Halo 5: Guardians introduces a new concept to the long standing Sci-Fi series – Masterchief has gone AWOL. Spearheading Fireteam Osiris, Spartan Jameson Locke is tasked with bringing back The Chief and the rest of Blue Team by any means necessary. Codename Sierra 117 embarks on a distinctly personal mission, leaving his post to pursue an old friend. The other members of Blue Team showing true loyalty, abandon post with their leader and join him on his quest to find Cortana.
Now I’m not sure if it’s a Spartan thing, but Locke and co. fail to show the kind of emotion that one would expect from a soldier in the given situation. I feel like Spartan Locke wasn’t given enough emotional reign when it came down to the nature of his mission. A newly minted Spartan, under orders to hunt one of the most prolific and decorated war hero’s to grace the galaxy… and there’s no inner conflict, no temptation to deviate from orders and discover what might actually be going on underneath the surface. Again, I’m not sure if it’s down to his nature or the Spartan augmentation program, but I expected some turmoil within him to force its way to the outside. Human emotion visibly tearing him apart as he is forced to hunt his personal hero in a dogged game of cat and mouse.
In one of Halo 5: Guardians swish cut scenes, we see Spartan Locke and Masterchief engaged in direct combat with each other, adding tension to the chase, but ultimately the ‘hunt’ feels slightly over hyped and under played. After playing the game, I realised that the pre release trailers depicting Spartan Locke shooting a heavily injured Masterchief, and vice versa, never actually happened in the game. The cut scenes, while jaw dropping in quality and detail, have a ‘false’ downfall. I often feel myself wishing that I was playing THAT (case and point, the first air drop in to the game – incredible). But don’t let that take away from the gameplay and beauty of the main story mode.
Halo 5: Guardians improves on its core gameplay mechanics, building on the tried and trusted method of previous titles to bring you action packed set pieces that shotgun you through different terrains and environments. The weapons feel fresher and improved, with a nifty ‘float’ mechanism which allows you to suspend yourself in mid air for a few seconds, granting you increased gun control on the descent.
There are no inter-changeable pick ups in Halo 5: Guardians. Armor boosters as per recent games thankfully don’t appear, yet you are equipped with a default jetpack and a series of melee options. You have the basic punch, along with an aerial ground pound attack and a rushing melee blast which incorporates the jetpack to gain extra umph.
The ground pound attack requires you to already be a few feet off the floor for full effect, with a few seconds to charge. To use the rushing melee you need to have gained some momentum on the sprint before attempting it. Both these attacks switch the view to third person for a couple of seconds, allowing you to fully admire the devastation caused.
The story missions themselves are engaging, with level amounts of action spread between them. You can move through canyons, plains and suburban areas how you please, utilising any tool at your disposal to despatch your enemies with ferocity. As always, you are given plenty of opportunities to hop in a variety of vehicles, giving you the freedom to choose between hoofing it the old fashioned way or comandeering a tank and just blowing stuff up. However, a couple of the missions are purely research and dialogue oriented, requiring you to talk to civilians and soldiers to gather intel.
The story mode is split between Blue Team and Osiris Team, allowing you to see both sides of the chase, but Master Chief sees very little action. Overall he has just a few missions compared to Spartan Locke, receiving around 10 playable levels. While this may worry some, I see what 343 Industries is going for. No one lives forever, and the galaxy will always need new heroes to combat evil in all of its forms. The future of Halo is changing, and arguably for the better.
One of the new additions which were a little hit and miss were the team commands. While fairly basic in nature, it proved useful when it worked as intended. You can tell your fellow squadmates to run to a particular spot, pick up a certain weapon or use a vehicle or turret. You can even command them to attack a singular target. All the above achievable with the D-Pad. Simple, yet effective.
Overall the story mode in Halo 5: Guardians is gripping, making you ask questions of what’s unfolding before you. I wanted to know what was going to happen next, what would happen to the Spartans, to the human race? I found the villain of the story as surprising as I did engaging. The Warden that keeps cropping up is amusingly frustrating, as he has ‘a thousand forms’, forcing repeated outbursts of “I’ve killed you at least five times already!”
The multiplayer mode in Halo 5: Guardians has yet again been improved, offering the familiar online modes we have become accustomed to. In Warzone, large scale battles take the spotlight, with vehicles and mechs available for added carnage. The Arena allows for 4 on 4 combat, with Team SWAT, Slayer and more returning for another bout. Considering that the multiplayer mode is what a lot of players return for, it manages to replicate the online joy of yesteryear, with more improvements that really take you in its grasp. As in previous games, you have the ability to fully customise your Spartan warrior with emblems, colours and individual armour pieces. Oh the armour. There are seemingly hundreds of pieces of armour that you can obtain to further separate yourself from the hordes of other players. You can even customise your standard stance, as well as your assassination style.
One of the features that I found to be a refreshing addition came in the form of Requisitions. Weapons, gear and vehicles are available via randomised packs which you can buy using REQ points. Bronze, Silver and Gold Packs are available for use with in game REQ points, plus a mega pack is offered for real world currency. You gain these Requisition points through playing online matches or selling unwanted cards, giving you ongoing mini objectives to aim towards.
Overall everything is in place for the story mode to be the most riveting to date, yet Halo 5: Guardians seems to have not utilised some of the tools that it has made for itself. What was pegged as the greatest hunt for a war hero gone rogue sometimes feels undercooked. Graphically stunning cut scenes and visuals, improved mobility, weapons and the core story mechanics are there, but with just a few tweaks to the characters themselves we would have a breathtaking video game bordering on cinematic glory. The online multiplayer remains wonderfully executed, and is the best so far. All the building blocks are there for Halo 6, and with the right direction can achieve gaming immortality.