This is the best that Halo has been for years, bigger than the games that preceded it and sporting a myriad of new maps, weapons and some game-changing new mobility.
You play as Spartan Jameson Locke, leading the fireteam Osiris in the bulk of the game’s missions. Sadly he falls into the same trap as many military protagonists do, he just wants to complete the mission, not really wanting anything for himself.
The new enemies like Locke, lack a compelling narrative, missing out on the clear motives of past enemies like the Flood. This does provide some refreshing gameplay as their goals are less black and white but overall the lack of a focal point is a detriment to the game.
The return of Cortana provides some much-needed familiarity and a connection previous games in the series. The lack of backstory in some areas wastes the opportunity to give meaning to Master Chief’s former teammates which causes what should be a meaningful reunion with him to fall a bit flat.
The level design within the game has changed somewhat dramatically and now lends itself to repeated playthroughs and treasure hunting. The levels may not be as physically large as previous games but after clearing an area during the story take some time to walk around and you will find rooms you hadn’t noticed, hidden pathways, new weapons and more.
As in previous games playing with your own squad is recommended especially on higher difficulty levels. The levels offer some intriguing strategy options that will allow you to replay them in different ways depending on the strategy you and your team deploy. Playing solo with AI teammates is now enhanced too, you can control the positioning of your squad before and during a battle using the d-pad. This is a nice improvement over previous games in the series. The AI is improved in general but still prone to the odd quirk like not leaving cover to revive you, causing you to sometimes bleed out in the middle of a battle.
The guns are familiar but with a cosmetic facelift for some of the more tired and dated designs. The Suppressor, which was underwhelming in previous games now fires homing projectiles which are great for tracking down wily enemies. The campaign is always showering you in weaponry so you should never feel like you are running out of options. The Battle Rifle is as you remember it and fans won’t be disappointed with the classic guns.
There is a good enemy variety in the game, forerunner troops are highly mobile and able to dodge your slower projectiles. The covenant are as you remember them, however, the Elites now have a much better active camouflage. This is one of the benefits of the game being native to Xbox One, there are other graphical improvements too achieved from the games leap to the new generation of consoles.
While the single player is good, the multiplayer is where Halo really shines. The big new mode in Halo 5 is Warzone. It’s similar to the old Big Team Battle mode but has much more to it. The maps for this mode are up to 4 times larger than any previous Halo multiplayer map but still carefully coax players into smaller close-quarters gameplay that the series has been known for.
In Warzone you have two win conditions, collect 1000 points or destroy the enemy base. You will earn points for killing enemies, capturing points, or killing roaming NPC bosses. You will also acquire REQ points in this mode that slowly build up during gameplay, these can be spent on weapons, vehicles, power-ups etc. The mode has been carefully balanced and you can expect some exciting back and forth battles that can last up to 25 minutes.
The new movement based abilities also come into their own in multiplayer. You now have a variety of options available such as clamber, charge, thrusters and more. One of the biggest changes is the ability to hover while you aim down sights which can create new lines of sight on most maps and if you are skilled enough then a headshot could be yours from an unexpected vantage point.
Halo 5 is a huge step forward for the series, it feels great to play and as a debut on Xbox One, it’s an exciting starting point for this new generation. While the single player stutters a little the multiplayer is flawless in its presentation and execution with the new Warzone mode heralding an exciting future for the Halo franchise.