Halo 5: Guardians is a controversial installment in the Halo franchise for a variety of reasons. The games marketing didn’t accurate represent the actual content of the game in the eyes of many players, the decision to have over twice as many Locke levels as Chief levels in the campaign was unpopular with fans and the addition of microtransactions in the form of REQ packs is an issue still debated to this very day. But looking back at Halo 5: Guardians in hindsight, now that the multiplayer is fixed, the initial shock of Cortana being the villain has worn off, and Halo: Infinite will soon release its first trailer, is the game as bad as people remember?
A lot of people complained that Halo 5’s campaign felt too short, despite the fact that it has five more levels than Halo 4. In truth, three of Halo 5’s levels are confined to one area and feature no action, so there are less combat-heavy levels than one would initially think. The new fast-paced movement and fluid verticality allows for players to move across the map much faster, meaning that even though the actual sandboxes themselves seem a lot bigger, the time taken to traverse them are the same, relatively speaking, to previous Halo games.
In a similar fashion to the quantity over quality, the game features far more dialogue and expanded lore than past games, as the new squad mechanics means that the player is never alone and there are now hundreds of fully-voiced audio logs scattered throughout every level. However, the idle chatter between squadmates irritated some players, particularly since some of the dialogue seems forced out of nowhere. As many other critics have already pointed out, Halo 5 leaned too heavily on wider expanded lore to tell its story, rather than building the characters and plot in the game itself as the levels progressed.
To give credit where its due, the dedication to Halo’s vast expanded universe in Halo 5: Guardians is admirable. Many fans believe that if the main focus of the game had been improved with equal focus on Chief as on Locke and more levels to span out the story, the audio logs would have been a fantastic icing on the cake. The requirement of having to read and look up on so much wider lore to understand Halo 5’s story, however, is less appetizing.
There is no doubt now that Halo 5’s multiplayer is fun and diverse, but that wasn’t necessarily always the case. One of the biggest issues with Halo 5 on release was the lack of multiplayer content – 343 industries and Microsoft promised a year or more’s worth of free content updates, but this was later revealed to simply be a ploy to save them time, and the updates were simply adding content into the game that really should have been there at launch. As previously said, the fact that the updates have now all been released means that Halo 5 has a great multiplayer, but modes like Infection, Firefight and Oddball really should have been in the game from the beginning.
The newest mode in Halo 5 that drew a lot of attention to the game on release of the Warzone mode, which is a fun PvPvE mode involving two teams that compete to defeat A.I. bosses and complete objectives whilst battling each other and a plethora of Covenant and Forerunner soldiers. This mode is heavily tied to the new REQ system, and the basic formula works like this – if you have all the REQs, this game is hilarious and fun. If you don’t have any REQs, the game will be a frustrating grind. However, one thing that can be said about the REQ system is that if you choose to forego buying a single REQ pack with money and instead stick simply to the in-game currency purchasing method, it makes for a rewarding challenge to unlock them all.
Forge and Firefight
A more recent Warzone mode is Warzone Firefight, which removes the PvP aspect of Warzone and focuses it completely on PvE. This mode features 5 rounds of 5 minutes each in which a team must eliminate A.I. bosses or bots to complete each objective. As each round progresses, the targets will become more difficult until eventually Legendary and Mythic bosses will appear. The REQs can be used in this mode, and some say that this mode is actually the most fun way to play Halo 5 – it has a ‘party mode’ feel to it, and is ideal for kicking back and having a bit of fun. However, another feature in the game vies for that top spot, and that is the Forge mode. Available on both Xbox and PC, Halo 5’s Forge is something above and beyond what previous Forge modes have offered.
In Halo 5’s Forge, you can create almost anything – thanks to a completely revamped system involving custom objects, light scripting, a plethora of new Forge-able materials and the new engine, the mode has allowed the community to create some truly amazing things. Each and every single past Halo map has now been remade in Halo 5, and thanks to the Custom Games Browser you can actually play these maps online. The inclusion of all the REQ weapons and vehicles in Forge allows for some really fun and diverse maps – imagine a version of Big Team Battle but with every weapon and vehicle being the maximum-level REQ version, with Carbines that shoot Needle Rifle bullets, Anti-Air Wraiths, Hannibal Scorpions and Nornfang Sniper Rifles. Anything is possible.
So, What Went Wrong?
It might seem odd to some that Halo 5 was poorly received, as it is still a great game in its own right. The general consensus on this game is that if it had been a standalone title with no expectations to live up to, it would be looked back on far more fondly by gamers. Unfortunately, as it is the fifth installment in a hugely popular and successful series, it is stuck in a limbo – it isn’t quite good enough to impress Halo fans, and yet it is so drenched in the deluge of Halo’s lore and identity that it is fairly inaccessible to non-fans.
Hopefully 343 industries have learned from their mistakes with Halo 5, as it already seems like Halo: Infinite will take a more back-to-basics approach that the franchise sorely needs. Still, it is important that we do not let Halo 5’s successes fall under the radar, and as a community the Halo fanbase needs to make 343 aware of the things that they did right in Halo 5 – such as the returning classic characters, diverse weapons sandbox, interesting audio logs, and above all the incredible Forge mode, to ensure that these great ideas are carried over into future Halo games.