As a huge Halo fan, Halo 5 was the first game I preordered this year. The thought of the Master Chief continuing his story on this generation of consoles was almost too much to wait on. Now it’s here I have mixed feelings over the package on offer.
Starting up the campaign, it is no secret that you play as two different characters, The perennial Master Chief and Spartan Locke. Without spoiling the story they work at cross purposes despite the larger Covenant/Forerunner conflict, that is tearing the galaxy apart. Now Halo fans will remember the last time you got to play as another character in the series, Halo 2. In that the major shock was the amount of the game you were allowed to play as the Arbiter. At the time criticism was high. Much like playing as Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, the fracturing of the storyline in a centrally character driven game, is never met with acclaim. Luckily in Halo 5 this split has been publicised since the beginning. It doesn’t mean that it is any more beneficial to the game.
Playing as Locke and his team of Spartans, gives you a feeling that this is going to share a lot in common with Halo ODST. There the group dynamics were very much in play as you made your way around New Mombassa. In fact this game shares more in common with the series highpoint Halo Reach. You get the squad, you get the sense of teamwork and you get the interplay between characters as you walk about. Unfortunately something is missing in the campaign mode of this game as you make your way through it. The soul.
As I allude to in the title, this game comes in at a whopping 60 GB + on your hard drive, when you include the 9 GB day one patch. For this amount of material I would be expecting a campaign mode that at lease matched Halo Reach. Reach was the shortest but best game of the series coming in at around 7 – 8 hours on Heroic – the Halo default. Halo 5 is shaping up to be closer to the 5-6 hour mark at the same difficulty. It may not seem like much, but when the game is split into the same number of missions, it makes the whole package seem less. The question now is where is all the content in the 60GB?
The answer is in the graphics, mechanics and Multiplayer. The graphics in Halo 5 are everything you would expect them to be. The covenant and forerunner enemies snarl and are far more threatening looking than ever. When you see a grunt, they now look like a creature that has the intent to kill you, rather than a space muppet. The Jackals snarl and look like feral creatures with sniper rifles and the elites and hunters are as intimidating as ever. The forerunner enemies die in an explosion of light, that can distract you from the battlefield. It really adds to the experience to have graphics as good as this, the lighting from the Spartans helmets and the pink flashes of a needler come alive as you battle the hordes. The addition of elevation and multiple destructive routes on a battlefield means the typical Halo gunplay is as excellent as ever. By simply charging through a destructive wall, you can flank enemies or kill them in the charge as your AI teammates keep them busy from the front. It works really well when you learn how to use it. Some people will go through the whole campaign without using this technique to their loss.
Unfortunately the actual offline play feels like playing Destiny with AI instead of friends. You have three team mates who need healed and can heal you if you get downed. As well as making the core game easier it makes it feel like a strike mission on Destiny instead of truly Halo. As the two games share such DNA this may be just my observation, but it is hard to ignore a large boss who is destroying your team as you heal them and be healed and not think of Bungie’s game. Th game obviously is much better with a group of friends and therein lies the problem with Halo 5. It has forsaken its single, offline play for the online co-op and multiplayer. The signs were there as there is no split screen multiplayer either.
Luckily Halo 5 Multiplayer is amazing. The introduction of Warzone adds an element much like the objective based Multiplayer in Reach, only makes it much bigger and grander. You get on home base and three bases that are up or grabs on the map. Take over these bases and they get populated by competent AI marines. The objective is to hit 1000 points by doing this, killing enemy Spartans or by completing AI events on the map, such as killing legendary AI enemies like Revenant Hunters or Eternal Knights. The thing is – do you concentrate on doing these, leaving yourself open to being shot in the back, or do you concentrate on the core game of capturing your base? It really adds a twist to an already excellent competitive shooter. The introduction of a new trading card and micro-transaction service is handled well and not unlike Hearthstone. These req packs can be bought with real money or in-game currency and unlock weapons, vehicles and boosts to use at req stations on the map. While being killed by a wraith at a vital moment is annoying the ability to quickly turn the tide is needed in this mode, that effectively replaces big team battle. the multiplayer connection is flawless compared to last year’s Master Chief Collection, however there is a minor niggle with aiming at the moment. The crosshairs move quicker from side to side and up and down than they do diagonally meaning it can feel unusually slow to aim, to a fps veteran. No doubt this will be patched soon but it is a niggle after the massive day one patch.
The customisation of your Spartan has hit new heights with over a hundred variations of most uniform parts. The time needed to get these means that buying Halo 5 for the Multiplayer, is the take away from this review. While the campaign is excellent wit friends, it can feel a little sterile on your own, luckily the depth of the Multiplayer means people wiill be playing this until Halo 6.