Halo 5: Guardians has new elements but lacks strong anchor

In the game Halo 5: Guardians, the environments are lush and full of details, which players can appreciate even during battle.
In the game Halo 5: Guardians, the environments are lush and full of details, which players can appreciate even during battle.PHOTO: MICROSOFT

Several levels into Halo 5: Guardians, you start to wonder where the Master Chief is. The game explains that after the events of Halo 4, he has gone absent without official leave to search for Cortana. So it is up to Jameson Locke and Fireteam Osiris to track him down in Halo 5.

In other words, the game has you taking control of the other Spartan soldiers. But unlike in previous outings, Master Chief is not the main character of the game. That is like buying a Super Mario game and not playing as Mario, or watching a new Harry Potter movie without the boy wizard playing the lead.

All that is left is to weave a story that ties the plot together, to remind players that this is a Halo game after all. But even that backfires on Halo developer 343 Industries, as the narrative in this game is a mess. Halo 5 tries to establish its own lore, but also chooses to reference the previous games in the franchise, to the point where you are not sure if the writers are trying to please everyone, or have no clue where the story is headed.

And that is not the only weakness of this new outing, which is meant to entice players to invest in a new Xbox One console.

  • 7/10


    PRICE: $69.90 (Xbox One exclusive)

    GENRE: First-person shooter

While the first Halo game (Halo: Combat Evolved) set the standard in first-person shooter (FPS) games and cooperative gameplay, Halo 5 seems to stay within the boundaries of a decent shooting game, without daring to venture into new ground.

There is no shame in that, as there is no reason to change what is not broken. But at a time when a new Call Of Duty or Battlefront game is just around the corner, with its own arsenal of incredible weapons and willing targets, a new Halo needs to set itself apart from the overcrowded FPS market.

Luckily, the game itself is beautiful and combines elements from the various spin-offs to create a technically superior entry into the series. In the single-player campaign, as part of a four-man team, there are others in the team watching your back and assisting you throughout the game. Each one of the environments is lush and full of details, which players can appreciate even when hordes of alien warriors are shooting at them.

What is unfortunate is that while some of the cut-scenes show Fireteam Osiris demonstrating some incredible moves from the Spartan soldiers, these moves do not appear as part of the gameplay.

Fans of the multiplayer modes will probably want to fire up Warzone, a 12 versus 12 match that has you battling other online players, as well as computer-controlled enemies, giving players plenty of targets to shoot. Warzone sees a return to the frantic online firefights that fans will love and, in some cases, this can turn out to be a more rewarding experience than the single-player campaign.

Online players can make use of REQ microtransaction cards to gain power-ups during Warzone play. These cards can be obtained from in-game currency in regular gameplay, or purchased with real cash.

Artificial boosters that can alter the balance of a battle, especially when harnessed by those who can afford it, are sometimes frowned upon in video games. For now, it seems that Warzone has enough controls, such as dictating when certain boosters can be used during a battle, to prevent players from being too reliant on them.

Despite the new elements though, there is no escaping the fact that Halo 5: Guardians is lacking in some ways. There is no strong anchor in the game, which is something that the Xbox One needs to sell more consoles.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline 'Halo 5: Guardians has new elements but lacks strong anchor'. Print Edition | Subscribe