Halo 5: Guardians Review (Xbox One)

Halo 5: Guardians Review (Xbox One)
Review Score:

Halo 5: Guardians is the much-anticipated sequel to Microsoft’s Halo franchise, a scifi first-person shooter that follows the story of Master Chief and an alien menace known simply as the Covenant. Not to be confused with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which contains the original Halo games remastered in HD, Guardians’s story occurs eight months after the events of Halo 4.

A grief stricken Master Chief — still morning the loss of Cortana — leads Blue Team on a mission to secure a derelict ONI research center known as Argent Moon. Meanwhile, Fireteam Osiris (lead by Spartan Locke) is deployed to the Covenant-controlled planet of Kamchatka to rescue Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey. As the story unfolds, we learn that a Covenant fleet arrives to ambush Blue Team, interrupting their investigation of the research center. Everything spirals out of control from there.

Despite being a significant upgrade to past sequels, Guardians preserves many core features and gameplay mechanics that made the series popular. For example: The MJOLNIR powered armor that Master Chief and his fellow Spartans wear still provide deflector shields that deplete when struck by enemy fire, but replenish after a brief recovery. The player is still limited to carrying two firearms, but they can be swapped for different weapons (including ones dropped by the Covenant). The player can toss grenades by pressing the Left Shoulder button, and pistol-whip enemies by pressing the Right Shoulder button.

Halo 5: Guardians - Xbox One

The game provides a handful of new features that separate it from previous entries in the series. For starters, a fireteam of NPC Spartans are constantly assisting the player. These team members can be directed (albeit limitedly) by pressing up on the Directional Pad. This feature can also be used to focus the NPC Spartan team on specific enemy targets, making boss battles much easier. Plus, the assisting NPCs can help revive the player after being incapacitated by enemy fire.

Guardians also introduces a new set of ‘Spartan Abilities’, which replace the much older Armor Abilities of previous games. The MJOLNIR armor has been upgraded with thrusters for increased mobility on the battlefield. For example: holding the desired direction on the Left Analog Stick and pressing the B button simultaneously will send the player dashing in that direction. These skills can be used to attack, defend and evade incoming enemies.

Unlike its predecessors, Halo 5: Guardian’s gameplay relies on a team dynamic that is shared between the player and the assisting fireteam of NPC controlled Spartans. It is possible to issue basic commands to these Spartans with the Directional Pad, but it usually involves targeting an enemy or advancing the team forward (if needed). The CPU’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) is somewhat competent as it advances forward, provides suppression fire, and revives the player when incapacitated by the enemy. But there are times when the CPU will ignore the player’s call for help during intense gun battles.

Halo 5: Guardians - Xbox One

The AI for the fireteam Spartans that accompany the player has it flaws, especially when a large group of enemies attack. While the Spartan suit Master Chief and Spartan Locke wear can absorb a substantial amount of damage, there are times when it’s important to take cover behind environmental objects such as debris and rocks to allow the suit’s shield — and the character’s health – to rejuvenate. The recovery time for both the health gauge and shield isn’t instant, but it replenishes fast enough to prevent any delays in the gameplay.

The problem with the AI occurs when the player becomes incapacitated during combat. When this happens, the player can press X button to request help from the fireteam Spartan group controlled by the CPU. There are times when the CPU will send a fireteam member to revive the player, but not always. There are times when the CPU is too busy engaging the enemy to assist the player, and this can lead to the game ending rather quickly. But with that gripe aside, it’s rather easy to assign the fireteam AI to gun turrets and vehicles with the Directional Pad; few issues ever arise in this case. However, it is worth mentioning that Guardians’ gameplay is better as an online co-op experience.

Halo 5: Guardians’ online multiplayer feature includes eight distinctive game modes — Team Arena, Slayer, Breakout, Free-for-All, Swat, and Big Team Battle for Arena Multiplayer, and the new Warzone and Warzone Assault game modes for Warzone multiplayer. Gamers familiar with the Halo series will immediately identify with Team Arena’s 4 vs 4 Deatmatch-style gameplay and Free-for-All’s intense combat, where six players use rocket launchers and rifles that spawn on the playfield. Most of Guardians’ Arena Multiplayer modes play like their classic brethren with almost no server lag.

Halo 5: Guardians - Xbox One

Warzone is a massive-scale, multiplayer mode that supports 24-player battles with both friendly and enemy AI thrown in for good measure. Unlike the more traditional multiplayer modes (i.e. Team Arena, Free-for-all, etc.), the in-game action is more intense, as the player battles Spartans, Forerunners and Covenant forces, while also trying to complete a variety of objectives. And Since Warzone is new to the Halo series, gamers have quickly embraced it as the single best multiplayer feature the game has to offer, Co-Op notwithstanding.

Halo 5: Guardians isn’t without its issues. The single-player campaign – while quite good — suffers from a disjointed story line that leaves the player with more questions than answers. For example: when Master Chief goes rogue (so to speak), his team members follow without the story ever providing any backstory to explain their actions. It’s small plot holes like these that leave the player scratching their head in confusion. With that said, Halo 5 Guardians is the Halo sequel gamers have been waiting for. The available single-player campaign is quite possibly the best the series has to offer (story issues aside), and the online multiplayer modes offer enough variety to keep gamers of all skill levels busy for months. If you haven’t already, add Halo 5: Guardians to your Xbox One game collection; it’s well worth the price of admission.

Mike Pittaro
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft
ESRB: T (Teen)
Price: $59.99

Halo 5: Guardians Official Website:
https://www.halowaypoint.com/en-us/games/halo-5-guardians

Review Score
Graphics
The environments contain an incredible amount of detail.
Sound
There are plenty of explosions, gunfire, and death screams to whet any gamer's appetite.
Gameplay
The game provides a handful of new features that separate it from previous entries in the series.
Overall
Halo 5: Guardians lives up to its reputation.
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