Buy Halo 5: Guardians at Best Buy between November 13th and November 26th, 2015 (or while quantities last) and get a $13 Cineplex e-gift card!
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The first Halo game built for Xbox One
It’s no secret that as the first main entry in the Halo series built for Xbox One, fans’ expectations for Halo 5: Guardians couldn’t be higher. Not only is everyone wondering how it will run on Microsoft’s powerful new gaming console, but after last year’s rocky start to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, questions about the stability of online multiplayer have been lurking in the back of our minds ever since.
With the fate the franchise resting on 343 Industries’ shoulders, I was absolutely impressed with how they rose to the occasion, producing a Halo game both veteran players and newcomers alike will love. It’s easily the most ambitious Halo to date, with stunning graphics, superb evolution to the game’s core gameplay, and the most robust online multiplayer in franchise history. The next-generation of Halo truly has arrived.
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Genre: First-person shooter
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
New Spartan abilities
The highlight of Halo 5 undoubtedly has to be the all-new Spartan Abilities, a sort of spiritual successor to the former Armour Abilities seen in recent Halo games. I had my first chance to try out these new abilities during the Halo 5 Multiplayer Beta that began last year, but having more time time to use these techniques in the full game reaffirmed how awesome they really are. Now Spartan soldiers have whole new repertoire of moves available to them, including: unlimited sprint, powerful shoulder charges, clambering onto ledges to reach higher ground, a thrust pack to move from side-to-side, ability to slide into cover, perform ground pounds on unsuspecting enemies below, and employ an intelligent Smart Scope system to aim down sight lines. You can even use the new scoping system in the air to temporarily hover and take down your foes. All combined, these new Spartan Abilities make Halo 5‘s combat faster, more dynamic, and more precise. Amazingly enough too, with all these changes, the core gameplay still retains that distinct Halo feel, so long-time fans will not be disappointed.
With these moves, it also greatly changed how 343 Industries approached development of the campaign and multiplayer maps. For example, the clamber move enables levels to have much more verticality, facilitating new strategic options such as climbing to previously unreachable perches for elevated sniping. As I also discovered, many arena battlefields in the campaign have breakable walls using the Spartan Charge, opening up new pathways and opportunities to flank opponents. These gameplay innovations result in a multitude of new possibilities when playing in multiplayer modes, or the campaign.
An expanded campaign
At 15 chapters, Halo 5 offers the largest campaign in series history. If you’ve been following the marketing campaign you’ll probably know the gist of what’s going on: Master Chief and his Blue Team companions have gone AWOL, and Spartan Jameson Locke, along with his Fireteam Osiris, are tasked to hunt them down. The hunt takes the Spartan groups through three worlds with vastly different (and gorgeous) terrain, spanning lush alien forests, rocky, arid plains, and hostile, frozen battlefields.
In some ways, Halo 5‘s campaign harkens back to the series’ roots, such as the inclusion of many familiar UNSC weaponry, like classic assault rifles, battle rifles, pistols, frag grenades and more. However, with the new Spartan Abilities, and much greater environment verticality, you’ll need to think about your battle approach more deeply this time as there are many more options available. For instance, in the very first mission, which takes place in a snowy, open battlefield, I discovered there were numerous ice walls that I could bash through with my Spartan Charge, revealing hidden caches of ammo, or new paths to gain a tactical advantage. In a later chapter, set in a massive warehouse containing several hanging containers, cranes and other machinery, you can climb very high to get better sight on your enemies, or you could opt to jump down and take the floor route if you prefer close-range combat. These expanded strategic options result in truly exciting moments that add significantly to the experience.
With all the gameplay enhancements, Halo 5‘s campaign is a sheer blast to play through. I only wish the story was equally as impressive, as it falls flat rather early on and doesn’t pick up steam as it progresses. A big reason for this is Agent Locke, who comes off as a generic super soldier and lacks depth, making you disinterested in him and his Osiris squadmates, who are equally uninteresting. Unfortunately too, 80% of the campaign missions focus on this group. The three chapters that centre on Master Chief and the Blue Team are far more interesting by comparison, but they come too few and far between to hold the story together.
Next up I played the Arena multiplayer, the place where the majority of Halo players will likely spend their time, and rightly so. In the new Breakout mode, each player only has one life per round, and there are two ways to win: either kill all members of the opposing team, or succeed in bringing a flag in the middle map over to the enemy base. This mode is very balanced, designed to appeal to hardcore players looking for an eSports experience. If more casual competitive multiplayer is more your thing, Halo 5 also offers tons of maps for Free For All, Team Slayer, Capture the Flag, Team SWAT, and a new playlist named Strongholds, in which two teams control moving territories.
For each mode, I found that parties are linked quickly and map load time is not very long—so the online experience is excellent. For fans of eSports, you will also be pleased to know that for the first time, a spectator mode has been added to the game, letting you watch other players for entertainment as well as to learn new strategies.
Warzone is an all-new mode in Halo 5, and it’s a tremendous amount of fun. This mode allows two teams of 12 players to compete on large maps, battling each other, as well as A.I. opponents, in addition to holding down strategic base locations. This mode also introduces of to the new REQ system (short for Requisition), whereby you earn points for nearly every action you do, and these points can be traded in later for REQ packs. Inside REQ packs you’ll find trading cards of various items, such as new armour (cosmetic changes only), increase you loadout weapons, obtain special one-use weapons, and the ability to call-in vehicles. As you progress in a Warzone match, your team can raise it’s “REQ level,” with higher levels granting you access to trade in higher value REQ cards. It might sound a bit complicated to describe, but the REQ is very simple to learn. Of all the multiplayer mode, I think Warzone is the one that will please most casual players.
Halo 5: Guardians is showcase game on Xbox One with incredible new evolutions of the franchise and throwback to classic multiplayer. It’s innovative Spartan Abilities dramatically alter how you play, yet amazingly enough, 343 Industries still managed to completely retain the essence of what Halo is. The new Breakout Arena mode is sure to please eSports enthusiasts, and the spectator mode will also please the fans. Add in the incredible new 24-player Warzone mode is this might just be the best Halo game ever created.
+ A return to form, while simultaneously shaking up established conventions
+ Awesome gameplay innovations
+ eSports players will love Breakout
+ Warzone is absolutely thrilling
– Lack of depth in the campaign story
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating 4.5/5 (90%)