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Halo 5: Guardians review: Combat has evolved, but at what cost?

In the beginning, there was Halo: Combat Evolved, and while it was incredibly basic by modern standards, it was good. Then came Halo 2, and though the ending was somewhat controversial, it too was good, expanding upon what made Halo great in every aspect from storytelling to multiplayer. And soon, Halo 3 followed to finish the fight, introducing some new elements but ultimately staying true to the Halo formula. ODST was an experiment of sorts, but overall it delivered on it’s promise of focusing on the storytelling, and Reach (in retrospect) essentially became a testing ground for some (controversial) new gameplay additions. By the time Halo 4 came out, Halo was still Halo at it’s core, but most of the new changes proved to be questionable.

And thus, we arrive at Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries’ latest attempt to prove that they know what they are doing with the beloved franchise.

Purely from a gameplay perspective…

In terms of being a sci-fi shooter, Halo 5 is amazing. The campaign offers wildly differing locales to fight in, from open battlefields that are suitable to vehicular warfare to the cramped interiors of spaceships to snowy plains and alien cities, all beautiful in their own way. The storytelling is a bit odd to be sure, but it’s still interesting nonetheless.

One of the new maps in Halo 5, practically a postcard from outerspace
One of the new maps in Halo 5, practically a postcard from outerspace

The weapons and vehicles feel and sound good as well, with UNSC weapons behaving very much like you would expect human weapons to function while Forerunner weapons are on the more exotic end of the spectrum. Similarly, voice acting, sound design, and visuals are near flawless, though there are some rough spots, as to be expected. The AI of your fellow squadmates in the campaign is nothing special, and at times they are downright stupid, but that too is to be expected from games.

The assault rifle is given a new purpose now that it can zoom in. Not a Hunter killing purpose, but a purpose nonetheless
The assault rifle is given a new purpose now that it can zoom in. Not a Hunter killing purpose, but a purpose nonetheless

Multiplayer is also fantastic, offering a choice between the more classic, smaller maps and gametypes that we all know and love to the larger, newer, Warzone gametype. Warzone itself is fairly interesting, perfect for those who like Big Team Battle with a bit of Invasion on the side, or if you just want to shoot stuff without caring too much about whether its another player or an AI, or if you like the chaos of having 24 people fight each other.

From the perspective of those who grew up with Halo, the nitpicky, or the hard to please…

While Halo 5: Guardians is a solid sci-fi shooter, it too suffers from what ultimately turned at least some people away from Halo 4: it feels too much like a sci-fi shooter trying to be like Halo rather than feeling like Halo to begin with. Sure, it can be argued that every weapon having a scope function is a necessity for the larger maps (plus it does make some weapons that were once useless at least tolerable), but everything else from the art direction to multiplayer feels so different at times that you can be forgiven for thinking that it’s a different game entirely.

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For whatever reason, your jetpack decides to turn on when you run, despite being clad in strength augmenting power armor

For example, the beloved Scorpion tank no longer resembles a scorpion, opting for a significantly more boxy look instead. Similarly, the rocket launcher has lost it’s unique look in favor of being a simple tube. Frag grenades apparently now come with giant yellow lights on them too. The alien races have retained their more primal look from Halo 4, and the MJOLNIR armor that the Spartans wear is certainly unique, though not necessarily in the best sense of the word.

Say hello to the Elite. You may have recognized him from Halo 4
Say hello to the Elite. You may have recognized him from Halo 4

If nitpicking over how things look isn’t something that you care for, then perhaps the changes to the core gameplay might bother you. True, sprinting is at it’s slowest speed since it’s introduction to the franchise, and anything resembling armor lock is gone, but the fact remains that by giving everyone a thruster pack on top of all the expanded movement options, the slow, methodical, and fairly unforgiving gameplay that Halo was once known for is now a shell of its former self. Rushed into battle too quickly? Simply thrust behind something. Got caught in a bad position? Run away.

Final score- 8.0-9.0/10, depending on whether or not you can overlook the changes to what made Halo what it was

About Anson Chan

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