Written by Jessie Seilhan
Halo has become one of the most iconic franchises in modern video games, whose main protagonist, Master Chief, has somehow managed to stay on top without ever showing his face. Multiple comics, books, and other offshoots have built Halo’s lore for 15 years, culminating in Halo 5, Chief’s newest space adventure. It puts players in the space shoes of their beloved hero, but also Spartan Locke, another cog in the UNSC machine who is on the hunt for Chief. Halo’s famed A.I., Cortana, has gone rampant and is trying to unlock some secrets of the universe, Master Chief is attempting to track her down, and Locke is trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. And if you couldn’t care less about any of that, don’t worry, the multiplayer is still great.
The competitive battles waged in days past will return again, with classic modes and new ways to destroy your friends. First up is Warzone, a brilliant game type that combines PvP and PvE combat seamlessly. Huge battlefields separate red and blue bases, with smaller capturable encampments littered throughout that provide tactical spawn points for the fallen. As the battle wages, enemies from the campaign join the fight and begin taking on all comers. The winning team is the first to achieve 1,000 points, and while kills against one another help move the needle, taking down huge bosses can be the difference between victory and failure. Outside of this new mode, Lockout brings a Gears of War-style “one and you’re done” mode to the multiplayer, where each team gets one life per round. This adds more strategy than the the standard Slayer game types, as teams have to work together in order to succeed.
As for the campaign, 343 did a great job presenting the expanded universe of Halo. You travel to multiple planets, interact with various members of the Covenant and Human forces, and are told a fairly sprawling story. The game runs amazingly fast during the single-player portions, sticking to it’s blistering 60 frames during every single encounter, regardless of scope or explosiveness. The co-operative gameplay the franchise is known for is back, although you now need four separate consoles, as split-screen is gone. But you can tell that the game is still built with co-op in mind, as some of the battlegrounds are huge and allow for multiple ways to overcome enemy forces, still comprised of the Covenant and Prometheans. Sadly, playing alone can be quite frustrating, as your AI partners are pretty bad. And since there is another Gears of War rip-off in the “down but not out” mechanic, you will often die while waiting to be revived as your teammate runs into a corner and hides while you bleed out.
Microsoft really needs Halo to be what it once was. And what it once was, was a franchise that almost bullied you into buying their consoles with its top-tier quality and unforgettable moments. While Halo 5 is indicative of past success, it fails to really achieve greatness on its own. Had this just been a new IP or non-Halo title, it would have lost its luster by the second time you fought the same cheap boss. But Halo’s multiplayer has a DNA all its own, and helps sustain a somewhat timid campaign and questionable micro-transaction strategy. The Forge still allows those looking for a little more blood than the normal Minecraft experience to build palaces of pain. But if this is supposed to kick off a new trilogy for the next generation of Halo fans, Halo 6 better be fantastic or else this thing might be doomed. Still, it’s ability to showcase the power of Xbox One is worth giving it a shot, even for a casual fan who maybe wants to see what Master Chief is up to in 2015.
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