This review contains no story spoilers!
I’ve been playing Halo since the original Xbox and Halo: Combat Evolved. It is by far my favorite series and I was hyped for Halo 5: Guardians. I was not disappointed with the game overall, but I feel like it could have been better with some changes.
My foremost complaint about Halo 5 is the campaign length. Even though there are 15 missions it only took me six and a half hours on heroic to beat it. 343 Industries said they wanted it to be longer than Halo 4’s campaign (which only had eight missions), but I felt purely time–wise they were similar. When I heard 15 missions, I was hoping for a 10 hour campaign; the missions were short. It took me 15 minutes to beat Mission 4, and when the achievement popped up for finishing the mission I thought to myself, “Really? That was it?” That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the campaign. There were moments of awe and crazy realizations, and Halo 6 is looking to have a great story also.
The game favors Spartan Locke much more than the Master Chief. Of its 15 missions only three are playable as the Master Chief. In Halo 2, there was a similarity where you could also play as the Arbiter, but the Master Chief was still central stage. I would have preferred if both were equally as playable.
Another major change to the campaign as compared to previous games is that you play as part of a fire team. Basically, it is you and three other Spartans fighting as a team rather than the lone gun of the previous Master Chief Halos. The members of your fire team don’t play a big part in the main story. I know almost nothing about Spartan Locke’s fire team except for Buck as he was in Halo 3: Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. On the Chief’s side, I only know about them because I read the books. Had I not read the books about them they might as well be faceless Spartans IVs instead of Chief’s closest friends. You can figure out more about the fire teams if you hunt for the intel, but it isn’t a great system and it should have been more incorporated into the main story.
I played the campaign solo, so the rest of my fire team was controlled by the AI. I have to say they felt pretty useless. The only good thing I found they helped with was reviving me when I went down. They also weren’t very effective in combat. For example, I set them to kill an elite. While they were attempting to do so, I killed seven other Covenant and they still hadn’t finished him off; I had to finish him. If they were completely removed from the game it wouldn’t change the campaign much as they were useless in both combat and the story.
The actual gameplay is so smooth. When playing, I feel like a real Spartan–the best the human species has to offer. I am fast, agile, strong, and overall it’s much better. In the earlier Halo games, the Master Chief was a slow–tank sort of character, so, in my opinion, this change is great. This transformation of movement in Halo also helps it compete against other multiplayer games that are becoming more mobility–based such as Call of Duty. Although, it still feels very “Halo” in the sense that map control is important, power weapons are key, and everybody starts out with the same weapons.
The level design of the campaign is also incredibly different from the previous games. The levels lend themselves to the new mobility mechanics by becoming vastly more vertical and there are many different paths to take. Some paths are hidden and require a shoulder barge to get to, which offer variety to the subsequent playthroughs. With the different ways the maps can be approached it allows for each player to play to their way, whether it be a full–on frontal charge, flanking procedures, or sitting back and sniping.
After finishing the campaign, I jumped into Warzone. I put ten and a half hours into both versions of Warzone and thoroughly enjoyed it. At first it was rough getting used to the flow of the matches. I am used to regular arena Halo where you generally know where everybody is and where the flow of players will go. In Warzone it is much more difficult, as it is so hectic. In total, there are 24 players, AI defenders, Legendary Bosses, and regular bosses. Couple this with all the vehicles around and the huge maps, it is difficult to keep a good grasp of it. This confusion wore off after about five games when I finally figured out the flow and how I play it best.
My general strategy for Warzone is to get to requisition level three to unlock the Battle Rifle. I then move to take the middle base. If my team captures the middle base, I am usually going to get 20-30 kills and 10 or so deaths. This is because it is much easier to camp defensively than it is to assault a position. When I am assaulting a position, my kill–death ratio is closer to 1.2-1.4 instead of the 2-3 when I am defending. This is why I prefer regular Warzone to Warzone Assault because in Warzone Assault, half the time you are defending and the other half attacking. I prefer to defend 80 percent of the time.
To win in Warzone your team needs to reach 1,000 points. Points are obtained by killing other Spartans, killing the bosses, and capturing bases. The main source of points is killing the bosses. They are fairly tough and take some time and a decent team of Spartans to take down. This being the case, it is incredibly frustrating when your team does the majority of the work and the enemies come in and get the final shot and get the full point value. I feel it would be beneficial if they changed it so that the final shot gets half the point value of the kill and the remaining half is divided based on how much damage each team did to the boss.
Halo 5 does contain micro-transactions called Requisition Packs. Req packs give req cards and unlocks for cosmetic armor, visor colors, emblems, weapon skins, or assassination animations. Req cards are what you need to get power weapons or vehicles in Warzone. Some people thought this would make Warzone pay-to-win, but it does not make it so at all. The way the req system works is everybody starts off at one req energy. The better you play, the faster you gain req energy. Without enough req energy you can’t spawn the more powerful weapons or vehicles, so it still requires good gameplay to get the best guns and vehicles. I usually rank in the top three on my team based on kills, and I only use the basic Battle Rifle, which doesn’t cost req cards or energy, and the Sniper Rifle. The rate at which you obtain req packs from regular gameplay I feel is balanced and fair. The only reason I see for buying req packs is to unlock all the cosmetic items. People spending money for cosmetics is fine with me as it allows 343 to give out all the map DLC for free.
The last thing I want to talk about is how 343 Industries has been handling its interactions with the community following release. On the Halo subreddit, a member of 343, /u/bravo343, has been extremely active acknowledging people’s complaints and concerns with the game. It is reassuring to see that they are reviewing popular opinions and taking them into consideration. Three days after release, they also put out a community blog post detailing issues that they are looking into and some, like the mongoose being obscenely common, that are already fixed. This sort of quick response is very reassuring to see, and it only strengthens my faith in 343 to make Halo 5 the best it can possibly be.
My original draft of this review was 2300 words, but that is unacceptable for the paper, so I cut it down to the current 1460. There is so much more I could say about the story, the graphics, the advertising campaign (including the Hunt the Truth podcast series), the guns, arena, and many more little things that make Halo 5 a great game, but alas I can’t. I recommend this game to everybody, Halo newcomers and veterans alike. Also, if you’d like to play some matches with me, feel free to add me at Foehammer189.