|Type of game:||First-person shooter|
|Multiplayer/Co-Op:||Extensive multiplayer modes; online only co-op, no split-screen|
|Total Play Time:||8 hours for the campaign, potentially unlimited multiplayer|
|System Requirements:||Xbox One exclusive title|
The World of Halo 5
This Halo 5 review will delve deep into the story content, atmosphere and characters of the game’s campaign experience. Overall, there is a lot to like about the direction this game is going in. As the second Halo title released after the developer switch from Bungie to 343 Industries, the Halo series seems to have reached a new level of maturity, both in design and content. Both the IGN review and the Gamespot review awarded Halo 5 with stellar ratings of 8 and 9 respectively.
Atmosphere and Location
Examining atmosphere, location and level design is an important part of this Halo 5 review. Compared to Halo 4 especially, Halo 5 does a great job with setting and design. Halo has always been an action forward game, focused heavily on intense sci-fi battles. Previous games have suffered from repetition problems in both combat and location.
This is not the case with Halo 5. Levels are highly varied, ranging from a spooky abandoned space station to a lush jungle planet engineered by the ancient Forerunners. Each level has a distinct aesthetic and atmosphere that helped the game feel fresh from start to finish.
The levels are also more open and inviting to large-scale battles. There are several moments where the battlefield is filled with NPC allies. With several distinct factions in the game, the player is often stepping into a mixed battleground. The open design gives players a variety of ways to approach a combat situation. While the levels are certainly linear, they don’t feel constrained.
The squad-based approach to the game also gives it a much different feel compared to past games, which were largely solo endeavors. Rarely do players go through an area without the support of their team, which gives you the chance to test out the revive mechanics and craft complex strategies. It also allows the battles to be bigger and more chaotic than past games, further increasing the action intensity. Difficulty takes a bump up as well since “death” doesn’t necessarily mean game over as long as there is a teammate left to revive.
The next item in this Halo 5 review is a close examination of the story characters. Halo 5 is the only game in the series to continue the story of Spartan 117 “The Master Chief” without him actually being the main character in the game. The story is instead split between the Master Chief and Blue Team on some missions with brand new characters of Fireteam Osiris lead by Spartan Jameson Locke. Although players do swap between them, most of the time is devoted to Locke.
As the main character, however, Locke falls a bit short. While Halo has never been known for fleshing out its characters, Locke is a rather stale and rigid. He makes a good counter to the rather rebellious Master Chief, but there is also very little about his character or personality to like or hold on to. It feels more like he is just there to do a job and be done.
The characters of his Fireteam Osiris receive even less attention. Many players won’t even be able to match a face to a name by the game’s end. They are clearly stand-ins to give the combat more flavor and group mechanics than as anything important to the story.
The Master Chief and Cortana, while not main characters, technically, are still the two most important characters and drivers of the story. Halo 5 is clearly their story. The relationship between Cortana and Spartan 117 is considerably more emotional and powerful than anything happening with Locke.
The cast of Blue Team doesn’t fare much better than Osiris in terms of development. While players get some bits about the team as a whole, their individual personalities and histories remain largely elusive.
No Halo 5 review would be complete without a close examination of the game’s story. This also happens to be where Halo 5 shines, especially in relation to many past titles. What Halo 5 lacks in character development, it makes up for in plot nuance and a refreshing take on how allies and enemies are approached.
The greatest asset to the story is the blurred line between friend and enemy. The classic humans good, Covenant bad, Flood really bad is turned on its head in Halo 5. The Covenant are still prominent enemies, while also being important allies. The Forerunners play prominently, but unlike in Halo 4, Cortana is unveiled as the principal antagonist in this story.
The plot becomes even more nuanced as Cortana’s goals and motives are revealed. She changes from clear friend to a dangerous adversary with a goal that will leave many players questioning whether she is truly good or bad. Striking at this gray area has become more popular in modern games and results in an overall more mature and interesting story.
The story, while suffering like most Halo’s from being too short, does get the job done. It manages to keep pace without feeling like a disjointed afterthought to the combat.
What hurts the story of Halo 5 the most is its reliance on information from the expanded Halo universe. Even veteran players of the games are likely to be a little lost. While the descriptions the game provides do give the player a basic idea of what’s going on, the real background is likely going to be lost on most players.
Players are left with an exciting cliffhanger ending that teases at the possibilities of a Halo 6. It is assuredly not the end of the Halo series.
DLC and Expansion Packs
The final section of this Halo 5 review takes a look at the DLC on offer. Halo 5 DLC are almost exclusively geared towards the multiplayer mode. The good news in that regard is that most of the DLCs are actually free. And they do improve the multiplayer experience in various ways, including new maps, skins, weapons and game modes.
One of the DLC offerings may be purchased with either in-game currency points or real money and costs $9.99. It only adds only cosmetic items with no impact on gameplay or playable content.
The only paid DLC so far is the “Voices of War” pack that adds several new multiplayer announcer voices and some other items to the game. It is again a case of a DLC pack that really only adds some background or cosmetic content and doesn’t really expand play.
The choice of buying any of the DLC is a matter of how much the player wants to invest in enriching the multiplayer experience. None of the DLC is required to enjoy the game, and it doesn’t add much if any real playable content.
This newest edition to the Halo series is certainly worth the price to players who enjoy Halo. It provides the same action-oriented and popular FPS combat experience with a touching and exciting story that writes the next chapter of the Master Chief and Cortana plot. Although the new characters may fall flat, they serve their purpose in the game, which is still really all about the famous Spartan and his A.I. friend.
Those who enjoy multiplayer will be able to enjoy the game long past its relatively short campaign. And no additional money need be spent on DLC to get a great experience. Overall, it is a game Halo fans will love and newcomers will find rewarding.
Have you played Halo 5 and have comments about the game or this Halo 5 review? Are you interested in learning more about the game? Feel free to share your experiences, thoughts, and questions.