Halo 5 Guardians Review

Of all games released during the current generation of video game consoles, Halo 5 has the biggest job of all. With the Xbox One being perceived as lagging behind the competition, a lot weighs on the shoulders of this lone title. Halo 5 Guardians is hoped to be the savior, the chosen one for the ultimate fate of the Xbox One console. It needs to be a console seller and it needs to be a big hit. It's Microsoft's ace in the sleeve and now has never been more important for all the stars to line up. Let's discuss what makes Halo 5 Guardians a hit and a definite must for the Christmas holiday period.

Firstly let's explain how Halo 5 Guardians story takes place. Don't worry, I am going to be vague with details and won't spoil anything that the trailers haven't already shown us. You start off the game playing as Spartan Locke with an elite team of Spartans known as Team Osiris. Not being a long-time Halo player I only recognised two familiar faces. There's Locke, whom I recognised from the Halo mini-series Nightfall and also Buck, whom shows up in previous Halo titles, but I mostly recognise him from the likeness of Nathan Fillion who does the voice for Buck as well as provides the face. 

Team Osiris is comprised of Edward Buck, Holly Tanaka and Olympia Vale and they are given the mission to hunt down the legendary Spartan known as Master Chief. Master Chief has begun to question all of his former beliefs and has disappeared following the events of "The Next 72 Hours", a story arc of the comic series Halo: Escalation during which he reunites with his long-time Spartan-II unit Blue Team. Blue Team is comprised of  Kelly-087, Fred-104 and Linda-058. Blue Team will still be operating under the UNSC, although they decide to go AWOL (absent without leave) soon after for reasons unknown. This is where Osiris comes in and where I stop talking about the story.

The characters in the game have been given perfectly scripted lines and they have equally been executed by their respective voice actors. It is becoming a modern trend these days for developers to use the actual faces of the voice actors on the character models in the game and Halo 5 Guardians has done this better than I have ever seen before. The detailed cut scenes display true to life representations of the faces that actually exist on the voice actors. The most noticeable due to his fame in the sci-fi universe is Nathan Fillian (Buck). Just about any person that has an interest in science fiction has seen something that Nathan Fillion has been in and will most definitely recognise his tongue-in-cheek attitude and iconic voice. The recreation of his face is some of the best work I have ever seen and the likeness is uncanny. Also, just as amazing is the face of Spartan Locke played by Ike Amadi. If you're familiar with Halo Nightfall (digital miniseries) then you will also be blown away at how good he looks in this game. The face capture technology used here is simply perfect.

Not only do the characters look good, they do a good job overall also. Their personalities really shine and most notable would have to be Bucks attitude which really does bring a smile worthy shine to the aesthetic of the game. Locke and Master Chief have their usual leader hats on and offer a stable platform for their respective teams and are very serious for the good of the story. Both characters are performed well and give a feeling of demanded respect, which they get without hesitation. 
Master Chief looks fantastic, donning the armour design from Halo 4. The crisp 1080p graphics show off every detail of the Mjolnir armour. Chiefs larger the life attitude, personality and presence is definitely portrayed to its fullest here in Halo 5 Guardians. There are parts of the story where Chief, although he is wearing a helmet for the whole game, gives off powerful emotions. I am not exactly what it is that achieves that but it's absolutely stunning. Without facial expressions, Master Chief manages to let you know exactly what's going on under that hard exterior. Long-time massive fans need to prepare themselves.

The game play in Halo 5 Guardians is updated for modern gamers but still manages to stay true to its roots. During the Halo 5 multiplayer BETA, there was a bit of banter going around on the internet about a certain dislike for the new ADS (aim down sights) mechanic which somewhat resembles other modern shooters where you pull the left trigger to aim and the right trigger to shoot. If you're not familiar with the previous Halo games, the left trigger was often the grenade throw button and where was no ADS button unless you were using a gun with a scope. 
This has changed the traditional Halo gameplay but it doesn't ruin it. The ADS feature has been added but you definitely won't find yourself spamming it over and over again. There has been enough thought put into it to keep it still feeling like Halo. For example, when you ADS you won't always get the typical first person shoot style aiming, there are still guns that don't support it. Also, if you take damage while using ADS you will break out back to your usual Halo hip fire view. During heavy firefights, which I must add is about 90% of the game, you will happily revert back to your old school Halo shooting techniques. I found myself most of the time just shooting like I did in the previous games and I never felt disadvantaged by it. 

I have to mention how well the controls and animations help to make you feel like a massive badass character. Whether playing as Locke or Chief, you have the ability to melee (punch or hit with a gun) the enemies. Halo 5 Guardians has managed to make you feel like an absolute boss when you use the melee feature. Punching grunts has never felt this rewarding as you send them flying off cliffs to their doom. You can also charge up your melee by sprinting towards an enemy and pressing your melee button. This will deliver a devastating blow that makes you character feel like the powerful Spartan that they are.

The controls are solid and the new scheme feels very thought out. The controls are all intuitive and work as you would assume they would. Shooting feels solid, running, jumping and mantling (climbing up onto the edge of a platform) all feel very easy to get used to and become second nature within a short time. The overall control setup feels like it would appeal to long time Halo veterans without feeling alien to newcomers to the series.
I have had the opportunity play through the entire campaign and now that I have finished my first playthrough I really do think there's more for me to gain from playing through again. The most obvious reason is for the collectibles in the game. There are Intel items scattered through each level as well as a bunch of skulls to find. The Intel's offer interesting bite sized pieces of information for those keen enough to hang around the area until it has finished playing. The skulls you find will be later selected as epic modifiers to the game. Here are a few that have been confirmed so far:
  1. Iron - Cannot revive/be revived
  2. Black Eye - Shields do not recharge until you melee enemies
  3. Tough Luck - Enemies berserk, always dive, and never flee
  4. Catch - Enemies are grenade happy
  5. Fog - Motion sensor is disabled
  6. Famine - Weapons drop less ammo
  7. Thunderstorm - Enemy abilities upgraded
  8. IWHBYD - Rare combat dialog becomes more common
  9. Grunt Birthday Party - Head shot a grunt for a surprise
  10. Cowbell - Acceleration from explosions increased
  11. Blind - HUD and first-person arms/weapon hidden
  12. Mythic - Increased enemy health
  13. Tilt - Enemy resistances/weaknesses enhanced

Most of the skulls will ramp up the difficulty and some of them will just add some fun little Easter egg style goodies. I'm not likely one to go through and play the game using the skulls, but I will enjoy searching for them.

Multiplayer and Co-op are two other obvious modes that will keep people coming back and add great value for your money spent. At the time of writing this, I have been unable to get into a multiplayer game so I will revisit this section again later with an update. From what I have played in the multiplayer BETA, I can say that it looks to be a very solid experience which will likely emulate what we have had in the past. In addition to the multiplayer, there is a new mode called Warzone. The Warzone multiplayer mode gives us big team battles. With 24 players (divided into two teams of 12) plus a host of AI-controlled enemies and the neutrally evil Prometheans you will always have something to shoot at. For those that struggle to get a moderate score in the regular multiplayer, this might be a great place for you to enjoy being online and get some kills. Sometimes you will run into human controlled characters, and they'll be tricky to kill, but you will also get the opportunity to take out the AI characters which should net you some decent points without getting killed during every encounter. This will likely be my game mode of choice.

Halo 5 Guardians has come good with their promise of a clean 1080p and a smooth as silk 60fps frame rate. Actually, games like this confuse me as to why others on the Xbox One struggle to maintain this benchmark. Halo 5 Guardians runs perfectly all the time. There were no noticeable frame issues for my first run through the whole game and the graphics were always so impressively beautiful. I mentioned the character models earlier and to add to their scope, the development team have added marvellous landscapes for the games levels that are just as breathtaking. Jungles, war zones, buildings, backdrops and incoming enemy fire all draw your attention and give a sense of beauty within a solid well-made game. 

Vehicles come back with a good feel this time around. With four player co-op gracing Halo 5 Guardians this time around it's nice to see many of the levels with vehicles offer plenty to choose from. Early on in the game you will be trying out the famous Warthog and some four runners. You can change seats with a press of a button now too rather than having to get out of the vehicle. You will encounter the old favourites but you will also be treated to new vehicles too. I'm going to leave these as a little surprise for you guys to find on your own.

I would like to go through some negative about Halo 5 Guardians but I just can't think of any. I assure you that I am absolutely to Halo fanboy (I haven't even finished Halo 2 yet). I am not blowing smoke up the ass of this game for any reason other than the fact that it feels perfect in every aspect. The story, the gameplay, the graphics and the sounds, it's all done well and deserves a top score. As I stated previously, I am still to try out the online parts so that may house some dirty secrets but I will attend to that in an update once I have tried those out. As for now, Halo 5 Guardians is a solid and well welcomed addition to the Halo series. A shooter that will give the fans exactly what they want and leave them drooling for more.

Lucas (LewkOne)

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