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Nov 24 2015

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Halo 5: Guardians revitalizes franchise

343 Industries/Microsoft. Reproduced under fair use

343 Industries/Microsoft. Reproduced under fair use

In almost every way, Halo 5: Guardians, released on Oct 24, exceeds the games that came before it. 343 Industries has developed a masterpiece in combat for the series with tons of guns, map variety, and a new massive multiplayer mode that shows the return of the greats, while changing the direction of Halo’s ever growing experience. However, the game repeats the same mistakes as Halo 4 when it comes to telling a story that can’t stand alone without Halo’s already expansive universe we know and love. This injures, but doesn’t kill, its impressive cooperative campaign.   

Story

After receiving a communication from thought to be dead Cortana, Master Chief’s AI companion, Master Chief disobeys orders and begins his search with his fellow spartans in Blue team. The UNSC, United Nations Space Command, doesn’t take this lightly and believes that he has gone rogue. Things get more out of hand when giant metallic creators known as Guardians begin to destroy planet colonies. Blaming the Master Chief for their destruction, the UNSC send Spartan Locke, an ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) Mercenary and Fireteam Osiris consisting of Spartan Vale, Spartan Buck, and Spartan Tanaka to hunt him down.    

The Hero

Even though the characters share the cover art, don’t be mistaken. Spartan Jameson Locke is the main character. You play as him, the leader of Fireteam Osiris, in about 80 percent of the game’s 15 missions. This probably wouldn’t have be that bad if he wasn’t the most boring character in the Halo universe. Spartan Locke has no motive other than his commander told him to do it. This is a blow to the side of the story, wasting any potential it had.

However, the story did do some things right. Throughout the game you are given backstory on Spartan Locke’s teammates through character banter. An example would be how Spartan Vale learned an alien language when she was a child in a military base. This believable conversation talk helps add a more lifelike and likeable touch to the characters. Unfortunately, Master Chief’s blue team did not get the same treatment, leaving you to find out by buying books or a more expensive copy of the game to understand their bond with the Chief.

Spartan abilities

With other first person shooters changing their mechanics, 343 industries decided to join the trend by adding Spartan abilities. These abilities allow players to dodge in different directions to avoid fire or slam to the ground killing anything around you. The abilities work well for the Halo franchise and I can see them becoming even more amazing in the next game.

Halo 5: Guardians has the biggest range of weapons seen in a Halo game. The return of favorites like the DMR and redesigned weapons like the SMG that felt mediocre in previous entries make your arsenal better than ever. However, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in two new additions to the Halo arsenal. The Hydra and the Plasma Caster are two new additions to Halo’s large array of power weapons, but they fail to bring the same joy as others. The Hydra is a six round rocket launcher that allows for target tracking, but can barely do the damage as a good old fashion rocket launcher. The same goes for the Plasma Caster when it comes to power, making other power weapons like the Fuel Rod Cannon superior in comparison.

New generation of Halo multiplayer

While the game’s story had its flaws, its multiplayer is one continuous highpoint. Its new headliner mode is Warzone, and it’s so much fun that I could ignore the rest of the modes and be satisfied with Halo 5.  

Warzone is an expanded, 24-player version of Halo’s big team battle playlist, but in addition to fighting the other team, you’re gaining points by capturing locations and killing NPC bosses like tank warlords or super-strong hunters. Two possible ways to win – either earning 1,000 points before the other team or by destroying the enemy team’s base – making it dangerous to get cocky when you’re winning, since a comeback in entirely possible.

Throughout each Warzone match players slowly gain requisition points that they can use to buy power weapons, vehicles, power ups, and more from kiosks scattered around the map. If you spend a few points right when you spawn, you’ll probably have better weapons than you enemies. However, the more preserving play could change the tide of the battle in the first ten minutes by rolling into battle with a scorpion tank while other only have money for a battle rifle. The system is well balanced, making no strategy dominant, but nothing can beat good old-fashioned running and gunning.

But of course, Warzone is just one of many multiplayer modes. Arena is classic Halo at its finest: 4 versus 4 gameplay, with well designed maps that don’t make the games one-sided, as well as game modes like Slayer, Capture the Flag, and the fan favorite SWAT. The game’s maps and customizable armor are impressive, making for replayability never before seen in Halo.  

343 Industries even gave players something to do in between matches. As you play, you gradually gain points that can be used to buy Requisition packs. These packs come in three different levels gold, silver and copper, which can give you guns, armor, stances and assassination animations.   

The Verdict

After 14 years, Halo has never felt so good to play. Its updated weapons and movement mechanics help modernize both the campaign and multiplayer without getting rid of Halo’s classic feel. It sometimes fails to introduce its new characters in an interesting way, and the story does leave some plot holes, but it’s still fast, fun, and beautiful. Guardians multiplayer brings back the Halo 2 glory days with balanced maps, fun modes, and the new Warzone which absolutely steals the show. Taking its story problem into account, Halo 5: Guardians does lose some points but, with its phenomenal multiplayer, all is forgiven.

 

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