After two long and arduous years, Microsoft’s Xbox One finally has a release from its main franchise. Halo 5: Guardians has a hell of a lot to live up to. With the release of the Master Chief Collection in 2014 being lacklustre at best in the multiplayer section (whilst being admittedly fantastic when it came to campaign missions), 343 Industries has had a lot to make up for.
Prior to release, everything seemed promising - with the return of Halo favourites such as The Arbiter (Keith David) and Edward Buck (Nathan Fillion), alongside new characters such as the Spartans of Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris, the bar had been set high, and the new additions and changes to Halo multiplayer were extensive. The question had to be asked – could this reclaim what Halo 4 lost?
"Each Spartan character now feels like they have some form of personality, and the combat in campaign mode is on a scale not seen before in a Halo game."
The answer, simply, is yes. The 60 frames per second, 1080p graphics bring Microsoft’s greatest franchise to the next generation, the landscapes and skyboxes are no less than amazing (It’s Halo, what did you expect?) and each individual character looks hyper realistic. You’ll actually think that it’s Nathan Fillion’s face on your screen, rather than a CGI upload. The campaign inserts that much needed communication and narrative that were somewhat lacking in the previous games, and now, rather than merely stomping on everything as the Master Chief, his friends are there to add to the alien-squishing experience. Each Spartan character now feels like they have some form of personality, and the combat in campaign mode is on a scale not seen before in a Halo game.
Multiplayer combat has indeed evolved in many respects, streamlining with many modern shooters whilst maintaining its own distinctive feel and aesthetic. A far more urgent feel has been brought into the frame, with its vast range of match types (they still have SWAT! Rejoice, Battle Rifle fans!) and the inclusion of new and intense gametypes such as Breakout – a team based, 5 round, single-life deathmatch – and Warzone – massive teams engaging both each other and AI enemies whilst levelling up to access better weapons and vehicles, with games invariably ending in complete destruction. As to be expected from Halo, to be honest.
Their map-making Forge mode has been held back for a short time until December, which is presumably so they can finish what they consider massive additions to that as well – the ability to customise the ground under your feet, additions of fire and smoke effects, an improved and easier system of controls… once Forge hits the Xbox, you can expect to see some unbelievable map-making by the community.
"They still have SWAT! Rejoice, Battle Rifle fans!"
And that’s what’s immediately present when playing Halo multiplayer – there’s a community, groups of friends playing alongside one another, working as groups and teams throughout the gametypes, whilst those who wish to play lone-wolf can still find themselves able to hold their own. All in all, this game is what Halo 4 should have been, taking influences from Halo 2 and Reach. And weren’t they just the best?