Halo 5: Guardians – Review

(Copy purchased, mild story spoilers to follow)

Halo 5: Guardians finally (finally!) launches on the Xbox One today, over two years after being first revealed by Microsoft at E3 2013. There’s no escaping the obvious: Halo 5 is a must-win for Microsoft, and at this point it might not be too far-fetched to suggest that the very success of the Xbox One hinges on the sales and ratings of this one game.

With that small fact in the back of our minds, it’s time for a quick review of Halo 5: Guardians. I’ll admit, I absolutely love the story of the Halo games, even if it is all nonsense, and an excuse to shoot almost everything in sight. Locke V Master Chief made for an incredible set up, and we were promised “universe changing events” from Microsoft.

I’m sad to report then, that the story of Halo 5 is complete and utter bollocks. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil much here, but I will make it adamantly clear that Microsoft distinctly mislead us with the huge marketing campaign for the game. The whole ‘Locke V Master Chief’ side of the story is barely anywhere to be found, as is any logic, as it happens.

Remember the TV adverts painting Chief as a traitor? Barely mentioned in the game. Remember the adverts focusing on the morality fight between Jameson Locke and Master Chief? Virtually non-existent throughout. I’m really disappointed with the decision to steer the plot away from these themes and instead focus on something else, particularly when this something else makes absolutely no logical sense and completely butchers a character very near and dear to me in the Halo universe.

As the credits rolled on the campaign of Halo 5: Guardians, I couldn’t believe the point at which the game chose to end. Again, no spoilers, but I really can’t imagine how 343 are going to rectify this colossal mess with the recently-announced Halo 6, and how the series progresses characters that got barely any screen time or consequential moments from here on out.

Aside from the abysmal plot failure of the game, the combat is as brilliant as we’ve come to expect from the series, even a little more fluid and smooth in some places. There’s both a wealth of weapons and a wide variety of locations in which to use them, from massive, sprawling cities to tight, dark corridors. People were worried that the game was changing too much, with the ‘aim-down-sights’ mechanic and the boost ability, but these only go to compliment the firefights quite nicely.

What’s more, the game looks absolutely incredible. I’ll admit that I can’t tell when a game is running at 60 frames per second, but I’ve heard numerous reports that it keeps to this benchmark consistently, and this is very telling with how incredibly smoothly the entire thing runs. Lord knows 343 needed this after the technical meltdown that was The Master Chief Collection.

I’ll also happily credit 343 as having made a few nice additions to the multiplayer side of the game. I’m not a huge fan of competitive multiplayer, but I delved into Halo 5’s online modes to provide a more thorough analysis of the game as a whole. Arena and Warzone are the two highlights of the game, and 343 has clearly taken the time to make sure the finished product is as polished as possible.

Basically, if you’ve come to Halo 5 in part for the online, you’ll leave incredibly satisfied. There are a wealth of modes, maps and weapons to choose from (as well as unlock further on down the road), and I can easily see a dedicated Halo fan sinking at least triple the amount of time spent on the campaign into the multiplayer.

As good as the combat mechanics, graphics and online are, I can’t help feeling incredibly burned out by Halo 5’s story. In no way shape or form does this even come close to past stories told in the previous Halo games, as the entire thing feels very rushed, with both characters and themes being stupidly underutilised. Sure, I’ll be back for more with Halo 6, but in my eyes, 343 have a lot of making up to do after this disappointing mess of a story, which the rest of the game struggles to make up for.

Score: 7/10


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