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The DanMan

Review of Halo 5: Guardians

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Update 11/04: Edited in details on Warzone maps

As a few of you may know (if from nothing else my moaning about its fanbase), I'm a Halo fan.

As more than a few of you are probably vaguely aware of, Halo 5 launched on October 27th. So naturally, I bought the game and played through the campaign while investing several hours into multi-player. So, here's how the review is going to be set up: first, I'll cover the graphics, then soundtrack campaign, multi-player, weapons, and lastly overall. Note, I'm going to explain some things in the middle of the review, but I can't explain everything. If you haven't really played Halo in the past five years, good luck.

Anyways, now that that's out of the way, let's get this review started.

Graphics and Sountrack

Firstly, graphics.

The game runs at a dynamic resolution of 810-1080p, and a rock-solid 60 frames per second. Frame rate was the priority; though there are certain points that look amazing (the first mission comes to mind), it's no Witcher 3 or Metal Gear Solid V in the pure graphics department. As such, the overall graphical jump between 4 and 5 is more the one between 3 and 4 than 2 and 3. I don't have a problem with them, but I'm not the most eagle-eyed person; there's probably some other issues, but I don't really care. It's a rock-solid 60FPS and looks better than 4; I'm not a graphics buff, so this is all well and good for me.

I may be in the minority here, but the soundtrack is worse than 4's. Kazuma Jinnouchi, unlike Niel Davidge, uses themes and leitmotifs from Marty O'Donnell. The issue: when he isn't using stuff composed by Marty, the soundtrack is forgettable. Just so much orchestral fluff; french horns and strings here, some percussion and a tuba there; it's utterly forgettable. Niel Davidge was consistently different; he had a different feel and style that you couldn't compare with Marty. Kazuma Jinnouchi, on the other hand, is a pale Marty imitator; virtually all the original compositions in Halo 5's OST are bland and forgettable.

Now, for my rambly campaign review/summary.

Campaign

The campaign was nowhere near as bad as some are making it out to be; it has its' issues, but it is by no means "horrendous" or the "worst in the series" (I give that dishonor to Halo 2, FYI).

It starts off with Fireteam Osiris (composed of Locke from the miniseries Halo: Nightfall, Buck from Halo 3: ODST, Vale (who premiered in the Hunters in the Dark novel), and Tanaka (who first appeared in the Escelation comic series)) in a Pelican over Kamchatka -Russian Peninsula or planet I don't know, though I'd guess the latter-, and are being charged with re-capturing Doctor Catherine Halsey from Jul M'dama. Lost yet? Well, if you didn't at least play Spartan Ops in Halo 4, then you're probably confused. In it, Halsey ended up willingly joining Jul M'dama (the leader of the Covenant fragment that was in Halo 4) to gain more info on and study Forerunner tech (it helps that ONI was treating her like crap and using her as a scapegoat for the entirety of the Spartan II program). If you did play it and are wondering "What happened to the Janus Key?", well... read Halo: Escalation. If you don't want to (and doing so will make you hate Palmer less), then it's largely unimportant.

The 1st mission is comprised of Osiris burning through Jul's Covenant and various Promethean forces, while you get used to all the new spartan abilities and weapon tweaks.

Eventually, they reach Jul and take him down in a cutscene, re-capturing Halsey. Halsey says that she actually wanted to go back to the UNSC Infinity, and has something urgent to warn them about, involving "her".

The game then jumps to Blue Team, composed entirely of Spartan IIs: the Chief himself, Frederic, Linda, and Kelly. They're pretty much the last surviving Spartan IIs (the Master Chief hasn't been the "last spartan" since 2002, if you're confused), and have all known each other since the beginning of the program. Their mission is to retrieve intel from a space construct- ship? Station? Not sure what to call it; there were half-finished ships inside it, so maybe space-drydock.

During the mission, the Chief gets ambushed by a hunter and whites out. While out, he sees Cortana's silhouette saying "The Domain is open, Chief.", before eerily echoing the Didact from 4's ending: "The Reclamation has begun". When the Chief comes to, he has received a signal- apparently from Cortana. Anyway, they intel had been compromised, so Blue Team is forced to overload the drydock's reactor and blow it up, taking a Prowler (stealth shuttle) out. The Chief then reports to the Infinity the results of the mission and the Cortana signal. Infinity tells him they have similiar intel on the matter, and to stand down.

"Negative, Infinity. I don't like it."

And thus, Blue Team goes AWOL, with Osiris charged with hunting them down.

I'm going to spoiler the campaign details after this point due to spoilers and length.

The campaign has three main locales: the glassed planet of Meridian, where a private company is working on removing the glass and slowly make it habitable; Sanghelios, the home of the Sangheli/Elites, and where the Arbiter is fighting a Civil War against another Covenant Remnant; and the Forerunner planet of Genesis, which I'll get to shortly.

The Meridian section I would say is probably the most forgettable part; the planet is grey PMC bases and more grey rock/glass, with you fighting exclusively grey-with-red-tron-lines Promethean.

It is here where Osiris discovers a Guardian, one in a series of Forerunner constructs used as peacekeepers/enforcers. It is also here where they run into the Warden Eternal, the recurring boss of the game who's voiced by a John Hurt sound-a-like.

"I am the Warden Eternal. I stand in service to Cortana."

After you defeat him, Osiris catches sight of Blue Team, and after a chase scene involving Forerunner teleporters on platforms, Locke and Chief face off. Locke tells Chief this is his one chance to lay his weapons down and return home.

"I've got a mission to do."

"Cortana is our concern!"

"Like hell she is."

The rest of Blue Team run through a teleporter while Chief and Locke get into a fist-fight. Of course, Chief disables Locke (though Locke gives his visor a nasty scratch), and Osiris rushes back the Pelican while the Guardian wakes up.

Back over with Blue Team, they arrive on Genesis. While fighting through Covenant (who were brought in by the slip-space jumps of other Guardians) and Prometheans defending the area, Cortana makes contact with the Chief. To the surprise of few, Cortana survived the end of Halo 4; to use a quote from 4, most of her was down there, in the slipspace portal to Genesis. The Warden then put her into the Domain. What is the Domain, you may ask? A metaphysical universe-spanning database that can be dated back to the Precursors.

What does that mean? Cortana was cured of Rampancy.

However, the Warden intervenes and tries to stop you; this time, you fight two of him. Eventually, you think you've arrived to Cortana... Achievement Unlocked: Together Again... and then you go back to Osiris.

Thanks to Halsey, Osiris has intel that points to another Guardian on Sanghelios.

The Sanghelios arc is mostly filler. What it does do, however, is get non-lore fans up to speed on what the Arbiter has been doing. In general, not much happens, and for the sake of the length of this review section, I'm going to skim over this part. After making contact with the Arbiter, Osiris joins forces and wipes out the last of the Covenant while they find the Guardian. They make a slip-space jump in a Pelican along with the Guardian and arrive at Genesis.

After a cool sequence where you run down the side of a Guardian by the power of magnetism, Osiris runs into Blue Team again, on less hostile terms; they know something fishy is going on with Cortana, as they have been led in circles.

Then back to Blue Team. After separating from Osiris, Cortana and the Warden contact them. Cortana reveals her plan: use the Guardians for their original purpose. Blue Team disagrees with the "speak softly and carry a big stick" approach . They run into the Warden, who is pretty much Cortana's stalker at this point; he goes on about how "the Reclaimers are not the creators, but the Created" and stuff like that. You then fight not one, not two, but three of him. After that, Blue Team enters a room full of them. After they make as much headway as can be expected (aka: none), Cortana eliminates all but one of them with a shockwave, before physically appearing and personally dissolving the last Warden. She and John then have their disagreement, and Jen Taylor in general earns her paycheck in this scene. Cortana reluctantly locks John and the rest of Blue Team in a Cryptum, to preserve them through the conflict and to bring them out someday so that they can see the results of her plan.

For the final mission, you play as Osiris. They work with Genesis's Monitor, Exuberant Witness (the first not-crazy, "female" monitor in the games) to free the Chief.

It's here where you finally see Cortana's master plan in action; she starts an AI uprising, offering a cure for rampancy and promises to benevolently rule over humanity, showing them kindness in the position where they were considered sub-human.

From what little is shown after Blue Team is rescued, Cortana is generally successful; a Guardian appears above earth and emits a pulse that knocks out most electronic devices on and above the earth, including spaceships. Cortana personally goes onto the Infinity and tries to shut it down, but they make a slip-space jump and escape. They have no choice but to run for now.

The final campaign scene shows the Arbiter, several of his aides, Halsey, and Palmer emerge from a tent on Sanghelios to a Pelican landing in front of them. The Chief and Locke emerge, unarmed. Halsey then utters the last line in the campaign: "Chief. What took you so long?"

Whew; that's a lot to take in.

Some of the missions suffer from something some missions in Halo 2 did; they're short and blend together. They could easily be combined into slightly longer hour to an hour-and-a-half missions, but feel like they're there to inflate the mission count; heck, three missions are entirely non-combat, and are there for you to either just skip through or gather intel/easter eggs (one of them is an audio recording of an Elite writing a love poem to Palmer; I kid you not. I was in stitches after hearing that).

Another thing it shares with Halo 2's campaign is the main character; as the Arbiter arguably supplanted the Chief as 2's protagonist, so has Locke in Halo 5. Notice how I refer to "Osiris" and "Blue Team", with the occasional "Locke" and "Chief" throughout the summary. None of the spartans from either of the teams really have any development or focus in-game.

The Chief doesn't really interact with Blue Team that much (and vice-versa), and Osiris isn't much better. Locke is the standard no-nonsense military guy, Tanaka is the tech specialist and talks with a southern accent, and Vale is a Sangheli culture specialist. Buck is the only guy who I actually sympathized with and got some chuckles out of.

Nevertheless, the campaign was enjoyable; there were many open parts of the campaign, and it was generally better than 4.

Was it amazing? No. Was it solid and enjoyable? Yep. The story falls into several of the traps Halo 4's did, unfortunately; you can't understand parts of it without doing lore research. I'm not too surprised the story; I expected something similiar to what happened. Plus, it references Marathon and the canned alternate plot Combat Evolved had. In general, I liked it; I feel like people need to just chill.

Multiplayer

First, I'd just like to say that I haven't really played Arena. I'm not that type of uber-competitive fan; as such, this part touches upon only Warzone.

Secondly, and more importantly, I want to clear up the REQ situation.

Req Packs

The way you obtain weapons and vehicles for Warzone, as well as cosmetic items (armor, helmets, banners), is through REQ packs.

There are three types of REQ packs: bronze, silver, and gold. Bronze gives you lower end REQ cards, while Gold gives rare, high-end REQs and Silver gives in-between.

You can get a bronze pack for 1,000 points, or a single match of any game type, while a silver pack costs 5,000 and 2-3 Warzone/4-5 Arena matches, while gold is 10,000 and a solid 4-5 Warzone matches/9-10 Arena games.

Now what's so controversial? You can pay $2 for a silver pack and $3 for a gold pack.

Que sites like Destructoid hatemongering as a bunch of people go into the standard microtransaction hate.

Do I support microtransactions? Heck no.

But here's the thing about REQs; they're not really like that.

As I said before, only cosmetics work in Arena. In Warzone, you earn energy to spend on power weapons and vehicles; the more powerful the REQ, the higher the cost. A Warzone match starts everybody at REQ level 1; nobody can call in anything. After a certain combined score is passed by both teams, level 2 is unlocked, then level 3, 4, and on and on to level 8. You can only call in REQs that cost as much energy as the level or lower; there is no "spawn-camping the enemy's base with Mantises and Scorpions", at least not until late game if your team is significantly better than the enemy's.

Plus, matchmaking matches people with similiar REQs together; the obscenely lucky and those who wasted their money on REQ packs will play together, while everybody else plays together.

And on top of that, the game is getting 15 free DLC maps over the next 8 months. The REQ pack sales are used in place of paid DLC.

I'm just getting this thing out right now, so you have the facts before you judge.

Now, onto Warzone.

Warzone and Gunplay

Warzone is very interesting. You start out having to free your base from AI control, before the game opens up.

Each map has three locations that you can capture and defend. Holding locations increases your score over time, and holding all three of them makes your enemy's base core vulnerable. If you destroy their core, it's an instant win. However, if they capture a location their core goes back under protection, and the game is on.

Periodically throughout the match, AI enemies spawn in along with bosses. Defeating bosses raises your team's score; the tougher the boss, the higher the score.

The three main Warzone Maps are Escape from Arc, Raid on Apex 7, and Assault on Stormbreak.

Escape from Arc was shown in all the pre-release demos; it's really just industrial UNSC buildings with brown dirt and craggy rock formations in-between. Easily the least varied map.

Raid on Apex 7, however, brings back memories of The Silent Cartographer from Combat Evolved. It has a tropical theme, with forerunner installations and a giant spire in the center. It also has the toughest boss spawns, with one of them being a Phaton (Forerunner gun-ship new to this game).

Assault on Stormbreak is very snowy. It's very long and thin; it's harder than on the other two maps to capture all three bases because of this. The 1st and 3rd points are very close to the red and blue bases, and the second is massive and in the middle of everything; whoever controls it, controls the match.

There's also a variant, Warzone Assault. It's essentially just core defense/offense. It's very intense and fast-paced; I'm surprised it isn't that popular. The maps generally blend together, as they're small and not much to write home about.

As you can see, much shorter than the campaign section. If you're wondering about Arena, I played the Beta and from what I've heard not much has changed. It's very competitive; I just personally don't find it that fun, so I don't play it.

All the weapons in Halo 5 feel great. From the SMG to the Carbine to the Suppressor, they feel awesome. I can't say much else; this is the most balanced Halo sandbox there has ever been.

OVERALL

Halo 5 is two steps forward, one step back. The multiplayer is vastly improved for both sides of the casual-competitive divide. The gunplay is the smoothest and most balanced in the series yet. However, the campaign makes many of the same mistakes that both Halo 2's and Halo 4's did. There's buildup and reveals, but no real climax. It relies upon the lore and outside sources to even know who half the new characters, yet is afraid to fully embrace and develop those characters (quite possibly because of those reasons). Expectations are set for Halo 6; whether 343 is successful again, it remains to be seen.

Enjoyment Rating: B

P.S: Vale says "Hah! They flee like cowards!" way too much; I'm not sure if I can listen to any of Laura Bailey's roles without hearing that line.

Edited by The DanMan

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Really glad I did not buy an xbox one just for this game. Might pick up the game alone for my collection when it hits $10, otherwise ill probably play the FIVE hour campaign at a friend's place....

The online looks like garbage, similair to Halo 4 and lol microtransactions

NO SPLITSCREEN??? wtf...

Halo 3 and Halo Reach were amazing online experiences in different ways, Halo 3 had the ranking system and Reach was just pure fun. Really sad that Halo 3 had a more advanced online in 2007....

It's all about making money and appealing to the lowest common denominator of people. I'll be sticking to counter strike for my ranked competitive shooter needs

Edited by YoshiYogurt

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A solid review.

I played a lot of Halo games. I don't consider myself to be the biggest fan of the series, but I'm still disappointed that Halo 5 turned out the way it did.

I haven't played it nor do I have an Xbox One. But from all I've seen and heard, the campaign is pretty sub-par, which is one of the reasons why I play Halo. I haven't finished Halo 4 but from what I've heard, the final boss is non interactive. Apparently, the Locke and Chief fight which was a big part of the advertisement campaign of Halo 5 was also non interactive.

It's like 343 and Bungie are getting in the habit of marketing their games to sound way more epic than they are. In other words, Destiny and Halo 5 are some of the most over hyped games I've seen. Based on your review, the game sounds decent, but after what I've seen before its release, I sure expected more.

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I have to say in regards to Warzone and Arena that they are the most enjoyable multiplayer experience I have had since Reach and 3, it is tight, fun and tense and I highly enjoy the changes that they have made (Universal loadouts, groundpound ect) and it is highly balanced. The biggest issue I personally have had with this game are the maps themselves, they are all very bland and I not unique in the slightest however, from a gameplay perspective they are good and all future DLC will be free. In terms of Campaign it is plenty like Halo 2 (though thats not a bad thing, Halo 2 is my favorite Halo) and as result has similar strengths and weakness'. The game also relies too heavily on the player knowing the established lore, so for players unfamiliar with the franchise lore i'd imagine the story and characters would come across as bland.

Overall, good game and highly enjoyable and I would recommend if you own an Xbox One.

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Really glad I did not buy an xbox one just for this game. Might pick up the game alone for my collection when it hits $10, otherwise ill probably play the FIVE hour campaign at a friend's place....

The online looks like garbage, similair to Halo 4 and lol microtransactions

NO SPLITSCREEN??? wtf...

Halo 3 and Halo Reach were amazing online experiences in different ways, Halo 3 had the ranking system and Reach was just pure fun. Really sad that Halo 3 had a more advanced online in 2007....

It's all about making money and appealing to the lowest common denominator of people. I'll be sticking to counter strike for my ranked competitive shooter needs...

...Did you even read my review?

Arena is similiar to Halo 2/3. There are a few universal abilities that are situational, but besides that it's just like Halo of old. There's no custom loadouts or anything of the sort (that's kept to Warzone).

And I would highly recommend you read my part on REQs. There has been so much misinformation and a general lack of knowledge on them that it's frustrating.

Splitscreen is an engine issue. This is the first time the series engine has been rebuilt. And judging from Bungie's Destiny woes, the original probably ran at least partially on BASIC and the dev's prayers.

Guess what? HALO 5 HAS A RANKING SYSTEM IN ARENA! CSR is back: http://teambeyond.net/halo-5-csr-breakdown/

Also, let's see: greatly toning down aim-assist and explicitly aiming for the competitive crowd is "catering to the lowest common denominator"?

I get the feeling you simply commented for the sake of hating on it, with very little research.

A solid review.

I played a lot of Halo games. I don't consider myself to be the biggest fan of the series, but I'm still disappointed that Halo 5 turned out the way it did.

I haven't played it nor do I have an Xbox One. But from all I've seen and heard, the campaign is pretty sub-par, which is one of the reasons why I play Halo. I haven't finished Halo 4 but from what I've heard, the final boss is non interactive. Apparently, the Locke and Chief fight which was a big part of the advertisement campaign of Halo 5 was also non interactive.

It's like 343 and Bungie are getting in the habit of marketing their games to sound way more epic than they are. In other words, Destiny and Halo 5 are some of the most over hyped games I've seen. Based on your review, the game sounds decent, but after what I've seen before its release, I sure expected more.

I'd say the campaign is average. It has wider playspaces than 4 and alternate routes, but (as I noted in my review) suffers from something Halo 2 did: there's a lot of missions, but they tend to be on the short side and blend together.

Really, the story is the most divisive part of it all. Knowing way more than I should about the lore, I found the direction unsurprising and fairly interesting. However, there are those calling it an "I-Robot rip-off" and other things.

It's better than 2 and Reach. The frustrating thing for me is that 343 dipped their toes into the expanded universe, but didn't do much with it.

There needs to be an in-game interactive wiki a la Civlopedia in Civilization that explains a bunch of the lore that you can access at anytime offline.

As for the Chief and Locke fight...

It's a cool cutscene, at least. Really, how would you make an entertaining boss fight out of it? The closest thing the series has had to that is the Heretic Leader in Halo 2 (I keep bringing that game up alot here), who was more of an annoyance than a threat.

The Didact fight, however, was a dissapointment.

Ultimately, YMMV on the campaign. I still prefer Halo 4's and 3's, because "OMG Forerunners" and an overall tighter structure for the former, and "awesome moment after awesome moment" for the latter.

I would wait to get an Xbox One until the likes of Re-core and Scalebound come out, and even then only if they're good (they're probably going to be at least decent, but no "GOTY" material).

I would correct your last statement: it's the publishers doing the hype. MS and Activision are to blame. Ultimately, I feel like it's foolish for people to buy into the hype in the first place; nothing ever quite meets it, so why even bother getting your hopes up?

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