I Have Not Played Halo Since ODST
Remember that time when people cared about Campaign? No? Okay.
The Halo series has always had ‘quality’ as point of contention in reference to the campaign narrative, but has only proven to be a veritable roller coaster on the concept of just what makes the story of the game interesting. Inarguably, the reason players continue to visit Halo in droves is the multiplayer. The most exasperating issue facing the series is that Campaign appears to have no consensus on the design of it, which often makes Campaign feel like something created after multiplayer. Did it work this time? Not really! Bow your heads and pour out a 40, this is 60 Frames Per Second At The Expense Of Game Design 5.
From the opening scenes, clearly Something Important is happening, and there is a group of four Spartans talking about it with serious indoor voices. These Spartans mean business, and have been assigned to do Something Important. They get their gear and beautifully careen out of an airborne ship right through a sky battle between the Covenant and The Entire Space Military, landing down to a ground fight where creatures await to block the path. When they land, the Spartans execute amazing moves to take down their enemies, flipping around like in some warzone murder ballet. Bring on the Spartan ninjas! When the player finally does take control, the starting area is small and confined, perfect to try out a few moves seen in the cutscenes prior. Unfortunately, all the ninja moves do not exist in the game outside of those cutscenes, so dreams of being a Master Frontflip Covenant Killer are crushed. Found a gun? Shoot it. Have a fist? Punch. 10 Seconds To Sniper Rifle 5 is every Halo before it with offensively minor variation in design that it feels like a full-priced .5 title.
Throughout the campaign, the Spartans talk back and forth about Something Important, but unless the player has invested time in the vast lore that is Halo, there is truly nothing that has any significance to a new or casual player just jumping in. Many things can only be explained by an exhaustive internet data quest or by procuring the several Halo books, games, or comics. There is no real courtesy given to new players wanting to be a part of the world of Halo, unlike in the space opera Mass Effect where there are scrupulous walls of text on what the world is about. There are several video games that do a better job at filling in the player about lore without sounding patronizing or redundant, but Halo 5 does not extend this courtesy.
Multiplayer is Spawn Kills Are Cool 5’s saving grace, and does a decent job of keeping the meat on the decrepit skeleton of Campaign, enough to save it from being completely boring. Arena is very much the same as every Halo before it without really daring to stray from a formula that works while improving it. For example, in Call of Duty: AW, the game was substantially changed from its predecessors because of its setting in the future, which Sledgehammer took complete advantage of to overhaul the feel of the game while still being a worthy entry in the overall series, and multiplayer maps were interesting and even changed during the fight to force everyone to move to a new location and change tactics; there is none of this in Play For 12 hours To Get An Awesome Visor 5 as far as Arena is concerned. Oddly enough, Arena is so stripped down in features that it feels like it was meant to be played by purists, without all the bells and whistles previous titles had. This works for veteran players but newer or returning players may seek something a bit more thrilling or varied. Almost universally, the really amazing portion of multiplayer lies in Warzone, a new mode made by 343 Industries that truly justifies the purchase of the game. Players that have stuck with the series will notice changes to small things like melee distance adjustments and gun accuracy tweaks, but for those not too invested in nuance it seems the changes are not enough to warrant the investment of time in any other mode but Warzone.
Nearly all the steady-fire weapons function like assault rifle, which makes the choice of artillery feel limited in design variance or scope. The lack of double jump has weird effects like jumping into a wall and bouncing off it before the player can climb a ledge; since everything is up close in an FPS it is a bit jarring to bounce from wall to wall and not know if it is able to be climbed. Ledges can be grabbed but not every ledge can be climbed over, providing an awkward ‘stick’ that adds vulnerability just the same. There is a small delay after running to aim, to avoid a Rambo effect of sprinting while shooting. Curiously, pressing the shoot trigger does not immediately fire a shot after a sprint, but rather it halts the sprinting animation to an aim position, requiring the trigger to be pressed twice to fire a single shot. It takes about one third of a second to move from the sprint animation to the aim and then to the shot, and that is only if the player remembers to fire twice. Bizarrely, being shot kicks the player out of ADS, which happens often since the player is constantly under a barrage of shots at any given time. There is an omni-directional boost dodge ability, which is undeniably helpful for getting away from more determined hunters. A ground pound is resonant of an ability found in a previous Halo title, but the ground pound leaves the player floating feebly in midair to perform it and creates an opening for an enemy attack once the ground is hit, its purpose being converted to helping the player become target practice. Basic things the player can do in the game are unexplained or poorly introduced, like crouching or switching grenades. Depending on the weapon held, sprinting does not seem faster than walking. Adjustment to speed and armor can be done in Warzone with Requisitions.
Warzone is Big Team from previous games but better. It is like Gear s of War’s Horde but better. It is like better but better. 18-24 players can join a single match, and there are AI partners that flesh out the vacant battle spaces that join the fight against the other team. What makes Warzone so interesting are the Requisitions, acquired gear represented by cards that can be used in fights so long as they are available in the player’s personal inventory. They can turn the tides in battle, giving very cool advantages over the other team should they be unprepared for the stacks on stacks of Requisitions. These Requisitions can be obtained by playing the game normally or by microtransactions and vary in commonality, with some being standard weapon drops for practical use and others being rare armor or weapon skins for cosmetic purposes. There are so many different customizations to do to the player’s Spartan and weapons that these Requisition packs become tempting to spend hours to unlock or even purchase. This mode is fun.
In Campaign, enemies are ever present, but seem to be placed to account for human cooperative players, not the terrible AI. On harder difficulties while playing solo, the player would have to run from one objective to the next to not waste time with idiotic teammates dying before getting to the next objective. Since there is not much more to Halo than projectiles flying about, both the player and the team will be shot to death many times if too much time is spent helping each other. No single teammate can be given commands, so where one is sent all the others follow; naturally, it becomes a catastrophe when trying to be strategic like placing a sniper in a different location than an infantryman. On more than one occasion, the Spartan teammates do not appear to be able to melee their immediate threats, as they are more comfortable being bullet sponges than providing real help. There is a revive system that keeps the action very smooth, wherein if the player or a teammate goes down then there is a limited time frame in which to revive them. However, the revive system makes the game dreadfully easy as a result of its inclusion. While Halo can certainly be wild and entertaining, the familiar feeling of being overwhelmed at any point is absent like in previous titles’ campaign modes, as if the idea of a solo slog through a difficult campaign mode was forgotten in the backseat of a hot car. The revive system is, as of the time of this writing, absent from multiplayer in its entirety, and only serves as a fallback in cooperative campaign to keep the gameplay fluid.
Enemy variations are negligible, and nearly all of them use guns. Dodge their projectiles, shoot them. Rinse, repeat. Everything works fine but unless the player is in Warzone, it might feel too boring.
In the first week of launch, there do appear to be network issues that tend to crash the entire match, most likely due to hosts leaving the match without proper reconciliation of finding another host. This will undoubtedly be fixed, but at this time it can be frustrating to experience.
The enemies and environments look nice, but both are marred by the game needing to run at 60 frames. To keep the game running smooth, graphical limits were clearly put in place that is all too apparent on a large HD television. Real-time lighting is haphazard and sometimes causes shadows to suddenly appear and disappear, and in other places there are no shadows where there should be. Character models are good but the facial animation is so rigid. There are places where the player can talk to NPCs that have hilariously wooden faces and never seem to look at the player or even each other while speaking; sometimes the NPCs bug out and do not move their mouths at all. The environments occasionally look plastic or toyish, where a Thomas The Tank Engine would not look out of place. Heinously, the player is forced to walk through these locations as a cheap time extender to look for intel collectibles that often provide nothing of great importance. There is no suspense built around the locations to stick around for too long. The redeeming qualities of the graphics come with nice detail on the armor and miscellaneous gear the player wears, and remarkable weapon designs. There may not be much to explore. Or interact with. Or care about. But the weapons are so fun to look at, despite their overall limited functions.
Multiplayer maps look good, and there is even a throwback to locations that fans of the series would recognize instantly. Many maps are gametype exclusive, so to experience them all the player would have to try out the different modes to experience them all. Some maps are really well thought out, and others look like prototypes that need a little work in pillar placement or appearance.
The sound team really hit the mark with sound effects and distance of sound. The voice acting was comical and always has been, mostly indicative of a fine-toothed comb not being run into casting. The piano music pieces in cutscenes were better than most of the music but it was still a negligible soundtrack in its entirety, similar to like Halloween where John Carpenter worked his music magic only to hear his awesome compositions smashed recklessly on untuned pianos in following films in the series. Hitting enemies makes a very satisfying smash, and audio cues are very friendly to identify. If the player is deaf or hard of hearing, there is no real assistance provided to fight the inevitable campers should they get impatient and make noise, but supposing if there were visual cues to provide accommodations they would undoubtedly be used by players looking for an extra edge.
Spartan laser to the head, the game is okay except for Warzone, which bumps the game to greater heights. If someone felt like playing Invasive HUD 5 after several years of not playing a Halo title, they would not miss much on passing this entry. The game mechanics work and are there, but unmemorable. If Halo 5 were sold in parts, Warzone would be a four-star hotel and the rest of the game would be an alarm clock that could use a smash.