flawed But The Gameplay Triumphs

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Halo 5: Guardians is the biggest blockbuster Xbox One game to come out this year. There’s a lot riding on this game especially after the issues with Halo: The Master Chief Collection and to some extent Halo 4. While its commercial success is given, does it have the potential to retain fans and give people a Halo experience they’ve been craving for a long time?

The story puts you in the shoes of Agent Jameson Locke and Master Chief; the latter being playable in only 3 missions is sort of a disappointment. If you are not a Halo fan and have not read some of the books, the story of Halo 5: Guardians will go over your head. The Locke vs Chief advertisements and what actually happens in the game is something that can be termed as misleading.

The campaign can be finished in 6 hours if you play in the normal difficulty and there’s a four player co-op as well. Co-op is definitely the best way to experience the campaign since playing solo doesn’t feel right. You alternate between Agent Locke’s Osiris team and Chief’s Blue team. The campaign mostly revolves around Master Chief trying to find the AI Cortana who seems to have gone rogue. Matters are made much worse because Agent Locke’s after Master Chief as well.

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The cutscenes are amazing and I really wish there were more of them. Of course, the acrobatic moves performed by the Spartans in the cutscenes cannot be performed while actually playing, but you do have new moves like ground pound and clamber. While there are tons of weapons at your disposal as well– you run out of ammo really fast, like after one encounter. Sure, there are many weapons you can scavange but it just isn’t the same.

While the campaign was kind of enjoyable playing with friends, it’s just as disappointing as Halo 4’s campaign. Mainly because, there’s just too much stuff that happens too fast and there’s no variety in the boss fights. You fight a guy called The Warden Eternal seven times in the game. It’s all just too confusing and the ending is a cliffhanger as well. Finish the fight in Halo 6 I guess. Get it?

The lack of split screen is a glaring omission and it’s kind of sad that they’re moving away from the spirit of Halo which was sitting beside your buddy and shooting some Covenants in the face. However, the game feels absolutely amazing to play. The 60fps framerate makes the action really slick and enjoyable. I’m glad 343i stuck to this goal and didn’t prioritize graphics over gameplay. That said, Halo 5 looks amazing with great visual effects and environments.

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The gameplay in the campaign is made easier due to a new squad mechanic. If you are doing co-op, you can select any one character from Locke’s or Chief’s team. I found Buck (played by Nathan Fillion) to be the most interesting of the lot. Your squad mates can revive you and you have a decent amount of time before you can respawn.

The AI is a step back from previous Halo games. The Elites in particular are pretty annoying and can one shot you if you are close even in the normal difficulty. The Grunts are adorable and you can hear their banter which is amusing. The campaign gets over so fast that there’s hardly any memorable moments although Arbiter’s awesomeness transcends video games.

The multiplayer is where Halo 5 shines due to a 60fps framerate. A few problems I think need to be fixed is the time to kill. It takes forever to down an enemy with an assault rifle or DMR. If you are fighting two people you are pretty much dead. This wasn’t the case in Halo 3.

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There are two main modes namely Arena and Warzone. Arena contains the usual playlists like Slayer, SWAT and others, while Warzone is a completely new mode. SWAT is amazing and it’s the playlist I play the most due to it being skill based and requiring you to perform headshots and it’s a lot satisfying too.

In Warzone, you play in huge maps with 24 players and you have to battle AI and human players. There will be random objectives and the goal is to get to 1000 points. It’s the most fun I’ve had in Halo 5 especially if you are already in a group with your friends.

Now, here’s another thing that I’m really not sure of — the REQ system. Basically you get different packages which are RNG based and they give you different weapons, items and armour. There are tons of customizations options in the game and most of them can only be accessed after you unlock it via the REQ system. You can either play the game normally for months to unlock items or just pay for it via microtransactions which is entirely optional. The next time you see a Spartan with a cool armor, remember that you have very low chances to get it as well and show off and vice versa.

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The netcode for the multiplayer is fantastic and since there are dedicated servers as well, full credit goes to Microsoft and 343i for increasing the spirit of competitiveness which is what Halo multiplayer is all about.

The music is fantastic and I could just spend a lot of time listening to the menu music as I recollect all the wonderful moments I had while playing the numerous Halo games. The UI is slick and reminds me of Halo Reach where Bungie knocked the UI design out of the park.

Halo 5: Guardians is a killer app for the Xbox One, unfortunately the weak campaign and the RNG based REQ system takes some shine of, what is otherwise, a fantastic Halo game. I wish 343i would go back to the basics which is where you take on the world with your gun, shield and grenades. You would need nothing else, it was simple and perfect.