5 Reasons Halo 5: Guardians Was Worth The Wait
Playing Halo 5: Guardians over the past two weeks is the closest I’ve felt to being Tom Cruise’s character in Edge of Tomorrow. The game’s universe is thrilling to explore, gorgeous to look at, and I also died a lot. But not even death can stop me from telling you this is the next generation of Halo we’ve been waiting for since the Xbox One launched two years ago. That wait was definitely worth it, and here are five reasons why.
Master Chief has gone rogue
Although this wouldn’t be a Halo game if it didn’t feature a somewhat impenetrable plot, Guardians’ narrative is the most enjoyable one to come along in some time, thanks to how well it interweaves its dual narratives, seen through the visor of Master Chief, who has decided to go AWOL with his Blue Team in search of a certain holographic companion, and Spartan Jameson Locke, whose Fireteam Osiris has been tasked with retrieving them.
On Normal or Heroic difficulty, the 15-mission campaign should last about seven to eight hours. The twist is that you only play as Master Chief for roughly one-third of the proceedings—the rest is spent with Locke and his crew, which thankfully is the more developed posse, and even features Nathan Fillion as one of its members (a nice touch that adds a layer of personality and levity that’s new to the series).
Without giving away too much, Guardians’ cliffhanger is not unlike Halo 2’s, so think of this as The Empire Strikes Back in 343 Industry’s post-Bungie saga, which kicked off with Halo 4 and will possibly conclude with Halo 6. At any rate, it’s a blast to play through, right up until the coda that left us salivating for more. Mission accomplished.
Guardians introduces a bevy of new gameplay mechanics, all of which are extremely useful, easy to execute, and add new degrees of excitement to the action. For instance, you can now grab onto ledges, parkour-style, so leap-of-faith jumps are a lot more reasonable to pull off. There are also a couple new melee moves, like rush attack and ground pound. The latter is especially satisfying to perform, unless you take a hit midair. Finally, one of the best additions is jetpack-like stabilizers that go off when you aim your pistol while airborne. All of these additions make for a more immersive experience while throwing an interesting, and useful, wrench into Halo’s tried and true gameplay.
Like all previous Halos, the weaponry in Guardians is second to none, and each one introduces a distinctive type of firepower that encourages repeated sessions in order to master new strategies. One nifty innovation is that you can now zoom-in with every gun, with varying scopes. The entire arsenal from previous games is essentially here, from the ol’ faithful assault rifle to the Covenant’s energy sword to the Promethean’s boltshot. While the collection on the whole looks, sounds, and feels better than ever, some oldies even received improvements, like the Forerunner assault rifle, which now fires homing missiles. Good luck settling on carrying just two weapons at a time.
A bigger, better, badder universe
Halo’s traditional adversaries are basically all here, along with new ones that require a little more strategy than the classic headshot. Several times throughout the campaign (as well as in the multiplayer’s Warzone mode) you’ll come face to face with Warden Eternal, a boss with a glowing bulb on his back that also happens to be his Achilles heel. Since your team is made up of four soldiers, you’ll need to distract him so someone can take shots at his back. Unlike most co-op experiences, this actually feels like a necessity, whether you’re playing with three online buds, or directing you’re A.I. allies with the D-pad. Also, when you die (and you will die), one of your teammates has a limited time to revive you, but when the time comes (and it will come), you’ll have to return the favour.
Running at a crisp 60 frames per second that never wanes, Guardians continually pushes the visuals envelope. The scale is enormous, with dozens of enemies coming at you from every direction, while massive background skirmishes occur in the air and on the ground. The moment you come across your first Kraken, you’ll know what I’m saying.
Warzone will keep you coming back for months
Multiplayer is the real reason people will be playing Guardians for the long haul. Halo’s trademark Arena battles are still present, but the new Warzone mode is a true game-changer. Things were running as smooth as silk before today’s wide release, so we have yet to see how well the servers fare when a couple million gamers hop online, but we’re fairly confident lessons were learned after The Master Chief Collection’s initial online hardships.
In Warzone, everything’s bigger: the maps are substantially larger than anything you’ve seen before in the Halo universe and accommodate 24 players that are split into two teams: Red and Blue, duh. In order to win, your team has to rack up 1,000 points before your opponents do, and there are numerous ways to earn them. In addition to online friends and foes, Warzone features an unending assault of NPC baddies and bosses. This adds a level of diversity to the carnage and allows less experienced players to choose their own path in aiding their respective team. The matches can last a long time (around 30 minutes) and each one I’ve played has been a very close finish, which is downright exhilarating when you’re working towards something for an extended period of time.
Warzone does feature one controversial addition in the form of microtransactions, which are not mandatory, but can give you an edge. The more you play the more REQ points you’re awarded, which can be exchanged for weapons, vehicles, costumes, and other goodies. But casual and/or spend-y players who want to take a quick upgrade shortcut are free to purchase bronze, silver, and gold REQ packs. I could spend another 500 words explaining that system, but I probably couldn’t do it any better than this super handy breakdown.
Halo 5: Guardians is out today exclusively on Xbox One. See you on the frontlines, Spartan.