343 Industries has come out with a point to prove: After the disastrous launch that was The Master Chief Collection, all eyes were on the multiplayer. Even though the story may not be the strongest seen in the series, Halo 5 Guardians features the best multiplayer in the series to date. With incredibly smooth gameplay staying at a stable 60 frames a second, Halo 5 Guardians has never played better and the improved frame rate helps the multiplayer feel so great.
The campaign is set up to be a Team Blue vs Team Osiris and while the opening cinematic is a great beginning to set the tone to get you right in to the action, it is to the expense of backstory, especially for Team Blue. Master Chief ended Halo 4 back at UNSC getting his armour upgraded but the beginning of Halo 5 sees Master Chief with his old Team Blue team mates about to start a mission while his teammates talk about how he’s changed over the years.
From there the story is disappointingly straight forward. Locke is after Master Chief after he defies a single order and Master Chief is curious after a vision tasks him with going to a Forerunner planet called Meridian. The marketing implied a massive showdown between Locke and Master Chief and while it makes sense, it just doesn’t have any epic moments and things just feel like a distraction from the real set up that 343 want to follow through on in Halo 6.
It’s weird, Halo 5 Guardians feels both like the second game in a trilogy and the beginning of a new story. About halfway through the game, the current stories just seem to fade away and becomes set up for the finale of the trilogy. In some ways, the conclusion feels like the conclusion in Halo 2. It doesn’t feel as rushed but it does leave things hanging and the inevitable wait for Halo 6 begins as soon as the credits roll. It’s an ending though the doesn’t get you excited for the next installment but not enough closure of reconciliation happens over the course of the campaign making it weaker than it really should have been.
The multiplayer though excels. Halo multiplayer has never felt as good as it does in Halo 5 Guardians. In previous iterations, the design has always been a struggle between catering to the hardcore audience and making it fun and casual for anyone to just drop in for a match or two.
This mostly comes in the form of breaking up the multiplayer into two sections: Arena and Warzone. Arena is tight, competitive and engaging from the moment you begin. Warzone is played on massive maps with multiple objectives and while it requires strategy, it feels more open to just jump into and half some fun like you would with the old Big Team Battle playlists.
Warzone sees two teams of 12 take each other on in massive environments. The goal is to reach 1000 points and these points can be obtained in multiple ways. Kills count for very little while most consistent points come from holding as many bases as possible. The real treat to Warzone though is the fact that it also includes A.I. controlled enemies. These can be enemy marines holding a base but it can also be prometheans.
The true twist to the game comes in the form of bosses that spawn on the map intermittently. This can be worth anything from 25 points to 150 points a kill meaning the tides can turn drastically in a match should a team take out a few of them in succession. It can also be frustrating but it adds more depth to the gameplay to keep you coming back.
Another massive difference between Warzone and Arena is the Requisition Packs or Req. Packs. These Req. Packs allow you to obtain a random number of cards which can be used to obtain during a match. You can only call upon these cards however when you reach a certain level. If you’ve played a MOBA before, this is where the idea most likely comes form. Each match starts with you on level. As you take over bases, kill enemies, and take out bosses your individual level rises and more powerful weapons and vehicles become available to you. These cards though are a one time use and can only be used should you have them in your collection. Cards can be bough using Req. Points gained through matches.
Arena is back to basics though with every player starting with the same loadout and every mode feels pure. Every mode just feel enhanced due to the frame rate and every mode feels tuned to perfection to offer the bet experience. It is easily the best a Halo multiplayer has been and knowing that every future map (19 in total) will be free means that this is the first Halo game to have the pull and longevity since Halo 2.
While the campaign is honestly a let down, the multiplayer certainly makes up for it. It’s incredibly hard to put down and the customisation of your Spartan can keep you coming back as well as all those reflexes of learning the maps, power weapon layouts and playing the objective. Halo is back to where it should have been multiplayer-wise and it could be the online game for the next few years.