Locke up the Chief
BlogSpot Archive Review
Halo 5 marks the first new entry in the series on the Xbox One. In many ways, it is probably the most fun I’ve had with a Halo game in a very long time. I’m already a strange person when you consider what Halo games I’ve liked. I disliked Halo Reach but loved Halo 3 ODST, for instance. To me, ODST marked a change in the usual recipe that Bungie had been using to create their series. Gone was the super-soldier mentality; you played as a rookie ODST trooper. Yeah, you weren’t a standard ground-pounder, but you weren’t a Spartan either. The game introduced an open battlefield to the single player game, breaking up the traditional linearity of the franchise…
But I’m not reviewing ODST, and Bungie has moved on to their new destiny.
Halo 5 exhibits all of the usual trademarks of the series. Enemies are pretty durable , forcing the player(s) to be more mobile, even on the lower difficulties. Added into the standard arsenal of abilities is Ground Pound, Slide, Thrusters, Clambering, Charge, and Smart Scope.
Out of these, the one most likely to offend vets of the series is the Smart Scope. It essentially is an ‘iron sights’ mechanic that allows the player to zoom in a little and take a shot. It basically takes the place of the old binocular zoom mode. Rest assured in the knowledge that getting hurt still knocks you out of your zoom. A unique addition to this is that if you are in the air (while jumping or falling), using Smart Scope causes you to float in the air for a moment allowing you to line up a shot or two. The downside to this is that it leaves you extremely exposed, as floating in the air in plain sight would do… Go figure.
Your Ground Pound ability pretty much allows you to hover in the air for a moment, aim for a target, and smash down onto the unfortunate soul; dealing massive damage. This move is very similar to the Titan’s Fist of Havoc ability in Destiny… minus the extremely overpowered nature. Using Ground Pound can be tricky as it requires timing to line up the attack, but it remains an effective tool.
Charge is triggered by attempting to melee an enemy while sprinting. Anyone can see how similar it is to the Destiny Titan’s ability, Storm Fist (sensing a pattern?).
Thrusters allow a sort of dodge. 343 evidently saw the usefulness of making this a basic ability instead of a armor power, which is pretty nice. Fun to use too!
Rounding out the sweet new moves are Clamber and Slide. Well, they’re not as cool as the others, but they are useful at least. Clamber allows the player to access higher ground easier and Slide is basically taken from the Call of Duty playbook, crouching while sprinting makes you slide a bit like a ninja.
All in all, the gameplay has improved quite a bit. Battles are more fast-paced because of the added mobility, which makes you feel like a true badass when you pull something off. It’s a marked improvement over the OG Halo movement which was pretty slow.
Halo 5 is a visually impressive game; there is no doubt about it. 343 made a concession to ensure a 60 fps benchmark, namely sacrificing resolution on the fly. Despite that it may sound like Halo 5 would look like hot garbage on a barge floating down the Hudson, it doesn’t. The smoothness of the game helps make the drop in resolution near-unnoticeable. Besides, you’ll be distracted by all of the pretty colors, Grunts sounding like cute little sociopaths, and plasma burrowing it’s way into your skull.
Audio takes the cake too. The voice acting and sound effects really draw you in. You can even use your headphones with your loot-sonar-thingy to pretend like you’re using a metal detector to help find the collectibles littered throughout each level. It’s clear that great effort (though not final) was put into the soundtrack as well, following in the same vein as Halo 4’s score; a mix of electronic and orchestral music.
Unfortunately, this is where Halo 5 starts to stumble. Halo 5 does introduce some new things, like the aforementioned abilities and a new multiplayer mode. Hell, it even has the first immersive justification for co-op in the campaign (you can play as the different members of each squad). However, there really isn’t anything all that new. The abilities you have now as a player are either moves that you had in previous games, former armor abilities, or essentially ripped from other games. If you combine all of this and you’ll start to see that the game isn’t all that fresh.
STORY AND MULTIPLAYER
I’m going to get this out of the way: There isn’t any splitscreen play. There, I said it. Now it didn’t affect my wife and I very much since we both play on our own systems but the omission does feel, weird. Gone are the days of sitting in a room with your buddies and playing some Halo splitscreen, either blowing through the campaign or pretending to not be screen-cheating while you hunt your friend down with an energy sword (now that I think about it; at least screen cheating is finally dead…). So there… Whew.
Now that all that nastiness is out of the way, we have the story. The short story… The story that involves only one, admittedly awesome, cutscene of Master Chief beating the hell out of Locke despite Microsoft marketing the game as an ongoing battle between the two. But it’s just that, a cutscene. Many of the awesome moments of the game involve you simply staring at the screen, watching event unfold. The breathtaking introduction battle that takes place before you’re handed the reins is a perfect example and immediately sets disappointment in your lap to mock you for letting your jaw drop during the mini-movie. It was incredibly jarring going from the intro to gameplay, watching as Team Osiris decimates an entire legion of Covenant while barreling down a mountainside, to comparatively hum-drum gameplay.
The story itself is good enough though. Without spoiling too much, it chronicles Team Osiris being tasked with tracking down Blue Team after the Chief goes AWOL (absent without leave for all you not in-the-know) to search for Cortana. Sadly the story ends similarly to Halo 2, which pissed me off to no end at the time. The game ends at the precipice of extremely dire circumstances in a way that I can best describe as the equivalent of a dramatic reverb… C’mon 343…
Luckily, the multiplayer pulls it together! Guess what? Free map packs! Dedicated servers! Even on my abysmal connection, I was able to play multiplayer in both Warzone and Swat with pretty much zero lag. Get with the times, publishers! I digress. The multiplayer meshes high mobility with the deadly skills of thousands of other players that are far better than you. I spent many hours getting shot in the face, over and over, yet still had a good time.
Warzone in particular proved to be a blast (no pun intended). It seems to combine the best elements of Battlefield, Titanfall, and Halo into a chaotic mess of 13 year olds riddling your inevitable corpse with bullets and shrapnel. The most unique quality of this mode is the adoption of a MOBA-style power up system. Completing matches rewards you with Requisition Points. These REQ Points can be redeemed for REQ Packs that contain a random assortment of gear that ranges from cosmetic items like helmets and badges to weapons and vehicles that can be used in Warzone mode. Luckily, the one-time-use equipment is useable only in Warzone, so there isn’t any insta-win option in Slayer for instance. You can buy the REQ Packs with real money, but why would you? You can earn enough points to buy packs on your own pretty easily. Leave the pack buying to others… Otherwise, I have nothing to say to you except: “Thank you for paying for my map packs for me!”
The good thing is that players that aren’t interested in Warzone can still play the standard Arena mode, which is more similar to OG Halo’s multiplayer. Well, at least as close as you can get without having splitscreen or a Blood Gulch map variant.
WILDCARD: WARZONE MICROTRANSACTIONS
This is where it gets kinda ugly. Now at least there isn’t a season pass or map packs that you’ll later have to pay for and REQ Packs are easy to earn without spending money. The unfortunate truth is that this full-priced game attempts to squeeze more money out of you in the form of microtransactions that allow you to buy REQ Packs without earning them. In a way, there is a little justice in the fact that you can’t exactly pay to win. The REQ Packs you purchase are still random, so you may not get what you want, which again begs the question: why pay money to get a chance to get what you can earn for free?
Regardless (or irregardless for those that like murdering the English language) of the limitations of the microtransactions, it still makes it difficult to not make a special mention of it.
Halo 5 redefines the meaning of ‘Spartan’. Before this most recent entry, Spartan was the name of the super-soldiers that have become the backbone of the lore in the series. Reluctantly, despite my love for Halo 5, I feel that spartan simply describes the sparseness of the game. 343 crafted something beautiful that sets up what will likely be an epic Halo 6, but that’s basically it. Halo 5 is the new Halo 2. To be perfectly clear, it really isn’t terrible. It’s just a little worse than what I’ve come to expect from a Halo game.
Hopefully Halo 6 is better.