We’re now a little over a week since Halo 5: Guardians launched on the Xbox One, and unlike Halo’s debut game on the new-generation Xbox, this one works just fine. Good job really considering just how much of a significant launch the all-new Halo game was for the Xbox One, being one of Microsoft’s flagship series for the Xbox brand. Unfortunately, we just haven’t had the time to get through the Campaign, so we can’t really provide the 4-One Gaming community with a full review. Thankfully however, we have had some time with the multiplayer segment, so we thought we’d weigh in with our opinions of 343 Industries idea of next generation Spartan on Spartan combat.
There’s an awful lot to get excited about when it comes to the multiplayer in Halo 5: Guardians’ multiplayer, but there’s also a lot to fear. It’s full of content representing what we know and love from previous Halo games as well as some new alternatives thrown in for good measure, but 343 Industries have been bold in making radical changes to the way Halo fans will pit themselves against one another and back when the game was in development, this angered a lot of the fans.
Halo is without a shadow of a doubt one of my very favourite Xbox experiences, especially when it comes to multiplayer. For the purposes of this little review however, I shall do my best to ignore my bias. There’s a lot to love, but there’s also a lot to hate. So let’s start with general gameplay before delving into it all a little deeper:
Halo 5: Guardians has changed a lot in terms of gameplay, especially when you compare it to 343 Industries’ first attempt at a Halo game, Halo 4. They’ve abolished a lot of the stuff we don’t like, and added in a couple of bits to help the game feel fresh and more advanced than that of its older siblings. Spartans can now Aim Down Sights (ADS) which was a big no no as far as most Halo fans were concerned. But this was all based around the assumption that it would work similar to that of other FPS games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. The reality of the situation is that the way you shoot with Halo 5 hasn’t changed from older games, all 343 have done is added a cool animation and some fancier sights to zooming, nothing from the core experience has changed in that respect, and I commend 343 for this refreshing change.
Choosable Spartan abilities are now a thing of the past and thank God for that. I was worried the developer was going to make the same mistakes as with Halo 4 in bringing Loadouts to their newest game, but no, they’ve kept it how we like it. That said there’s a couple of new abilities that all Spartans can pull off should the mood take them. The first of which being the Ground Pound, appear on a ledge and carefully select your victim, launch yourself in the air, target someone for an arse whopping and hurl yourself to the ground slamming your fist down dealing area damage to anyone who was foolish enough to not zip out-of-the-way. This isn’t an I-W.I.N button however and if you miss your target, even slightly, and you’ll only take down their shield, meaning you’ve then got to recover, aim and make sure you get them in the face to guarantee your kill, all while they pummel full of futuristic lead. So do yourself a favour, don’t miss.
Thruster Packs have also made a return but everyone has them, they’re just another way of traversing the map. They’re also good in those instances where you have to make a quick getaway from sticky situations where you’re caught off-guard but thankfully not so overpowered that people will escape you every-time you get their shields down.
Sprinting and Clambering, it’s taken nearly 15 years for these “super soldiers” to learn to grab onto an edge when they realise they aren’t going to make it, it’s fast and makes traversing the map all that more enjoyable. Sprinting has also changed in that your shield will no longer re-charge when you’re barrelling around the map at full pace meaning it really isn’t a case of fight or slight anymore in Halo, it’s fight and hope you get lucky or flight and just die.
343 Industries have really done a great job in terms of how multiplayer feels in Halo 5: Guardians, the game feels fresh and new, like it should being the first all new title we’ve seen on a more powerful but with elements of classic Halo remaining in-tact, which is great for long-term fans. With that in mind I’m now going to talk a little about the two different routes you can explore within Halo 5’s multiplayer, the old and the new. So let’s start with what we know and love, Halo’s Arena based multiplayer.
Arena in Halo 5: Guardians is pretty much what every fan thinks of whenever Halo multiplayer is mentioned, small teams of Spartans, pitted against one another scrambling for power weapons in a hysterical, grenade throwing frenzy. 343 Industries seem to have learned a valuable lesson here, the Loadout system that we got familiar with from Halo 4 has been abolished, so if you’re more of a Battle Rifle/DMR kinda person, you’re going to need to go off and find them first. Same story when it comes to Ordnance, power weapons and power ups are no longer earned through killing other Spartans, instead we’re back to Halo basics where the best stuff is found across the map in set locations. The ranking system has also changed, for the better. You still get a progression system where you level your Spartan, but you also get a CSR (Competitive Skill Rank) which will get higher or lower depending on how well you play.
There’s a variety of playlists to take part in when playing Arena mode, Team Arena, Slayer, Breakout (an all new game mode), Free-For-All (that’s Rumble Pit to you and I) and SWAT but if you’re a long-time Halo fan, you’ll noticed there’s a few things missing from that list, the most significant being Big Team Battle (BTB). Oddball and King of the Hill have also fallen short in Halo 5, and I’m sorry but that just isn’t good enough. Choosing the Team Arena playlist is a bit of a work around in that respect, as it cycles through additional game modes that can’t be experienced through the other playlists, but I know of a lot of Halo fans that would have wanted those game modes available as standalone playlists. We know why Big Team Battle didn’t make the cut, Warzone, but we’ll get onto that later, since it was announced 343 Industries have said that they are planning on adding it at a later date when additional maps launch, which of course will be completely free of charge.
However the arena mode suffers from another problem that I personally have just found unforgivable, the maps! Yes they’re gorgeous thanks to the newer hardware, but they’re small in comparison to previous Halo games which means, as far as arena goes, there is no vehicles. Vehicles are such a big part of Halo’s multiplayer, to NOT have them in the latest game should have been made a criminal offence, I can only hope they make a reappearance when bigger maps are added to accommodate the BTB playlist. 343 Industries have lost a lot of respect from me with this decision. But I don’t want to get held up there, as if you set aside that criticism 343 Industries have done a fantastic job with what IS in the game. The maps are utterly beautiful and the gameplay is as fast paced as ever and they’ve definitely re-captured some of that Halo magic in going back to the days of Halo 3.
So moving quickly on and we find ourselves with an all new multiplayer mode, separated from the frantic action of Halo’s legendary Arena playlists. Warzone is an altogether more strategic, objective based version of BTB where two teams of 12 Spartans fight for control over a very large map. Warzone is Halo 5: Guardians’ flagship multiplayer mode that can only really be related to Rush from the Battlefield series. This is where the much hyped Requisition system comes into play, you earn points through playing Halo’s multiplayer, and you buy packs which grant you access to additional Primary Weapons, such as the DMR or Battle Rifle as well as Power Weapons, Power Ups and Vehicles to then use in Warzone.
I want to get this part out-of-the-way though, I am not a fan of the Requisition system, but I love the Warzone Game Mode. It’s not just other players that you have to worry about in Warzone, the map is littered with AI controlled enemies in the form of enemy Marines, Promethean and Covenant enemies. Marines help defend the teams’ base while Promethean and Covenant pop up around the map creating key targets that will help rack up points you need to win. Don’t take them lightly however, as these guys are ruthlessly powerful and will cut through your team like butter when taken on. They will also appear for both teams, so remember to look over your shoulder as you’re making a run towards the way point. The objective however is to capture the key buildings across the map before inevitably getting to the enemy’s home base. The game is won or lost depending on whether or not you can complete the objective. May the best requisition packs win, you’ll see what I mean.
So, onto that Requisition System, which also brings the dreaded MicroTransactions to the Halo Universe. You can buy the packs for real money or points that you earn through playing multiplayer, unlocking new armor, weapon skins, and emblems to customize your Spartan. The packs also contain vehicles and weapons which get banked for use during matches. If you run out of ‘cards’ you can’t call in what you want, which is annoying to say the least. So if you end up with a team who has yet to get a single Scorpion tank out of a pack, then you don’t get a Scorpion tank and there’s no guarantee that you WILL get one when you do inevitably buy a pack, be it through in-game currency or real world money. Finding this out really got to me as a long time Halo fan. Buying vehicles? That is NOT what Halo is all about. It gets worse when you consider this also applies to the use of Power Weapons which now include different variations of each weapon, the more powerful the variation, the rarer the Requisition card becomes. It’s just not what Halo is all about.
To conclude this little (big review) I’d just like to say Halo 5: Guardian’s multiplayer is absolutely fantastic at its core. All the elements of what made Halo great are there and all the ones that spoilt it (in Halo 4) have gone. That said I did also enjoy Halo 4. But this is what we loved about the Halo series when it was first introduced to the world of online gaming back when Halo 2 launched on the original Xbox. But it needs more of what we know and love, adding to its selection of playlists to truly earn its badge among the Halo series. Warzone again is a fantastic online experience at its core, but the introduction of Microtransactions and the Requisition System has corrupted the idea behind big team combat in Halo. The game is only young and 343 Industries have already stated that they will be supporting the game with free content for the foreseeable future and if you’re still in two minds about buying the game, I’d urge you to get down to your local retailer and make the purchase at your earliest convenience. You will not be disappointed with what they have done.