This is only the second new Halo installment in the 343 Industries era. I’ve played every Halo game released for Xbox consoles and the only one I didn’t dedicate an exorbitant amount of time in was ODST. I was skeptical with a new studio taking over the beloved franchise with Halo 4, and although it wasn’t the story telling greatness that I enjoyed with Halo CE and Reach, it was well done. It played well and was fun, which is all we were really expecting with a new studio. However, Halo 5: Guardians was 343’s chance to prove they could create a Halo game to live up to the expectations of the fans.
Halo 5: Guardians was supposed to be Microsoft’s season saving game; the game to convince the remaining many to buy an Xbox One. It’s the first new entry in the Halo franchise made exclusively on Microsoft’s shiny new console and had every intention to shock and awe players everywhere. The graphics were to be top notch; the campaign advertised with #HuntTheTruth was going to pit the infamous Master Chief against some new Spartan. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The story in Halo 5: Guardians is above average, but not by much. It fits in with the previous lore and some old names are brought in to help it along nicely. The building blocks of a decent campaign are in place, however I wasn’t deeply invested with any one character. There was no emotional attachment or concern for their lives or the part they played in the overall story.
The story isn’t what was advertised. I don’t know if Microsoft was intentionally trying to increase hype or if the developer had some story overhaul at the last minute. Without giving spoilers, the story takes quite a different direction than we thought it would. That being said, it is good storytelling. It’s well executed, with you jumping back and forth between commanding Blue Team and Osiris Team. The voice acting is done fairly well across the board, with Nathan Fillion excelling and stealing the limelight, much to my approval. The story takes an unadvertised yet predictable turn at the end and is left wide open for a sequel.
Music, Voice Acting, and Sound Design
The music is very Halo-esque. Mixing original soundtracks in with the new composition is nostalgic and at the same time refreshing. Voice acting is generally well done. Master Chief is as dry as ever with a little more to it near the end. Commander Locke does a great job making you believe in his superb level of douche baggery. Nathan Fillion is excellent and adds some comic relief from time to time, which is no surprise. The return of the Arbitor and some other previous installment names with their original voices is nice. The sound effects are quite generic and often feels like you’re wielding a toy rather than a weapon.
343 Industries had the full power of the Xbox One to create Halo 5 and make it the prettiest game released to date on the console. Unfortunately, that power was insufficient. Due to the lack of horse power under the hood, the developer had to make a decision in which they chose to prioritize frame rate over resolution. The game is locked in at 60 fps, at all times. However, the resolution is on a sliding scale that varies from 1152 x 810 at the lowest, to 1536 x 1080 at the highest, depending on the complexity of the scene. While Halo 5 does look good and at some times great, it doesn’t surpass, let alone meet, expectations for graphical fidelity as a “next gen” game. This unfortunately is noticeable in game, from constant texture pop ins to a lack of detail on the environments. The texture pop ins can be distracting and knock you out of the moment of enjoying the beauty that the game can sometimes present. Some of the character and gun details are very impressive while others are simply mediocre. The animation of running with a gun is WAY over done and just plain goofy looking. It makes me feel like I’m doing the Carlton dance while holding an AR.
Typical Halo controls. Not a lot to them but they’re very smooth and well polished. Zooming often doesn’t improve accuracy unless you’re using a sniper class weapon. The jumping is a little odd to get used to and can get frustrating when you can’t get over a ledge, but once you figure out your limits along with the boosts it can be fun. The ground slam is fun but difficult to execute successfully.
In the end, Halo 5: Guardians is well done. No, it’s not the best Halo to date like we expected and were told it was going to be. It feels generic in a lot of ways, much like Call of Duty every year feels generic. And in the same sense it’s a good game. I just feel like the Halo fan base was expecting something more from 343 this time around. Instead, we ended up with another installment to enjoy for however long you want to. But in my opinion, if you don’t already own an Xbox One, this isn’t the game to convince you to go and get one.