‘Halo 5: Guardians’ video game review
By Alex Stanton, Staff Writer
Halo 5: Guardians is the first of the series to grace the Xbox One, and the second in the Reclaimer story arc by 343 Industries. The game keeps the famous Halo gameplay mostly intact, electing to innovate through level design, experimental multiplayer game types, and storytelling that, like the entire Halo franchise, leaves a whole lot to be desired.
The game picks up eight months after the end of Halo 4, which ended with iconic super-soldier Master Chief experiencing a major tragedy with the loss of his AI companion Cortana. Suffering from immense grief and knowing that he’s suspected of war crimes, the Chief and a squad of three of his closest confidants go AWOL, disappearing with nary a warning.
In an interesting twist on the otherwise formulaic plot, unlike every other main series Halo title, you spend almost no time with the Master Chief himself. In response to his desertion, the UNSC sends a four-man squad codenamed Osiris Team to track him down. Jameson Locke, the leader of Osiris Team, is the protagonist of Halo 5: Guardians and the sole playable character for roughly 80 per cent of the game’s more than 10-hour-long campaign.
The biggest problem I have with the Halo series—with the shining exception of ODST—is the story. Halo 5: Guardians is no exception. The Halo expanded universe includes films, comic books, and novels, every detail of which adds to the incredibly convoluted lore of the universe. Many of the tertiary stories in the Halo universe are pretty much required reading to fully grasp what’s going on. This doesn’t happen in franchises where the expanded universe is done well.
But in the end the plot is only an incentive for these space soldiers to go on a galaxy-wide adventure. This new release marks the first time that Halo is playable in a glorious 60 frames per second, showing off just how buttery smooth next gen shooting can be.
Among the things that have changed just enough to feel familiar and fresh is the iconic online multiplayer experience, the overhauled ranking system, and the Warzone game type, in which you and 11 teammates defend a base against swarms of AI enemies. These are the kind of subtle changes that enhance instead of alter the experience you have.
One change that will undoubtedly cause long-time Halo fans to scratch their heads is the removal of all offline multiplayer capabilities. Historically, Halo has allowed players to play with four friends offline, sharing the screen in campaign, deathmatch, and firefight modes. I can’t imagine it being a deal-breaker in a world where online multiplayer is the norm, but it strikes me as a super questionable, even unintelligent, decision.
In terms of mid-trilogy stories, Halo 5: Guardians certainly isn’t Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. But for all the little things that rub me the wrong way about this game, I can’t recommend against it because it’s Halo. Sometimes, even when it comes to endlessly franchised video games, more of the same can be a good thing.