Halo is the game that made Microsoft a viable platform and houses one of the most recognizable characters in modern gaming: Master Chief. It changed the landscape of console first person shooters and spawned a number of sequels and even helped popularize machinima by serving as the base for series Red vs Blue. Halo served as the blueprint for multiple imitators (Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter? Anyone? You get an imaginary cookie for knowing that game) and introduced one of my least favorite mechanics into shooters: only holding two weapons at a time. The series has seen a fair amount of changes, both to its developer and to the gameplay, over the 14 years of its existence but the core has stayed the same; which works to the games benefit and detriment in the newest title of series, Halo 5.
Halo 5 is the first Halo game made for the Xbox One and it shows. The game is exceptionally pretty and runs smoothly and even when the action is fast and a large amount of enemies on screen, there appears to barely a dip in framerate. Though, resolution can become sketchy in comparison but the team at 343 studios did a masterful job at keeping the game looking beautiful at all times. As a player of the old Halo games, the 60 frames per second (fps) took a bit of getting used to due to all the others being locked at 30 but it is a sight to behold and the stylized designs of the enemies, Spartans, and worlds both mechanical and of flora and fauna all provide a great ground for the killing sprees that the player will go on.
What has changed is who you go on those killing sprees with. In Halo 5’s story you play a mix of the one, the only, Master Chief and a younger Spartan by the name of Jameson Locke. A game of cat and mouse plays out as Master Chief disobeys orders to follow the whispers of a character that is thought to be dead. Spartan Locke is charged with finding, and if necessary, eliminating Master Chief. The story feels like the weakest part of the game as it is predictable and rather trope heavy in the way the plot proceeds. At no point did the stakes feel all that high or the motivations of the characters really pull through what became a somewhat cliffhanger ending. At least the cutscenes where well-acted and managed to inject life into the squad you are teamed with at any given time. Both Master Chief and Spartan Locke have three other team members along with them that are more or less vehicles for the co-op multiplayer mode of the game. You and up to three other players can play online and complete the story. However, this feels like a necessity if you are playing on any difficulty past normal as the AI teammates varies wildly between helpful and suicidal and the enemies become bullet sponges. All of this yet you are not able to do split screen multiplayer anymore, much to the chagrin of many fans. I understand that 343 wanted to keep resolution and framerate consistent but it is quite an odd change from how the older games were and is a feature many still wanted in the game.
The feature of the game that most people care about manages to be the best part of the game: the multiplayer. The game’s stalwart modes like team slayer and capture the flag exist in the Arena section of the multiplayer while the new mode, Warzone, has its own section. Breakout, a new Arena mode, is pretty fun and often requires you to work as a team to succeed as you have one life per round. The arenas for the move are close range and have their fair share of blind spots. The big attraction to this one is Warzone. A large 12 vs 12 battlefield where you fight against not only the other team but AI controlled enemies. It is very Titanfall-esque as vehicles join the fray and you have revolving objectives between trying to capture and control all bases, killing off specific enemies, and trying to destroy the other teams energy core for the win. It reminds me of the large scale warfare of Battlefield and is one of the better introductions of a gameplay mode done in the Halo universe. The game is going to receive a lot of post-release support in the way of maps and game modes being released over time until June including the return of Forge mode, a fan favorite, which allows for modification and creation of levels.
Most already have decided if they are going to pick up this game or not and it is a fine addition to the Halo universe but the game just does not feel as grandiose as some of the older titles in series and story wise felt like a bit of a step backwards. The gameplay still feels like Halo but faster and is enjoyable but the real attraction is the multiplayer. What Halo does, it does well and while not a game of the year contender it is a worthwhile if only for the Warzone mode.