Halo 5: Guardians is a strange game to me. I can’t decide whether it’s good or not. I’m having fun with it, that’s the main thing right now, but I can’t tell right now whether it’s going to keep my attention for the long haul or it will just fall by the wayside like so many games that come out these days.
There is chance 343 will trickle content that will keep the experience fresh enough over time to keep me playing for weeks and months to come, but the turnover on shooters these days means there is a risk of even Halo turning into just another FPS of the week. What made Halo different has always been the community around the game, the developer providing detailed databases of individual’s lifetime stats and sharing their experiences with one another before it was a function built into the console.
But the only reason we still have that is because of Bungie’s Legacy, and Bungie have since moved onto another game which consumes my life. And while that community aspect is still very much a part of this new Halo game, there are other parts of it that are so very un-Halo that it makes it difficult for me to settle on how much I actually like it.
From a basic gameplay respect the game does play like Halo, but there are a number of things added that are borrowed from other things that, when added to a 7th instalment of series, seem a bit jarring. Iron sights on every gun, a shoulder charge, a ground pound, hover jets, a dash, knee slides and the ability climb ledges are all very alien additions to the Halo series. Weirdly enough though, it works. Old Halo is famously clunky and adding a little more mobility to the existing formula is a change I didn’t know I wanted.
At the end of the day the game plays very well, and it’s a good thing as well because the game’s campaign is nothing to get excited about. It would be easy to draw comparisons between this game and Halo 2, although that would be unfair because this is defiantly no Halo 2. Like said game, you spend the campaign swapping between two different protagonists. Problem is, unlike the Arbiter who had revenge/redemption story set up very well at the beginning, Locke is a dull and uninteresting character who might have been better off as a silent protagonist for how much he contributes.
Even worse, of the 15 missions in the game’s campaign, only three of them follow the Master Chief, the character with the far more interesting story. The thing that bothers me the most about this is that so many games that ono they’re going to have three parts always rest the second part like an inconvenience, something to bridge the gap between the first and the last of the trilogy. It’s totally unnecessary. The entirety of this game could have been handled in a prologue for the much more interesting story that it sets itself up for with its cock teasing ending. It doesn’t sting as much as Halo 2 because everyone knew it was coming, and knowing it makes me all the more weary with modern gaming.
Games like this get churned out so often and seem so similar to one another, that story seems like an afterthought, and even Halo isn’t immune. Nobody plays Call of Duty for the story, Star Wars: Battlefront isn’t going to have one and everyone knows Destiny didn’t have a recognisable character till about a year in. This Halo seems cut from the same cloth, which is staggering considering the legacy of the series. Even the campaign wants you to play four player, having both Spartans a part of a team who will follow instructions (badly) and revive you if you go down (sometimes).
I can complain, but I am enjoying my time with the game at the moment, and that is thanks in no small part to the new game mode called Warzone. Inspired by MOBAs, and with an obvious aim to try and dig a chuck of the E-Sports crowd. It is a large scale 12 vs. 12 game mode in which players must earn points though holding bases, getting kills and taking down A.I. bosses that spawn. The game is designed in such a way that comebacks are very possible, either through taking out late game high scoring bosses or stealing bases and destroying the enemies home base. There are three maps and after about 10 games the mode is starting to feel repetitive, only after a week or so of owning the game.
While I’ve had fun with the game mode it is by no means perfect. Team that get the killing blow on bosses gain credit, which can be a big bummer when one team does the vast majority of the damage and someone else swoops in to steal a lucky last bullet. On top of that, the game is heavy based around requisitions, cards that players earn from packs they buy with points they accumulate through play. The randomness of these packs can be frustrating as if you enjoy the sniper rifle, you may not get any chance to use one as you only do so when you burn a card.
Also, while the game never makes you do so, there are real monetary values associated with the packs. So you can spend money to get the high value packs and fill your deck with ultra rare ghosts, scorpions and power weapons. It’s not really pay to win necessarily, as there are cool downs and match restrictions on how often you can use more powerful cards, plus you can take any weapon from an enemy you down. It’s just a little dirty feeling all the same. We can’t have a full priced game on shelves anymore without developers trying to charge you even more on day 1. But that’s a separate issue.
As I said before, I’m enjoying Halo. But for how much longer I can’t say. I don’t see myself still playing the game in a couple of months time, not in the same way I have stuck with Destiny. And the release of Fallout 4 right around the corner might even cut that time even shorter. I suppose I’m used to the days where Halo was the console shooter, it was the first stop for it and a game that kept you engaged for a long time. With the frequency of games of the same type being released in this day and age, maybe Halo’s golden days are well and truly behind it. Whether it’s a Halo without Bungie to blame or the scientific formula that creates modern shooters has left Halo behind.