When the Xbox One launched roughly two years ago, Microsoft’s all-in-one console did so without a brand new Halo game to generate interest and increase hardware sales. Notable exclusives like Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 went on to strengthen the brand’s holiday 2014 lineup, while Halo: The Master Chief Collection suffered a wide array of technical issues and made fans weary of the franchise’s future.
With the long-awaited retail release of Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries and Microsoft are aiming to erase the past and create one of the best Halo games ever made. Here are a few of my thoughts on the campaign and why this entry may or may not appeal to diehard fans of the series.
Halo 5: Guardians takes place directly after the events of the last game and revolve around a new threat designed to eradicate the entire galaxy. Still copping with the loss of Cortana, Master Chief receives a cryptic message from her while on a mission with his squadmates and breaks protocol by deciding to venture deep into the solar system to find her. Shortly thereafter, this captures the attention of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and they end up sending Spartan Jameson Locke and his Osiris Team unit to investigate the iconic hero’s whereabouts. The overall plot is similar to most science fiction based storylines, with a few twist and turns to keep the pace interesting from start to finish.
While all of this may sound compelling to a casual Halo fan, there are a few issues that I personally think will annoy diehard fans of the series. For starters, it’s worth noting that Master Chief’s role is significantly diminished throughout most of the campaign, leaving him to take a backseat to Spartan Locke and Team Osiris. Considering how important this legendary character is to both the franchise and the Xbox brand as a whole, this was especially disappointing to witness even though it was clear 343 was heading in this direction with the opening cinematic reveal. When you throw in the simple fact that the campaign is approximately 15 missions long though, this especially makes the decision to have Master Chief less involved in the narrative even more puzzling.
Another gripe that I have with the campaign stems from the uneven lengths of certain missions when compared to others. I recall three specific missions where the player simply had to deliver messages back and forth between two individuals who were only a few feet away from each other. All of these encounters could have been condensed into either the previous or next mission to cut down the need for creating more chapters. It is worth noting that there are skulls and various forms of intel to collect during each mission. This is primarily the sole reason why so many missions exist, but I personally still think all three of these experiences didn’t need individual chapters.
Moving away from the narrative, one of the single most enjoyable aspects about Halo 5: Guardians lies within its core gameplay experience. Combat is still brutally satisfying thanks to both the various weapons and enemy types that you’ll encounter. Unlike earlier games in the series, this title is very much centered on using teamwork to achieve the best results. As either Spartan Locke or Master Chief, you have the ability to instruct your AI controlled teammates on where to go and who to attack. This adds another layer of strategy to the overall experience and I’m very eager to see how this adds to the co-op campaign feature when I try it out later this week.
When it comes to graphics, Halo 5: Guardians is simply gorgeous to look at. The game runs at an impressive 60fps locked throughout the entire campaign and the visuals also remain crisp despite slight resolution shifts that tend to happen from time to time. 343 made it very clear from the beginning that they wanted this title to perform well in terms of industry standards and for the most part they have certainly delivered on that promise. To see the game in action, I definitely would encourage you all to have a look at my playthrough video of the first three campaign missions below.
Aside from a few annoying issues with the story, I’d say Halo 5: Guardians is still a great entry in the series. If you are new to the franchise and you love first-person shooters, then this game will definitely grab your attention. However, if you are expecting a campaign that allows you to play as Master Chief throughout most or even half of the missions, then you certainly will be disappointed. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on co-op campaign, multiplayer, and a final number score later this week.
Halo 5: Guardians launches exclusively for the Xbox One on October 27th.