Mild Spoilers. Be cautious!
From the shores of Sunaion to the mines of Meridian, Halo 5 is leaving its mark throughout the galaxy. This game takes a brand new direction in an ever-expanding universe.
Halo 5, in the long run, feels like 343i’s spiritual Halo 2. Introducing a new cast of characters that are playable, and splitting the campaign into two seperate fireteams, this game takes the hunt to a whole new level. The game starts with Fireteam Osiris and their retrieval of Halsey. Then it pans over to Blue Team, who eventually get a hint as to where Cortana may be, and go AWOL in order to search for her in a planet called Meridian. Osiris is sent to search for Blue Team and retrieve them. Turns out something is rumbling across the galaxy, as a towering construct called a Guardian comes from the ground and makes short work of the planet. Osiris eventually gets a lead to go to the Elite homeworld, Sanghelios, to enlist the Arbiter’s aid and get to that planet’s Guardian before it gets the chance to attack first. A standing enemy called the Warden Eternal, who is a Forerunner giant of sorts, constantly shows up to try and halt the progress of both Blue Team and Osiris, and has his own agenda on who is to acquire the mythical Mantle of Responsibility.
Each team has their own set of perks. Blue Team, while having no special technology, has a couple of special weapons in their repertoire. The team consists of John-117, Frederic-104, Kelly-087, and Linda-058. Linda has a rare and enhanced Sniper Rifle called Nornfang, while Kelly has a faster and more powerful shotgun called Oathsworn. The group doesn’t talk as often as Osiris. But for anyone who has read the literature will find that their actions speak for so much more, that their words aren’t really necessary for the most part. The unspoken bonds that tie them together and make them an impromptu family. Their hunt for Cortana takes them to an uncharted Forerunner world and eventually causes them to be detained, and not by Fireteam Osiris.
Speaking of Fireteam Osiris, the lot of them aren’t outfitted with spiffy weapons, but they do have the Artemis system. This is a pulse scanner that can point out special objectives or objects of interest (This makes finding the Intels on Osiris missions a breeze, fyi). The newly formed fireteam consists of former ONI agent Jameson Locke (Who originally set up a dossier saying the Arbiter, prior to the events of Halo 3, should be assassinated), a specialist engineer by the name of Holly Tanaka, Sangheili Linguist Olympia Vale (Who is a child prodigy, aging at 22 in Halo 5. Talk about impressive!), and fan favorite former ODST Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck. They have standing conversations quite often throughout the duration of the campaign, and will be forced to decide for themselves how to go about perceiving Chief’s disappearance.
A few special new function in the campaign is the use of the directional pad and the ability to revive your fireteam members. In terms of the d-pad, pressing up lets you highlight a position, weapon, enemy, or vehicle and lets your AI companions know ‘Hey, I want you to go here and deal with this’. As per usual, left and right change your grenades. Pressing down on the d-pad is the only thing that has potential to change. For Blue Team, pressing down highlights your current objective. Whereas for Fireteam Osiris, pressing down activates the Artemis scan, who’s range is rather decent.
And for all you Legendary runners, take respite in the fact that there are three non-combat missions. This gives you the chance to stop and smell the visual roses this game has to offer. This gives you the chance to find some special dialogue moments, as well as some interesting Grunts. This game introduces the most melodic grunts in all of the Halo franchise. And we can forget the most intelligent and awesome Grunt ever. Though for a speed runner, these missions can take a measly two minutes, if you just focus on the objectives.
The story overall has gotten a lot of flack from the community, though I don’t understand why in the least. The way it’s told is extraordinary, and often left me at the edge of my seat in suspense and excitement. Some may say this is seeming like a parallel to Mass Effect, as it ends up dealing with a lot of the synthetic vs organic theme. But the way they go about it in this installment is really interesting and something I’ve yet to see in sci-fi games. Chief is really expressing his emotions behind his actions, especially since the loss of Cortana in Halo 4. My only real complaint is the fact that Locke is essentially Master Chief incarnate. He’s rather quiet, so we don’t know much about him from interaction, though I guess that’s to be expected from a former ONI spook. One thing that other people may dislike is the ratio of Blue Team to Osiris missions. Out of the 15 missions, Blue Team is only playable in three of them, leaving a whopping twelve missions starring the up-and-coming Fireteam Osiris. From a storytelling perspective, however, this makes plenty of sense due to the fact that the entire game revolves around Osiris finding Blue Team.
343i promised to reinvent multiplayer in Halo 5: Guardians, and that they did. As it stands, there are only six arena gametypes (Including the new Breakout game mode, which grants you one life per round) and two Warzone game types. The Arena playlists each can have their own Competitive Skill Ranking, or CSR for short. To acquire your CSR for that playlist, you must first play ten matches. Depending on how it goes, you are placed in one of seven ranks, those being Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Onyx, and Champion. From there there are six tiers of each. The way to rank up is to win, plain and simple. You could cap thirty kills in a single match, but if you don’t win it won’t count. Once you get to Onyx, it displays a random number, and that’s your overall ranking in that playlist. Once you get to the top 200 of that playlist, you’re entitled the Champion CSR. A good way of showing off your multiplayer bravado. Though, with the game being so new, you’ll be matched with people of all ranks for the time being. And trust me, when you’ve earned Diamond, you’ll want to play with other Diamonds. It’s teeth-gritting to be with anything less.
The other new game type, Warzone, is something that’s been hyped up for a long time coming, and it has every reason to have been. Player vs Player vs Everything. This variant sports 12v12 slayer but also has the added in AI enemies to deal with at times. Meaning you could be in an intense firefight with the enemy spartans, and out of the blue a Hunter pair drops in and wrecks both sides. A lot of the times that won’t be the case, seeing how you get point incentives for killing AI targets of interest. There are two ways to win in this game mode. One of which is to score 1000 points. The other way, which can give a losing team the edge in battle, is to capture all three of the bases on the map, which exposes your opponent’s main base core. Destroy the core, you automatically win the match, even if you only have 100 points. AI Bosses will be dropped in random locations, and come in regular and Legendary bosses. the Legendary bosses give you a whopping 150 points, while the normals only give 25.
And added system to this game mode is the REQ system. In between matches you can spend RP(REQ Points) or real world money for REQ Packs. Three tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold. These give you a slew of random loot. From match boosters, weapons, vehicles, or cosmetic items such as armor and stances. The Armor and Stances stay with you forever, and make up the uniqueness of your Spartan. The weapons and vehicles are primarily used in Warzone. But you can’t just use these all willy nilly. You have to have the proper REQ level during the game. There are 10 REQ levels in Warzone, and you get them progressively throughout the duration of the match. The finer things in life won’t come until rank 5+. So don’t expect to outright spawn a tank.
Graphics and Performance
Halo 5 runs entirely on a true 60fps. The gameplay is perfectly fluid, and the models of all the enemies are phenomenal. Textures and small features look magnificent. Halsey looks exactly like she should – an old fart. Arbiter looks menacing and attractive to a point. The Grunts look adorable (To me at least). Buck looks like… A better Nathan Fillion. As far as I’ve played, I have had zero issues with performance. And don’t even get me started on the dynamic scenery. Halo has always had a knack for their background scenery, and this takes the cake.
Voiced by a series of well known voice actors, this game has a talented cast behind their characters. The only person where that has room to be worked on is with Locke, but as I said before: Chief incarnate, not one for words. The dialogue is intuitive and can be humorous at times. In one of the later missions, I caught wind of Linda mentioning the feel of the area be akin to that of a debate between Hera and Zeus over ownership of mortals, where Fred responds in turn saying how the mortals in that situation were horrendously killed. Vale throughout a lot of the Sanghelios campaigns was showing off her affinity to the Elite culture, and doing it well. Vale asked at one point about Buck and Dare’s relationship at present (Which, as an H3:ODST fan, that made my day).
The soundtrack for this game, magnificent. I found myself at times just setting down my controller after a heavy fight just to listen to the music play. It really sets the mood for the entirety of the game. And as I mentioned before, the grunts add a slew of melodic tunes to the fray. There are only two, but the songs they sing are… Well, actually pretty good.