Game Review: Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5Halo 5: Guardians arrives ripe with expectation. How could it not, when there’s been a massive marketing campaign to promote it that includes a bevy of beautifully crafted elements. Elements that supposedly contribute directly to the now vast lore that makes up the Halo-verse.

There’s a clear level of dedication to the lore both in game and out. But the marketing presents contrasting narratives with that of the game, to good and bad effect. That’s probably the most important thing you need to know about the game. Now go play.

Or keep reading this review. Don’t expect the hunt or the conflicting sides of a conflict to be showcased as they are in the ads. In the game, there’s no mention of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)’s misinformation campaign against the Master Chief. That’s entirely a component of the excellent and entertaining podcast Hunt the Truth and subsequent ads. Honestly, put that all aside, because Halo 5 tells a different story.

One I’m not going to spoil. You have to play it to find out what happens next, or read any number of spoilers to be found elsewhere online. And you should play, because Halo 5 is the most kinetic Halo game yet. The sheer physicality that is impart by the game is impressive. Melees, assassinations, shoulder charges, ground pounds make you feel like a 7-foot tall wrecking ball plowing through the Covenant and Promethean forces.

Coming off of months of playing Destiny that extra level of movement and reaction from all characters is very welcome. Halo 5 adds to the frenzy taking what was the equivalent of touch rugby and making it into full on 15s with the All Blacks. When you get hit by a spartan at full speed, and you will, you’ll feel it. And so will everyone else. Whether it’s in the campaign or PVP your enemies will feel every step you take, every shoulder your put into a wall or every punch to the back of a head. And they will cower in fear as a result.

The campaign, spoilers aside, isn’t as tight as previous games. Gone are those real seat-of-your pants moments where you’re scrambling to react, grasping for a weapon or to simply land one more punch and save the day. There’s little in the way of vehicular combat meaning both Master Chief and Spartan Locke are rarely highjacking a ghost and showing the Covenant who humanity is. What’s worse, in Halo 5 you also never get astride a boss and just punch it into submission – like you could in Halo 2 when fighting the Prophet of Regret.

That’s still my favorite memory from any Halo game – the Prophet of Regret meeting the fist of comeuppance as his throne veers around the room and grunts scatter about not knowing what to do. Such set pieces, which we have come to expect of the Halo franchise are there, but they’re confined to the cutscenes. Basically, you get to watch cool stuff happen. You don’t do cool stuff.

It leaves Halo 5 feeling empty compared to its predecessors. Even some enemies are missing. Gone are the brutes and prophets. There’s never any sight of the engineers either, which only appeared in Halo: ODST. (If they were in Halo: Reach then please excuse my ignorance as I didn’t get to play that game.) In their stead are more Prometheans, which sadly lack the character variability of the Covenant.

Halo 5 is not just about the campaign. Oh no, it’s about multiplayer. Gone and much missed are split-screen coop, Firefight and Spartan-Ops. The latter two are rolled into the new game type — Warzone. At 24 people, Warzone is a mess. But a good one. It’s chaotic and frenzied as players from both teams rush around the map trying to defeat AI controlled characters and the opposing team while trying to capture bases. Arena, aka the classic Halo modes are back as well and gone are the different starting weapons. Everyone has the same loadout and abilities leveling the playing field and returning it to what Halo is and should be.

There’s more to say about Halo 5, but the reality is that you should be playing whether its for the story or the multiplayer. Both are growing in some really interesting ways. 343 Industries has inherited a much beloved universe and done well with it, while recognizing other trends in first-person shooters that they’ve now included in Halo 5. Just don’t expect wallrunning. At 7-feet tall don’t expect Master Chief to be doing parkour. Cause when he comes down, he comes down hard.

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Greg Pellechi ThumbnailReview by: Gregory Pellechi
Gregory Pellechi used to work in the Middle East and Southeast Asia  but now calls Finland home. He wishes he had more free time to read and write – the latter of which he does far too little of for himself. Greg will read just about anything and these days that includes books (albeit easy-readers) in Swedish, but prefers Cyberpunk, Speculative Fiction and Star Wars. You can visit his blog at www.gregorypellechi.com where he runs the podcast Fulltime HEL. He’s also on Twitter (@SvenNomadsson); just remember the time difference if you’re expecting a prompt reply.

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