|System: Xbox One|
|Dev: 343 Industries|
|Pub: Microsoft Studios|
|Release: October 27, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Blood, Mild Language, and Violence|
by Erik Pederson
Halo 5: Guardians brings its latest installment to the Xbox One in what is possibly the most anticipated Halo release ever up to this point in time. In a gaming dynasty that has spanned over 14 years of Halo originals and remasters, I am excited to say that, while it may not be perfect, Halo 5 reminds all of us why we continue to stay loyal to this brand. With over a three year waiting period for a new Halo release following Halo 4 and the botched Halo Master Chief Collection launch, the stakes are high - the expectations even higher.
The story picks up after the events of Halo 4. Master Chief has gone absent without leave. No one knows why except Blue team, his old school fireteam of Spartan-2s. Charged with the task of hunting him down and bringing him back alive is Spartan Locke, accompanied by fireteam Osiris. Throughout the campaign you will take control of Chief and Locke with their respective fireteams battling Covenant and Prometheans in a back and forth mission arrangement similar to what we experienced in Halo 2 between the Master Chief and the Arbiter.
Blue Team and Osiris are far more than just window dressing. This new fireteam component in the campaign is definitely a winner - think blending Gears of War with the Halo 4 formula and you get the idea. The difficulty, even on normal, is quite a bit more solid and the AI characters work much better together than in previous installments. With that said, the contribution the fireteams bring to the formula takes the action up a level; instead of the normal Halo mission grind that may feel routine and almost dated, you get 3 other Spartans accompanying you on your missions that you can give orders to. They can work together as a team to take down tougher enemies, provide you with cover, and even revive you if necessary. It feels like a Michael Bay action movie, except with a compelling and engaging plot line. The other feature that works well with the fireteam aspect is the drop-in/drop-out co-op, where other gamers can join your campaign mid-game and leave at any time without causing any sort of issue or delay. The primary focus placed on the overall multiplayer experience here is definitely noticeable, and will be touched on more later.
When it comes to atmosphere, Halo 5 is up there with the best in the series. The audio quality here is top notch. It is evident that there was great effort put into redesigning a sci-fi thriller soundtrack designed to completely immerse gamers in the experience of being on a forerunner planet, inside of a space station, or in the middle of a firefight with hundreds of enemies firing their weapons all at once. One detail that did catch my eye here is the almost harmonic sound that comes from the firefights; from the background music all the way to you and the enemies firing your distinct weapons back and forth at each other, it sounds less like an unorganized mess of too many things going on and more like a beautiful battle blend of sounds and atmosphere that is unrivaled and unparalleled in other installments and other current-gen games.
Visually speaking, the level of quality this game puts on is absolutely superb. It could be the poster child to show off what the Xbox One, graphically speaking, is capable of. Period. The lighting, the character models and rendering, the way the weapons feel on your HUD, and the in-game environment make this feel like the true next-gen Halo experience. The 60 frames per second definitely helps also, and is something that 343 not only threw into the game, but delivered on very well. Moving across the battlefield, even with others in-game with you, is as smooth and polished as you will see in any game on the Xbox One to date.
The in-game weaponry really brings all this the ambiance full circle. 343 Industries revamped the entire weapon system and redesigned it from the ground up for the new installment to the series, and they killed it. A few weapons feel sort of flat and uninspiring, but the rest of them more than pick up the slack. In Halo 4, I would argue that the The Promethean weaponry felt like other weapons in-game, simply with new skins to make them appear different. Halo 5 brings in some awesome changes here: the Boltshot is now a 3 round burst weapon, the Light Rifle is now more of a DMR and the Binary Rifle is now more of a laser beam that is incredibly accurate.