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Halo 5: Guardians

When 343 Industries took over Bungie's Halo franchise after the latter studio left to focus on Destiny, fans had a right to be skeptical. 343 had big virtual boots to fill, and stumbled somewhat with Halo 4 and then The Master Chief Collection, which shipped broken and took months to fix. Now all eyes are on Halo 5: Guardians, the first Halo adventure built from the ground up on Microsoft's Xbox One console. After months of hype, this highly anticipated adventure features arguably the best multiplayer in the series, along with a story-rich single-player campaign in need of better pacing, but ultimately provides hours of shooting goodness enhanced with the addition of four-person online co-op.

Master Chief - galaxy's most wanted

Similar to Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach, part 5 introduces new playable characters to the story mode, specifically Spartan Locke, who leads Fireteam Osiris through the galaxy in search of hero and icon Master Chief, who leads Blue Team and may or may not have committed war crimes. The concept of making Master Chief evil is both aggressive and intriguing, but also somewhat unbelievable, akin to Uncharted's Nathan Drake suddenly turning heel.

That said, plot is what separates the Halo series from other first person shooters, and we couldn't help but get lost in this one, especially since players control Locke and Master Chief at different points in the game, experiencing the story from their perspectives.

Both Locke and the Chief bring along three non-player characters per squad, and all of them have unique personalities. Ultimately you press forward to see what'll happen when both teams inevitably cross paths. Odd, however, are the missions entirely devoted to story, where you interact with other NPCs and go in search of intel to flesh out the plot, receiving Achievements to boot. We're all for watching cut scenes and adding back story, but in a series heavily devoted to running over and blasting aliens, wandering around a base for an entire mission left us yearning for more combat.

Thankfully, there's still plenty of shooting, driving and flying in Halo 5: Guardians, all of which feel better than ever. You still switch between human and alien-made weaponry, with vehicles playing a huge role. AI teammates do a serviceable job and players have the option of issuing commands, but this pales in comparison to joining up with three buddies via online co-op. Two players can lead a ground assault while the other two take to the skies, opening up different possibilities to tackle missions.

343 tweaked gameplay even further. Players sprint infinitely in this game, and can pull off a nasty ground pound to surprise enemies. There's also a shoulder charge of sorts, great for knocking opponents backwards but also busting through breakable objects in the environment, which reveal different paths to take and weapon caches. Gamers can even clamber up walls, perfect for accessing higher areas to gain key vantage points. And when someone or something charges the player, he or she can dash in whatever direction they please.

Welcome to the Warzone

All of these gameplay features make it into multiplayer, which aside from Master Chief Collection is the most robust of any Halo video game. Familiar modes make a welcome reappearance, like Slayer and Capture the Flag, complete with new maps. One of the coolest additions, though, is Breakout, a thrilling game mode where two teams wage war in close quarters maps, with the goal to take down their rivals in two-minute rounds. The fact that Breakout does not let players respawn encourages team-based and conservative tactics, resulting in tense, nail-biting matches that may end at any moment.

Then there's Warzone, the ambitious 24-person Battlefield-style mode where the primary goal is to score 1,000 points before the other side has a chance to do so, except players will need to complete different objectives during a match in addition to scoring kills; capturing bases, for instance. On top of that, 343 tosses AI-controlled enemies onto the maps, including difficult bosses. To say this changes strategy is a huge understatement.

Multiplayer ties into the new REQ (Requisition) System, where players earn points for each Arena and Warzone match played. From there, they can spend this virtually currency to buy REQ Packs for special cards representing weapons, armor, vehicles and other valuable items, sort of like the Burn Cards in Titanfall, except Halo 5 contains more than 1,000. Opening packs to see what's inside is part of the fun, but these cards can turn the proverbial tide in multiplayer. This is especially true for Warzone, where a team with the best REQ cards can easily take down AI bosses.

REQ yourself

Minor issues with the plot and missions aside, Halo 5: Guardians is the must have first party Xbox One game this holiday season, a beautiful and action-packed FPS with a co-op supported campaign and content rich multiplayer that'll keep players firing weapons into next year. We'll see you in Warzone!

GAME's Verdict: 9/10

What's Hot

  • Co-op adds a welcome layer of strategy to the campaign.
  • Warzone and Breakout are near irresistible.
  • REQ System adds even more depth

What's Not

  • Some campaign missions focus more on storytelling over combat.
  • A few cut scenes left us wanting more.

Published: 30/10/2015

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