Multiplayer Evolved – ‘Halo 5 Guardians’ Review

Xbox’s biggest blockbuster of 2015 has finally arrived, but was it worth the wait?

Halo 5 Guardians is the best multiplayer game I’ve played. There aren’t qualifiers like ‘on Xbox’ or ‘this gen.’ Plain and simple, Guardians is multiplayer console shooters perfected. Each match played feels like 343 Industries is flexing their developer chops, and their confidence feels present in every inch of multiplayer. Despite great online offerings, Guardians isn’t a perfect game.

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Before diving into the must-play multiplayer, it’s essential to talk about the campaign. Over the past year or so, Microsoft has worked tirelessly to create the ‘Hunt The Truth’ marketing campaign that aimed to make players question the game’s protagonist Master Chief. Unfortunately, not a shred of the awesome marketing is anywhere to be found in the campaign. Instead, there are 15 missions (three with Master Chief and twelve with Spartan Locke) that mostly feel like setup for Halo 6. The writing is poor, the characters feel underdeveloped and the story 343 set out to tell is incredibly short. For perspective, I completed the game solo on Heroic in just under seven hours – something I would never have imagined doing in a Halo game.

Despite poor story, not everything is a waste in Guardians’ campaign. The levels that carry the nonexistent story are meticulously designed and feel like an absolute treat to play. Without spoiling much, there’s a level halfway through the game that takes place on the desert planet Sanghelios that plays like a dream. Many of the levels are memorable, which ultimately makes the sting of a poorly delivered story all the more disappointing. To amplify the awesome level design, be sure to bring along three of your friends to make the subpar story much more palatable.

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From the multiplayer side of things, there are two fronts to online combat in Guardians. First, there’s Arena, which is what Halo fans have come to expect from the franchise. 4 v 4 on tight, close-quarters maps littered with deadly weapons and power ups. Then there’s Warzone, a brand new mode for the Halo franchise. Although I was skeptical of the mode at first, Warzone proved to be the star of the multiplayer offering. Supported by the fantastic (and unnecessarily controversial) REQ packs, Warzone is a breath of fresh air that mixes classic Big Team Battle Halo with popular MOBAs from the past five years. The result is a fantastic mode that offers gameplay variety that I’ve not played on console. If you have one half hour to play Halo 5: Guardians to decide if it’s worth your hard-earned cash, play Warzone. It’s a mode every Halo fan has been dying for without ever knowing they wanted it.

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At the end of each match (in both Arena and Warzone) players are rewarded with XP which ranks them up and points that go to buying REQ packs. Divided by tier, there are three options gamers can take when it comes to buying REQ packs. Buying bronze will give Warzone supplies that will allow players to spawn vehicles or deadly weapons. On the sexier side, players who are willing to save points can snag silver or gold REQs which guarantee the player two permanent unlocks such as armor or weapon skins. The REQ system encourages gamers to keep playing and rewards those who are patient enough to save their points. While many have shrugged the mode off as a microtransaction cash grab because packs can be bought for real-world cash, in my roughly 20 hours of multiplayer, I’ve unlocked countless REQ packs and never once felt like spending my actual cash on them. It’s also worth noting that Halo purist won’t have their classic multiplayer ruined by REQ packs as Arena mode only allows cosmetic REQ items such as armor, so gameplay remains balanced.

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Although the actual combat is incredibly well-balanced in Halo 5, there are still some issues 343 needs to address in the coming months. First, spawns in some Arena modes like SWAT are poorly executed and cater to spawn killing. In their first blog update since the game’s launch, the team promised that fixes are coming, so hopefully the wait isn’t too long. Additionally, point rewards in the Warzone mode are a bit unclear. Only killing enemy Spartans, taking basses and killing AI bosses reward points, so any desire players might have to hunt down standard AI  is gone because there’s no reward to killing them.

Regarding both story mode and multiplayer, it is worth noting that the lack of franchise’s tradition splitscreen is a tad disappointing. That being said, the 60fps players get in lieu of playing with a buddy at home is worth it in my opinion. 343 Industries has repeatedly noted that hitting a constant 60fps is a key pillar of Guardian’s design, so the decision to cut splitscreen was certainly one the team didn’t take lightly.

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Despite a busy fall launch schedule, I don’t see myself stopping my Guardians addiction anytime soon. Certainly, Guardians is marred because of the false advertising regarding the game’s story. That being said, Halo 5 deserves your full attention simply because the multiplayer offering is so strong. If you own an Xbox One, Halo 5 Guardians is the quintessential game for the console since it’s launch, and there is little reason to pass on the game unless you’re a big opponent of online gaming. In fact, if you don’t own an Xbox One, Guardians might just be the game to push you to take the jump to Microsoft’s console.

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