Halo 5: Guardians: XBox One Review
Developed by 343 Industries
Platform: XBox One
To say the return of MasterChief on the next gen console is highly anticipated is perhaps a massive understatement.
But it is with nerves too, given how disastrously the MasterChief collection last year launched online capabilities. It was beyond a mess and gave the series a kind of wake up call that perhaps it really didn't need.
So, 343 Industries seized the mettle on this and simply ran with what they thought may make the game as popular as it once was. Their solution? Throw in some mystery, give yourself a chance to head 2 teams and split the action.
It's an intriguing mix and in some ways, it doesn't quite work.
The best way to describe the campaign mode of the game is a slightly frustrating experience that may baffle newcomers to the franchise but will leave others who love the series relatively happy and enthralled with the goings on.
There are 15 missions in the campaign mode, and you get to oscillate between Fireteam Osiris, headed up by the Spartan Locke and the Blue Team, headed up by the legend that is MasterChief. The bad news though - is that you will spend most of your time playing as Locke, and not Chief (potentially something which will enrage fans of the Chief).
Essentially, the game is a hunt the Chief down with a bigger story arc playing out in the background, that taps into the wider Halo universe and will reward those who've been with the franchise from the start or who played through the MasterChief collection last year. The reasons for the hunt I don't want to get into as that's part of the mystery, but needless to say, it does all become explanatory later on.
Locke's team is the more fun one, made up of a scrappy bunch who revel in banter and whose number includes internet fave Nathan Fillion. The great thing about Osiris is the banter as you're on the missions; the bad thing is that as Locke, you can't add to the banter, merely serving as an observer - it's a surprise that since that side of the game is so well-developed you have little to no chance to get involved in it, with the only thing Locke can do (much like MasterChief) being to point to locations to order your team into position.
Graphically, the game is smooth, as waves of enemies head your way. And there's certainly no lack of weaponry dropped to help you take down the masses and hordes - guns drop with regularity and running out of bullets is no problem whatsoever. The speed of the fight sequences are impressive too - you really do have to have your eye on the ball to ensure your own survival. Though, if you're a bit gungho and don't use your team, your death is not necessarily the end as your team mates can be sequestered into reviving you. Enemy AI is improved as well, with critters avoiding walking into fire, hiding from bullets and appearing to invoke their own strategies - a touch that makes this feel responsive and requires you to have some smarts.
Sadly though, not all of the smarts are all of the way through.
Piloting space vehicles is laughable, an exercise in gravity frustrations and physical impossibilities. One mission requires you to fly through the air but doesn't penalise you or your shields as you bounce off structures like a tennis ball batted back and forth. And driving vehicles isn't much better either; the responsive controls fail miserably to cope with anything resembling simplicity.
Equally, there's a lot of Halo 5 that looks damn impressive - but you'll find most of that stuff is limited to the cut scenes. The in-house cinematics are nothing short of awesome; incredibly well executed and beautifully realised, showcasing the absolute best of the next gen console grunt. But there's a degree of frustration with them too - as they show off key scenes, crucial battles and big boss takedowns - of which you have no control. It's a puzzling move from 343 Industries and a real slap in the gaming face; why it was decided upon I don't really know.
I won't yet come to the Warzone Multiplayer review portion as that deserves a separate entry, but Halo 5: Guardians has some highs and some lows on its campaign mode. There are moments which serve it badly and moments which see it soar. For some, the fact that it is a new Halo that's smooth, powerful and enjoyable will be enough to convince them to part with their cash and hours of their lives, but for others, the frustrations of the execution of the campaign mode will prove to be enough of a hindrance.