Halo 5: Guardians review
Welcome to my review of Halo 5: Guardians. Here’s a sandwich.
You can’t really eat the sandwich. But you’re certainly welcome to continue looking at it.
So as I said in the blog that probably linked you to this review, I won’t be spoiling anything story wise. My thoughts will be shared though. I personally have a low toleration for spoilers, so even something like “the story could have been better” usually has me holding my hands over my ears. If you’re like me, vacate this website through THIS LINK.
But if you’re not like me and feel my opinion may help you decide to buy it, or you’ve played the game and are just interested in my opinion of it, well, here we are.
Gameplay wise, this was a huge improvement from Halo 4. Where as 4 was a bit clunky, 5 is much more fluid. The addition of new abilities is cool, though I’m sure a more talented gamer made better use of them than I did. Ledge climbing is quite useful, and certainly a benefit of exploring the levels.
Level design! Very great looking stuff. Regardless of developer, the aesthetic of the Halo universe never fails to excite the adventurer in all of us. The campaign’s levels are much larger in scale in regards to how they can be explored. Every chapter has multiple ways to proceed through it.
This of course ties into co-op. This campaign was designed for co-op. The squad mechanic is a cool new feature. In solo, you can command your squad to focus on enemies, take certain vehicles or weapons, or simply hold a position while you deal with other stuff. This came in handy with Hunters, as they are leaps and bounds more difficult in this game (they’ve basically been upgraded to mini-bosses) so I found it was helpful to tell the team to fight one Hunter, keeping it’s attention off of myself while I dealt with the other one. As well, 4/5 deaths, you’ll usually be able to be revived by your teammates. Reviving a teammate rewards you with an overshield which, though only a few seconds long, can be a life saver if used correctly.
Nothing much new to report for the Covenant besides the Hunters being bosses. Grunts and Jackals do melee now and it’s probably the funniest thing ever. I miss the Brutes and Drones, and would love to see them reintroduced into the enemy sandbox at some point.
Prometheans as enemies are better-ish than they were in Halo 4. Knights, like Hunters, got the mini-boss treatment. They no longer possess the same Elite style energy shield, so you can’t use any of the traditional pop-shield-and-go-for-the-headshot strategies you may have relied on before. Instead, you must knock out two armor locks on either side of the knight, which exposes a weak spot on the back. Before you knock off the armor, the Knight can absorb pretty much every weapon in the game and laugh at your attempts.
Watchers are less annoying. They can repair broken Knights, but they cannot revive them. Once a promethean is down, it’s down, which is nice. Same strategy as from before, if they’re around, take them out first and then focus on the big guys. Crawlers are just the same as ever.
Soldiers are the new promethean class enemy. They don’t do much to add to the forerunner sandbox of enemies. They’re just smaller knights that can talk and are killed easier. No strategy to it, just shoot them until they die. Overall, the Prometheans haven’t done much to excite me as a fan. They’re meant to be a replacement for the Flood, but I’d honestly rather fight the Flood both for gameplay and story reasons. Better yet, bring both of them into a game. Prometheans were constructed for fighting the Flood, I’d love to see them in action.
Actual boss battles are in this game. It’s hard to talk about them however, as the nature of the bosses is tied to the story content. The best I can say is the bosses in this game are repetitive. Horribly repetitive. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you get to them haha It was not a part of the game that I enjoyed after the first few bosses.
So onto the story. Most marketing for this game was a bit deceptive. I was under the impression of a balanced two-perspective story, such as Halo 2 swapping between Chief and Arbiter. Chief had like one extra level in Halo 2, naturally, but Arbiter still had a substantial presence in the campaign. While this was complained about initially, the fan base came around and liked the Arbiter aspects of the game, and his return in Halo 2 Anniversary and in the Halo 5 campaign was applauded.
Halo 5 Guardians does not do things in a balanced way. While, granted, the Master Chief levels are longer and more emotionally driven, there are only three of them. The other 12 levels are played from the perspective of rival squad Osiris. This was a massive irritation for me. They did not write the storyline of Halo 5 to be centered around Locke’s team. It’s still very much about the Master Chief and Blue Team. Everything that happens, happens in respect to their actions. This game is about Blue Team start to finish. But you don’t experience it from their perspective, you experience it from outsiders looking in.
I’ve heard the argument that it was to create a sense of mystery around the Chief’s mission. But it just wasn’t executed that way. Things about the Chief’s mission, that should have been huge jump-out-of-your-chair moments were presented as exposition. They even created a character just for the sake of getting you up to speed on all the stuff you didn’t experience because you were playing as Osiris instead of Blue Team.
I will give Osiris credit, I’m certainly more enticed by them now. Their entire story arc touches on other major parts of the universe such as Arby’s war against the Covenant, and those levels certainly are the highlight of the Osiris plotline. But unfortunately, Blue Team had over a decade of lore and emotion behind them. This is their first game in the series and yet they were already more important characters to the plot line than even the Arbiter or Sergeant Johnson were. Bringing them in but then having them sit second string to characters we were only introduced to last year wasn’t a good call.
There’s over 117 different datapads in the game to hunt down. And they’re fairly easy to find. Some give exposition to the world around you, but the best one’s have comedic value to them.
Skulls are once again unlockables that must be located. I’m very disappointed that they couldn’t have added some new ones. I like the base skulls that make up the Mythic difficulty, but I’d like some fun ones such as the infinite ammo skull from the anniversary games. Maybe some more cosmetic skulls such as one called Woopie, and it replaces all melee sounds with fart noises.
Covenant enemies speak human again (even the jackals which is actually more creepy than entertaining) so there’s more moments for comedy. 343 really stepped it up here. Where as Halo 4’s general dialogue took itself way seriously, Halo 5’s dialogue allows those cracks and wtf moments that surprise you and give you something to laugh about.
Warzone is by far the most fun competitive Halo gamemode to date. It doesn’t make up for the lack of Firefight, however.
Everything gameplay wise was solid. It doesn’t have that same addicting quality that Destiny has, but it’s fun to play as most Halo game’s consistently are. A solid step up from Halo 4, to say the least. The story was good, the story was mind blowing actually. But its delivery left much to be desired and ultimately held it back. The last level, usually a highlight of Halo games for me, was actually pretty anti-climactic. I hope next time around, they decide to tell the story from the perspectives of the people the story is about haha
As Halo has a following of people who are heavily invested in the story, grading the game on just that alone, I’d give it a C+. The introduction of Osiris just felt like too much of a distraction. A campaign DLC as Blue Team that gives more of their perspective on everything would qualify as extra credit and bring that up to a B, but you know, they just announced they aren’t likely going to do any campaign DLC.
But this is not film school and we are grading a video game. So grading it on it’s overall presentation, accounting for gameplay, graphics, various game modes and its solid multiplayer, I’d say it deserves a B+ but I don’t want to be the asshole teacher that doesn’t round the letter up so let’s give it an A-.