Impact Reviews – Halo 5: Guardians

The new Halo 5 story line is, in my opinion, refreshingly original. The campaign follows the exploits of the newly-introduced character Spartan Jameson Locke who commands the four-man squad of Fireteam Osiris. However the plot isn’t focused solely around Locke, in 3 missions the player takes control of the beloved Master Chief once again, who is backed up by Blue Team. Their mission: to hunt down the source of events which continue to destroy planets.

For true Halo fans, the campaign feels slightly shorted in its exposure to Master Chief, but overall I felt that following the missions of Fireteam Osiris was a good way of not exhausting the Master Chief character. The hashtag #huntthetruth which was used to promote the game prior to its release was actually rather apt for a promotional video which often tend to exaggerate the game. Throughout the story the mystery was maintained as to what exactly was going on and who was causing this massive destruction. I put this down solely to 343 Industries’ decision to keep players one step behind, so that when they jump forward to play as Master Chief, it reveals more plot and allows them to feel really involved with the chase.

Throughout Halo 5 the basic enemies don’t change

I won’t detail what many of the plot points are, however I will say that I found the anti-hero portrayal very interesting and exciting. Much of what makes Halo games somewhat predictable is the complete totality of their villains: in Halo 4 it was The Didact, in Halo Reach it was The Covenant, and in Halo ODST it was the Covenant again. What I liked most about Halo 3 was that it continuously swapped enemies between the Covenant and the Flood whilst swapping allies for enemies (I’m looking at you Gravemind) all the while having, for the first time, the separatist elites as allies. This kept players really on their toes as to who exactly they were fighting and with what motivations.

In Halo 4, the result was sadly predictable as the Didact appears… Didact wants to destroy galaxy… Chief want to save galaxy… Chief fights Didact… Chief wins. All very predictable. However Halo 5 was nothing like that and, as one friend said to me, it almost seemed like Halo 4 was a prequel game, setting the stage for Halo 5 to come in. I will add the disclaimer that overall throughout Halo 5 the basic enemies don’t change. You’re either fighting Prometheans or Covenant, or both, but what makes the game interesting is that you’re never really sure who the real enemy behind those forces is.

“Throughout the story the mystery was maintained as to what exactly was going on and who was causing this massive destruction”

In terms of gameplay, the campaign is much the same as previous Halo games dating back to Halo 3, however with one slight caveat. In previous games I felt that the difficulty levels were more fine-tuned, with the easy level being not that far removed from the normal level and legendary difficulty being only a step up from heroic difficulty. However that isn’t the case in Halo 5. During my legendary play-through, I found myself wishing at times I hadn’t bought the game, whilst during a play-through on easy, I found myself thinking it was so unbalanced. My point? The variation in difficulty has increased massively from Halo 3 to Halo 4 and now to Halo 5. This is caused in large, by the introduction of the new kinds of NPC enemies which players encounter in Halo 4 and 5.

“I will say that I found the anti-hero portrayal very interesting and exciting”

I found the vehicle interactions were kept relatively similar to previous games, which allowed the player to jump right back into the feel of their old ‘ghosting’ habits. Weapons are largely easy to pick up, with a trifecta of types being: promethean, covenant and UNSC, all of which have their own separate specialties and strengths which I felt were developed more consciously than in Halo 4. And finally, there is NPC behaviour. This was also lovingly familiar to old Halo games although, I did find myself missing the brute NPC who would charge recklessly if they lost their helmets.

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable game with plenty of consistency for long-standing Halo fans to latch onto, whilst also very accessible to new players with the introduction of a new HUD which tracks objectives on the map in real time and marks weapons caches. I found myself expecting another over-hyped, 343 mess, however I was pleasantly surprised to play through Halo 5 and eagerly await the release of the next Halo game, especially given the cliff-hanger Halo 5 was left on.

Ben Nakama

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