Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One)

Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One) - Review

by Dan Carreras , posted on 26 October 2015 / 15,679 Views

Halo 5 takes the Halo series into new and uncharted territory. 343 Industries has clearly taken a lot of criticism the last few entries in the series received to heart, and in doing so has managed to craft one of the best shooters of the generation so far. Whilst the characters, settings, and lore are all quintessentially Halo, the game feels wildly different to past entries. It's a risky move - one that risks provoking the wrath of many established series fans - but on the whole it really pays off.

The gameplay, which has historically only received small tweaks and refinements with each sequel for the most part, is noticeably different in Halo 5. Gone is the overly 'floaty' feeling of movement from previous Halos, where a massive jump would cause your character to glide smoothly through the air before landing without any noticeable impact, and gone is the plastic feel of the weapons. Halo’s gotten serious, and this new found sense of self-awareness has altered the gameplay dynamic. 

Every bullet is felt, every punch savoured, and every death makes an impact. This is combat you can really relish in. Everything feels more life-like - not just in a presentational sense but also a gameplay one, thanks to all of your actions being accompanied with an appropriate sense of weight. Punching an enemy whilst sprinting will also perform a new Spartan ability, with the camera zooming out for a second to really show off the impact of your punch. 

Halo 5 shooting prometheans

On the subject of potentially controversial new features, smart zoom has been added. This means that, when using the default controller set up, you can quickly 'scope' in with any and all weapons by using the left trigger, as you can in most shooters. Why is it going to be controversial? Well besides the fact that this is a first for the series outside of weapons with built-in scopes, it signals an obvious convergence between Halo and other blockbuster first person shooters like Call of Duty, which will not be to everybody's liking. Add to all of these gameplay changes the new Spartan aim feature, which allows you to hang for a while in mid-air whilst aiming, and you have one of the most distinctive Halo games in a long time. 

Most of these gameplay changes, as well as the locked 60 frame per second, feel right at home when playing against over players in multiplayer as well; indeed it feels like they were thought up with multiplayer specifically in mind. Something like the Spartan slam ability is relatively useless in the campaign but comes in very handy in multiplayer, for example, so as welcome as most of these changes are when it comes to the campaign they make for even stronger multiplayer additions.

multiplayer
There are also, of course, new threats to encounter in the campaign. The Promethean race has been overhauled. New foot soldiers can teleport across the battlefield and these foes take centre stage. They're tough to kill as well, with standard headshots being out of the question until you’ve done enough damage to anger them into presenting their heads. The Promethean knights have also been reworked; they're a lot stronger and more fearsome now, and share similarities with the Covenant hunters which have weak spots on their backs that have to be focussed. The end result is that each faction in the Halo universe has its own distinctive 'easy', 'medium', and 'hard' troop types.

For all the good there are some glaring negatives. For one, the campaign is exceedingly short. I completed it within 5 hours on Normal. I then went back and played through it again on legendary, which increased my playtime to 20 hours, but the dearth of original campaign content is a bit disconcerting and is hopefully not the start of a trend for the series. Pre-release publicity claims that the game contains 15 missions, but it's really more like 12 playable levels and 3 hub 'missions', where you walk around an open environment listening to NPCs and finding hidden collectibles.

These town hub segments leave something to be desired as well. In theory, I quite like the idea - it has the potential to make the Halo series feel more grounded in its own reality, and helps to further flesh out the Halo universe. Unfortunately its implementation in Halo 5 feels a bit off. NPC stand awkwardly around, exhibiting a very small selection of animations, waiting for you to walk over to them and trigger a pre-set conversation. It’s a bit jarring, but as I said before it does have potential, so hopefully 343 Industries puts more effort into these segments if it decides to include them in the next Halo.

halo 5 vehicle
It’s also a shame that, despite all of the advertising for the game focussing on the division between Spartan Locke and Master Chief in almost equal measure, Halo 5 actually only allows you to play as Master Chief in 3 of the 15 missions. It doesn't make much difference from a gameplay perspective - Master Chief and Locke control identically - but Master Chief has always been the star of the show and a major part of the Halo universe, so his relative absence is certainly felt.

As short as the campaign proper is, there's plenty of replayability, as Halo fans have come to expect. There are 117 collectibles to be found, which will keep completionists coming back to the campaign levels time and again. These collectibles add to the universe's lore in genuinely interesting ways, for example by explaining the consequences of a glassed planet, or divulging the elites' feelings towards their brothers in the Covenant. The level design is simply sublime as well, with a new-found degree of verticality allowing for different approaches to skirmishes. This makes replaying the campaign levels more engaging than ever before in the series.

custscene

Halo 5 is definitely one of the most polished games on the Xbox One. The large vistas, polished character models, and fantastic anti-aliasing ensures that the world of Halo has never looked better. The 60 fps lock also ensures that the game looks and plays smoothly at all times. Once you've played Halo at 60 fps you'll find it very hard to go back to older Halo titles. Unfortunately it has result in one major omission - local co-op. The feature's death has been well publicised, and given the series' superb history of local cooperative support the anger it provoked is understandable, even if it has paved the way for gameplay that is smoother and more enjoyable than ever before.

Halo is one of the few video game series that is almost as memorable for its score as its art style and gameplay. The music has continued to evolve for Halo 5, and in many ways the changes to the soundtrack mirror the changes to the gameplay that I discussed earlier. The score has been injected with a more serious tone while still retaining an epic feel that is beautifully fitting for a series that stretches across the vastness of space. It’s awe-inspiring, and really brings out the best in the series. 

warden eternal
Multiplayer is split into two main modes: Arena and Warzone. Arena is made up of multiple playlists which cycle through maps and different game types, some classic and some new. I still have, and always will love, the SWAT playlist; a series of matches where a single head-shot is enough to insta-kill your foe, and I was relieved to hear of its return. But as well as staple match types and playlists like SWAT, some new ones have been introduced, such as Breakout (a mode with no respawns, but with the objective to either kill the entire enemy team or to capture the flag and take it to its designated capture point).  

Arena is what many think of when they picture Halo multiplayer, but Warzone is where 343 Industries has really stretched its imagination. The game mode entails 24 players joining one huge map and destroying as many Covenant or Prometheans as possible with their teammates, as well as the opposing team. During each round, team levels inflate, allowing players to access REQ stations (more on those in a second) and bigger, more powerful weapons they’ve already unlocked. Whilst this mode is fun and hectic, I've unfortunately only ever managed to get into a few games for the purposes of this pre-launch review due to the huge player count requirement (18 minimum).

loads of grunts
As for Requisitions, they're essentially used as a new microtransaction model that ensures that Halo fanbase is not segregated by the release of new DLC. Put simply, it's a card system whereby players can purchase booster packs using in-game currency acquired during matches or through shelling out real money. The cards give no benefits or advantages during standard multiplayer matches, but allow players to access additional boosts, weapons, vehicles, and abilities in Warzone matches. These booster packs are also how you now acquire new pieces of armour. The advantage of 343 Industries shifting to this microtransaction model is that all future DLC maps will be made freely available to all players, whilst the booster packs themselves can be earned through gameplay, making paid DLC for Halo 5: Guardians entirely optional.

Halo 5 could well prove to be the return to form that Halo fans have been waiting for. Not all of the changes will prove popular with the Halo fan base - Halo 5 is a surprisingly stand-out Halo title in this respect, introducing a lot of changes, both subtle and in-your-face. It discards series tropes with confidence and stands tall as a testament to what can happen when a series embraces the new without detracting from the best of the old. Halo 5 is, at this early stage, my favourite Halo title to-date, and I honestly never thought I would say that after being so deflated by Halo 4. If you own an Xbox One, you owe it to yourself to own Halo 5



This review is based on a retail copy of Halo 5: Guardians for the XOne, provided by the publisher.

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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40 Comments

Seventizz (on 26 October 2015)

This, Tomb Raider, and Rainbow Six are all I care about this holiday!


  • -15
  • -16
darkenergy (on 26 October 2015)

Look, it's at +4 :)


  • +4
ClassicGamingWizzz (on 26 October 2015)

Defensive much walsufnir ?


  • +9
malistix1985 (on 29 October 2015)

Looks like a great game for HALO fans and a good game for sci fi shooter fans. I will pick it up later since I am only interested in the Single Player


QUAKECore89 (on 26 October 2015)

Wow my thought is exact same... I knew everybody would disappoint on this game, i mean, no, it's really good game, but... Man, three major cons. :S


geniunet (on 06 November 2015)

Professional review, very competent one. Absolutely gorgeous and fantastic gameplay. Devs made an incredible job. The best Halo game and one of the best shooters of all time. So fun to see jealousy out there :)


SilentStryker (on 28 October 2015)

Yeah, having a great time so far. Halfway through campaign and played a few matches in almost all the multiplayer game modes. Definitely a huge step up from Halo 4(man glad to put that behind us).


goddog (on 27 October 2015)

shame its a no go for me, the lack of local split screen removes the game from my list and the write up from multiple site confirms this choice. first halo game since 2 that i will not have played through on launch day.. normally local co-op through


slab_of_bacon (on 04 November 2015)

Maybe this is the revival of LAN parties.


  • +1
nanorazor (on 05 November 2015)

A well solid reason.


  • +1
Azuren (on 27 October 2015)

Eh.


Mr Puggsly (on 26 October 2015)

I'm fine with a short campaign. I rather a good short campaign twice than a long boring campaign once. I'll be spending a majority of the time with the multiplayer.


quisuis (on 26 October 2015)

same story with the order 1886 but funny how fan complain about it!


  • +5
  • -6
peterdavid12345 (on 27 October 2015)

So is Halo Guardian
"the campaign is exceedingly short. I completed it within 5 hours on Normal." - Quote from the Review :).

TO BE FAIR, the reason Halo Guardian gets much better score becuz it's an MP-focused game like COD, Star Wars. Rarely anyone care about the SP or Story tbh. It's all about the multiplayer experience while The Order 1886 is just a single player game only.
Big reason why i think Sony should implement MP mode on their exclusives. Imagine inFAMOUS or Ratchet and Clank Multiplayer mode, it would be freakin amazing!


  • 0
QUAKECore89 (on 27 October 2015)

@Mr Pugssly Well at least there's Legendary difficulty & co-op mode(online), that took me ages to beat the game. :-P


  • 0
magos2k7 (on 08 November 2015)

I think the solo campaign is longer than Halo 3, which had only 9 missions. The time could be different, but I've finished 'em all, and 3 seemed the shortest. The Chief is there, but you only get to play as him in every other level. So it's a "glass half empty/full" kind of view as far as his "relative absence". The story... well, no spoilers here, but I felt a kind of "heart-broken-ness". That's all I'll say about it. But it is well worth a spin on the 'One.


geniunet (on 06 November 2015)

Professional review, very competent one. Absolutely gorgeous and fantastic gameplay. Devs made an incredible job. The best Halo game and one of the best shooters of all time. So fun to see jealousy out there :)


FallingTitan (on 27 October 2015)

LOVING IT SO FAR! ON MISSION 3 and so far its my FAV!!!! SO IMMERSED!


Puppyroach (on 27 October 2015)

Two missions in and have played for about two hours...


XenatheStrangler (on 26 October 2015)

Good review! Awesome!


binary solo (on 26 October 2015)

Wow! Best Halo ever aye? That's a big call.


DanCarreras (on 26 October 2015)

I'll come back to this in a few months, but from a purely gameplay perspective, yep, favourite so far. (ODST + Reach still my favourite for story/emotions)


  • +1
AlfredoTurkey (on 27 October 2015)

If Nintendo released a Zelda game where you played as Gannon for 75% of the game, how do you think the gaming community would accept that? Not good you say? Then we should not accept this either. Halo has always been about following Chief on some epic, galaxy spawning war against evil. It should stay that way.


Raistline (on 27 October 2015)

I would absolutely love to play a game where I could play as Gannon for 75% of the game. I think it would be great fun, just so long as they advertise the game so that you know going in you play as Gannon and don't do what they did with Metal Gear Solid 2.


  • +1
FallingTitan (on 27 October 2015)

As a huge Zelda fan I'd love to play Ganon! LOVE TO see his side of things


  • +1
sales2099 (on 30 October 2015)

That is actually dated thinking........and 343 better change this perception in the coming years.

Halo has evolved to a point where it is a sprawling galaxy with many characters. Chief is a BIG one, but the universe doesn't die with him. Halo is bigger then one person.


  • 0
AlfredoTurkey (on 30 October 2015)

If you think Halo is bigger than one person, than I guess we'll see Halo 5 sell the same amount that Halo 3 did, right?


  • 0
quisuis (on 26 October 2015)

game is good for a rental only campaign is has long has the order 1886, 6 - 7 h max.... or wait few month went it reach 20$ (i dont play MP) i already finish the game and story is meh... deja vu... (cant spoil it) but by the promo video it easy to see where the story goes! REVIEW I DO AGREE WITH: Halo 5: Guardians features an underwhelming, confusing and surprisingly banal campaign that's not actively bad, but equally not quite good enough to warrant a purchase on its own.


SilentStryker (on 28 October 2015)

Very few people get Halo ONLY for the campaign. So telling people not to get it just because you only play campaign, or is unfamiliar with the lore, well that's really not an impartial suggestion, is it?


  • +5
nanorazor (on 05 November 2015)

Don't get why this is downvoted, There are lots of gamers that play singleplayer parts mostly and not much Multiplayer.


  • 0
peterdavid12345 (on 27 October 2015)

No biased, very honest and professional. Awesome Reviews :). +1


Azzanation (on 26 October 2015)

Just played it, its fantastic, easily up there with the best games this year. The game is gorgeous and the MP has me hooked. Its going to keep any Xbox owner busy though oput the holidays.


H3ADShOt3 (on 29 October 2015)

Wow the dislikes are huge on this one... I guess some people are jealous...


  • +5
DanCarreras (on 02 November 2015)

Genuinely surprised at the amount of downvotes this is getting. Thanks for commenting, and completely agree.


  • +1
Jigsawx1 (on 31 October 2015)

nice game i played it for 10 hours+ sp/mp and its really amazing, if you play mp, then play it with the english soundif you are not from us or uk^^ double kill ps4 sucks ;)


Comments below voting threshold

SWORDF1SH (on 26 October 2015)

"Master Chief's relative absence" Who gives a fuck if his family isn't in it? :p


  • -10
Signalstar (on 26 October 2015)

That's really funny.


  • -3