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So, for my penultimate episode in the review series, and arguably the most important, I decided to team up with Wilc0, so we could give a very detailed and in-depth review of the latest installment in the Reclaimer Saga, Halo 5: Guardians!
Campaign, Enemies and Level Design
|The campaign level design was brilliant when it wanted to be, but was bogged down by some bad design choices. For instance, 343i had the idea to bring back boss battles, which is not a bad thing. However, when their idea of a ‘new’ boss battle is ‘smack two Wardens in, instead of one’, the whole thing falls flat on its face. In fact, you have to fight the Warden 5 times over the course of the campaign. Worse still, the second-to-last time you have to fight two at once, and the final time you have to fight three, in an arena with barely any cover. In my opinion, Halo 5 would’ve gained a lot if it had simply restricted the Warden to cutscenes until the final battle, where it would make you fight only one or two. Or at the very least, only making us face him twice or so.
Another aspect of the campaign that I dislike is its heavy reliance on so-called ‘clears’, where the player must kill all the enemies in an area before progressing. In one instance, you have to fight through three waves of Prometheans in the very same room – not my idea of fun. However, there were some redeeming moments, such as when you, playing as Osiris, had to run down the back of a Guardian using magnetic boots, while it tried to shake you off. The physics may be questionable, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Hunters in this game are much more of a force to be reckoned with. They’re no longer the powerful but predictable lumbering enemies they once were. While it’s gotten easier to dodge their ranged attacks using thrusters, they’ve been given a new tracking attack which is very difficult to avoid. Furthermore, walking up to a Hunter in Halo 5 is suicide. The Promethean ranks have been fleshed out a lot with Soldiers taking the Knight’s place, and the Knights becoming basically the Hunters of the Prometheans. Soldiers are relatively easy to kill with a few well-placed shots breaking apart their armour and opening them up to headshot, but they’re not to be underestimated. They can kill you quickly with melee, and have deadly accurate aim. Plus, when one’s equipped with a Binary Rifle, it can kill you with one shot. Knights now have armour that falls off just like the Soldiers’, albeit you have to hit certain weak points. Only once both halves of the armour are off can you kill the Knight, although accurate players are rewarded with a kill if they can hit its open skull as it roars at you (with or without its armour).
So, the enemy AI is all well and good. However, the same isn’t true for your AI companions. While great in theory, the revive system and command system are ruined by bad AI. For example, when you go down. Sometimes they ignore your pleas for help, even though you’re seconds away from death, simply because there’s an enemy they’re busy with. Sometimes they just ignore you for no reason (looking at you, Tanaka) even when there’s nothing stopping them. Oh, and if you go down on a ledge or a large crate, you can say goodbye.
|The campaign itself is very solid, even though you have these Spartan Teams, it still feels like old times, and you have to fight to survive. While I was a bit concerned about the 'overpoweredness' (is that even a word) of your Spartan team, but it turned out pretty good. Not sure if it was bad AI that keeps them from fighting their own enemies or balancing, but it works out pretty well in the end. I really like the way you can tell your teammates where to go, which vehicle/weapon to take or to engage which enemy. It would've been nicer to make you select which teammate you want to pick up that Sniper, but that may just make it too complicated.
During gameplay you can get your hands on (pretty much) all drivable vehicles, which introduces not only their new visual design, but also the handy 'switch-seats' option. One of my most hated aspects of the previous Halos was, was that it was pretty hard to splatter multiple enemies after each other, as your vehicle tended to tumble. Now this is fixed, you can more easily splatter, and then flee the scene to splatter someone else later on. There is one change in vehicle design they made that I am not a fan of, and that is the reversed seat on the Mongoose. It may work exactly the same, but the character models look pretty bad when the Spartan on the back is point his/her gun directly into the driving direction.
Also the new enemies, which have not only been given a new skin, also some behavioural changes have been applied. While the Hunter was pretty intimidating, it used to be very easy to deal with one, even if you just used melee attacks. Now however, I feel fear every time I see Hunter approaching, as their new abilities and hitpoints make them much more dangerous. This makes them more of a threat, while still keeping the rest of the Covenant Remnant as a threat on their own. I am not a fan of the new Promethean soldiers, while they look nice, and behave very good, they are too easy to deal with, they are too weak. It only takes a few long-ranged rifle shots before they are down.
You'll see these four a lot... In the space of three levels and a cutscene.
|All in all, a campaign with great potential, but ruined by repetitive level design and a horrible recurring boss fight.||In short, they have made some changes that I really like (e.g. no tumbling vehicles) and some I don't (e.g. Promethean soldiers).|
WARNING: This section contains spoilers!
|The story of Halo 5 is a real point of contention for me. I liked what it did to the universe, but not how it did it, if that makes sense. By the end of Halo 5, the galaxy is being threatened by the Guardians, the Infinity is on the run and the Swords of Sanghelios seems to be battered and beaten. It looks like it’s setting up a sort of guerrilla warefare story, with the Infinity and what’s left of the SoS fighting against all odds to free the galaxy from its new dictator Cortana (more on her later). For me, this shows promise. Ever since Halo 3, I’ve wanted the stakes to be raised again. Halo 3 was brilliant because you knew that if you failed, an entire galaxy’s worth of life would be wiped away. In Halo 4, it was a single city on a single planet. Bigger stakes make for a more interesting story, in my opinion, and this gives me hope for Halo 6.
However, it’s how they did it that’s the problem. Aside from the numerous plot-holes (how is the Domain magically back, for example?), the story feels dragged-out. There are multiple missions that are non-combat, which really should just be little addendums to the missions before/after them, or perhaps even cutscenes. One mission, in fact, is just a giant fetch-quest for a Constructor. In my opinion, it would’ve been better to dilly-dally less on Meridian, Argent Moon and Kamchatka, and go straight to Genesis/Sanghelios after the third or fourth mission.
Make no mistake, either, Master Chief may be on the cover, but he is not the main character. Blue Team get only three of 15 missions. While this may have been called the ‘quest of the Hunter and the Hunted’, it’s more the quest of the Hunter, and even then it’s not really a proper manhunt. Only once does Chief engage Locke, although I did love that, I must admit (even though in reality, Chief would’ve destroyed Locke with ease). The story was missold, in all honesty.
The villains of the story are even more confusing. The Warden Eternal has no explanation or backstory whatsoever, other than ‘he’s the guardian of the Domain’. Cortana as a villain simply doesn’t work, in my opinion, or at least not as they depicted. She showed no signs of rampancy because the Domain cured her somehow (and yet somehow not Mendicant Bias when he went rampant). And there were no other reasons shown for her actions. It seemed like it was just for the shock factor.
Brian Reed, the head writer, is ex-Marvel, and it really shows in the story. There are lots of fake looking and feeling fights, such as the Osiris opening cinematic. These add little to the story and only attempt to ‘look cool’ (although in my opinion they don’t even do that). For me, the main draw of Marvel films like the Avengers is the humour and heroes fighting, not the heroes-battle-massive-army sequences. The same applies to Halo 5. I loved the fight between Locke and Chief, and also the few bits of Buck humour scattered around, but I hated the bits where Osiris beat up armies of Elites and Soldiers so easily they looked like Grunts. Next time, 343i, more of this, this and this and less of this and this.
|I have only played through the story once, so I have probably missed a lot of details, but my overall experience is very good. While I have been left with some questions, my feeling was that the story provides those gamers without a canon understanding a basic idea. But that was also something that bothered me, some of the (major) events in the campaign were straight against the canon. One of these would be the Domain, which exists in Halo 5: Guardians even though it had been destroyed back at the end of the Forerunner era. Another thing that bothered me was that Linda would just leave her precious Nornfang while she went underground, I don't think she would ever leave her weapon lying around.
But those are specific events, more generally speaking, I really enjoyed the campaign. You can see that they have spent a lot of time on designing the backdrop, which paid out hugely. Switching between Fireteam Osiris and Blue Team not only provides a difference in story-telling, you are also given tiny bits of information about what Blue Team's mission is really about. It is not until much later in the campaign that you actually see what John has been up to and why. And then, when Locke finally figures out what they have been doing, Osiris goes to rescue Blue team from their Crypt. This shift is major, as during the first encounter of John and Locke, they not only fought but John cursed (!) at him. It was then that I thought both Spartan teams would clash, but that did not happen.
But I don't praise Halo 5: Guardians to the sky, as it did not deliver on its massive marketing campaign. The entire campaign did not feel so much as a cat-and-mouse game, but more of Locke running after John. I can't think of a single moment in the campaign that John even tried to evade Locke, in the scene with the teleporters Blue Team just kept moving like they were doing anyway. Even the short appearance of Thel did not change much, because it was very minor and you dealt more with other Sangheili.
The quest of the Hunter and the Hunted... Actually, just the Hunter.
|A mis-sold story which had a lot of potential but squandered it with boring action sequences and underdeveloped characters.||It was a good campaign which didn't quite deliver on the marketing, but still did a good job entertaining me.|
|On the music front, it’s great. An absolutely massive improvement on Halo 4’s music. Halo 4 had some good tracks, but they were few and far between. What 343i did with Halo 5 is much better. They took the good tracks from Halo 4, and incorporated them into the soundtrack, but filled the rest of the gaps with brilliant, classic Halo music composed by Martin O’Donnell. Kudos to Kazuma Jinnouchi!||The music is, and always has been exquisite. I really enjoyed the Reclaimer Saga music, composed by Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi, which deviated a lot from the previous music, which was composed by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. That said, it sent a chill down my back when I heard the familiar Halo theme near the end of the campaign. You may think that music contributes nothing to a video game, but it sure does, at least when it is as finely crafted as Halo's music has been and still is. Having a huge and impressive background is nothing when you don't have the music to back it up. Nothing more to say about it, I absolutely loved it.|
|A massive step up from Halo 4. Bringing back the best of the older tunes was a good idea.||Halo music always has been brilliant, and Halo 5: Guardians is no different.|
|Ok, for me, the Halo 5 multiplayer gameplay rivals Halo 2 and 3 for the top spot. Everything’s well balanced but more importantly fun! There’s nothing more rewarding than getting a sniper headshot from across the map, landing a perfect ground-pound or killing with 4 shots from a DMR or BR and hearing Jeff Steitzer (the announcer) go ‘Peeerrrrrffffeeeccctttt…’. It’s tireless fun playing with the new Halo 5 skillset, even if I strongly dislike Smart Scope.
The map design doesn’t reflect the same greatness, in my opinion. While there are a couple of instant classics such as Regret, most of the maps, particularly the human ones, are repetitive and all feel the same. They have different layouts, but ultimately they’re all just rooms, corridors, walkways and courtyards. That’s not to say they play badly, but they’re not as unique or as good as Coliseum, Truth or Regret.Warzone maps are hit-or-miss, really. They could do with being a tad smaller, to make it easier to get to the action quickly, but the main problem is that some are just not as good as others. Raid on Apex 7 is absolutely great but March on Stormbreak is only ok and Escape from A.R.C is pretty bad. I hope we’ll see some new, better Warzone maps soon. I really hope we get a Death Island remake for Warzone, as that could be pretty awesome.
|I have yet to delve into most maps, but I did spend a considerable time the three Warzone maps and did some matches on Eden, Fathom and Regret; all which are very good map. The only thing I really dislike about Warzone is spawning, because 1. It takes too long 2. It is not automatic. And when you're spawned, you're usually spending most of your time running towards wherever you are needed. The maps really could use more transportation systems, maybe just spawn a couple of Mongeese? I get that those are in your REQ packs, but having a couple of them just for transportation (so no Gungeeses) would be beneficial. But then when you are at your enemy, it is time to fight. Zooming in with your BR was always a good way to take out a distant enemy, but in this game the familiar zooming mechanic was changed with Smart-Link. While I was very hesitant about the Smart-Link zooming mechanic, it turns out that I quite like it. I'd still prefer the original zooming mechanic, but Smart-Link works a lot better than I thought it would.|
This is probably the most rewarding move, if you can pull it off.
|The most fun I've had in multiplayer since Halo 3. It's a shame the maps aren't as perfect as the gameplay.||While I haven't got to play all the maps yet, what I have seen is great! Very fun indeed.|
REQ System and Customisation
|I can see what they were going for with the REQ system, I really do, but I don’t think they achieved it well. For one thing, REQ points should be easier to earn, and the rarity gap should be decreased. Often there are times in Warzone where one team happens to spawn two tanks at the same time, and dominates the other team, meanwhile, I’ve opened about 10 gold REQ packs and two premium ones on top (not to mention a tonne of Commendation and SR packs) and haven’t even seen a single tank! Also, certifications. They’re a horrible, stupid idea. Eventually, you’ll statistically get a certification for everything, right? That’d negate the effect because the chance of getting every item has increased by the same percent. Meanwhile, on your way to getting all certifications, you’re constantly getting the same stuff, decreasing the likelihood you’ll get something new. So you’re stuck getting a million useless Mongooses and Needlers when you want Rockets and Tanks!
And don’t even get me started about the microtransactions. They’re just trying to shake the fanbase’s pockets for whatever money they can, and it just devalues the progress players have legitimately made. I know it’s paying for free DLC down the line, but I’d much rather that they either had the multiplayer DLC paid, introduce paid single-player DLC to pay for free MP DLC or even just add £10 to the initial price tag. Microtransactions should never, ever be in a Halo game. They were in Spartan Assault and we (the fans) gave a massive backlash, and then they decided not to put them in Spartan Strike. We should do the same here, to prevent them from being in Halo 6.
From a customisation standpoint, it’s severely limited. We can’t customise individual armour pieces anymore, only suits and helmets. I really miss this feature, and it’s a shame that it’s not here. Armour skins are back, and for some reason they count as separate suits. Personally, I dislike this. I like armour skins, but there should be four or five of them which can be applied to any suit, and they shouldn’t count as individual suits themselves. Emblem customisation is gone too. You get to choose from a list of nameplates (nameplates and emblems are the same thing now) and a pre-set list of colour schemes, instead of setting a primary, secondary and tertiary colour. It’s sad to see that go too. Thankfully, stances are back, which I always liked, and you can also change which assassination animation you use in multiplayer, which is a nice touch. Still, customisation feels limited. More so now that you can’t even choose what armours you’re going to get when you open a REQ pack.
Weapon skins are also returning. You can give each loadout weapon a particular skin, and whenever you spawn with that weapon (be it in Warzone or Arena) it will have that skin. I’m not a fan of weapon skins, as no sane military in the universe would paint their guns bright colours for the amusement of their soldiers, and I think the time could better be spent elsewhere. The different tiers of weapons in Warzone are simply reskins of the original, which I grudgingly understand, as it would’ve been a waste of time to make new models for each, even if it would’ve produced a better result.
|This one did confuse me a lot at first, no idea what it really was until I was shown this video. Requisitions are an even greater deviation from the original weapon drop system, and you are given 'cards' which you can exchange for the corresponding vehicle or weapon. While you are earning your REQ points by being successful in-game, you can choose between better items, like a Scorpion or Rocket Launcher. This system is pretty well balanced in my opinion, rewarding those who are on a roll while still given the rest a change.
After having earned a certain amount of REQ points outside, you can spend them on REQ packs, which have the cards which I mentioned. But besides in-game weapons and vehicles, which are single-use requisitions, you also have unlimited-use requisitions. These unlimited REQs consist of cosmetic items, such as weapon skins, armour permutations or assassination animations as to differentiate your Spartan from others. While at first I did not like the randomness with which these permutations were given, now I feel differently. As these things are just cosmetic, they make no real difference, but will show your individuality. This is also realistic in-Halo, as you rarely see any two Spartans with the same armour configuration.
You'll be seeing these a lot.
|Microtransactions and limited customisation are things that should never be in Halo, but I admit that the amount of customisation choices is massive.||While initially skeptical, I quite like how the requisition system works.|
|The art style in Halo 5 is great in areas and horrible in others. While I love the new Vulcan (Warthog turret) and Mongoose, the new Scorpion just looks like a generic tank. The new Ghost, Phantom and Spirits have grown on me, but I really don’t like the Wraith and Banshee. I could go on and on listing things that have improved (like the Plasma Pistol, Battle Rifle and DMR) and things that are now horrible (for example, the Rocket Launcher), but I’ll spare you that. All I’ll say is that some of it is great, and some of it is absolutely horrible-looking.
I will say, though, that the armour design is good in places and bad. Some of the armours, namely Recruit, Centurion, EVA, Warrior, Nightfall, Mark VI (and Scarred), Noble and Helioskrill, look brilliant. Others though (not naming any names, but just take a gander and you’ll see) look ridiculous. One, for example, looks like someone replaced the helmet with a fish tank.
|I myself like the new look of the vehicles and weapons, to an extent. My favourite weapon, the DMR, is looking worse than it did in Halo 4, I can't really put my finger on it, but I would have preferred to them leaving the DMR alone. This also goes for the Mongoose, which now has a reversed seat for some reason? Not only is this a very dubious choice of vehicle design, it does not even look right. When a Spartan is on the back and looking to the front, the weapon looks pretty glitch because it has to go above the driver's head.
But those are just two things that I did not like, one of my favourite new designs is the Scorpion, which looks totally bad-ass now. This goes also for the Ghost and Wraith, and maybe even for the Warthog. They have all been given a new exterior, and all now look like they belong 4 years into the future, which is the Reclaimer Saga. I know that there is some hate about the new Battle Rifle scope, but I don't mind it that much, it still handles like it always did.
Eww, eww, eww, eww!
|What's good is great, what's bad it horrible. Very polarised.||Overall, an improvement in what Halo 4 offered.|
|While the campaign was lackluster, the overall Halo 5: Guardians package is redeemed by the excellent multiplayer and promise of more content post-launch.||While the campaign didn't quite live up to the marketing, it was still good, and the multiplayer was brilliant, as is the REQ system.|
Finally, to top of the review, here's the usual verdict:
|While it didn't quite live up to potential in all areas, both me and Wilc0 agree that it's still a very fun and enjoyable game.|
|Great multiplayer gameplay, with decent maps.||No Forge at launch.|
|Brilliant gameplay balancing, all around.||Repetitive level design, and mediocre story.|
|Brilliant music, and alright art style.||Horrible armour designs to pick from, without many returning classic designs.|
|More customisation options, even if the armour and emblem customisation was limited.|
|Most fun Halo in years!|
That's all for this week! Hope this was helpful, and that if you have the game, you're enjoying it.
Next week, it's just me (Dab), reviewing the Halo: Spartan series.