In terms of level design, most of the environments are varied, detailed and noticeably open for a Halo game. This is quite possibly the least linear outing in the series, and while it’s far from open world or sandbox, most levels will provide you with multiple routes from which to attack from. Throw some vehicle combat into the mix (including one awesome level where you get into a Mantis), and the game certainly keeps things refreshing and exciting throughout. Yes, it’s still your standard Halo experience where you’re clearing one area after another, but with the vast, open levels and refined gameplay elements, it’s a very slick and polished ride, and one that certainly packs a punch in the combat department.
Technically, Halo 5 is astonishing. Character models, facial motion capturing, animations, and environments all look damn near perfect, with barely any load time between cinematics (which are gorgeous, by the way. Especially the opening one.) or levels. At 60 FPS, everything is incredibly fluid, too, especially movement, which is taken to a whole new level in Halo 5: Guardians.
And then there are the weapons. They all sound terrific and pack far more of a punch than any Halo game in the past. There’s also a wide variety of them, too, from standard human assault and battle rifles, to the more interesting Covenant and Promethean weapons. Overall, this is the most technically impressive Halo game by a long shot, and acts as a shining example of the power of the Xbox One.
While Halo 5: Guardians does offer drop-in/drop-out co-op, the real meat and potatoes of the game’s online component of course comes in the form of its multiplayer modes. And, as with the single player portion, things have been drastically changed up for this outing.
MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB
First up you have Arena, which is closest to the classic Halo mutliplayer we all know and love. Across several game modes, like Breakout, Strongholds, Slayer, and Capture the Flag, you’ll battle it out 4v4 ranked matches. This is all familiar stuff, both in terms of the modes and structure, with the only real changes to gameplay coming in the form of what’s carried over from single-player: thrusters, Spartan Charge, Clamber, Ground Pound, aim down the sights, etc. These things impact the multiplayer in a massive way and severely change how you’ll move on the battlefield and how you can approach enemies.
Of course, there’s a ranking system as well to go along with Arena, and it’s called Competitive Skill Ranking, which will have you move through Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Onyx, and Champion, with Bronze-Diamond each having six levels to them. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it does ensure that you’ll only play with people of similar skill level.
With Arena, you have the tried and true Halo multiplayer and with the added gameplay features that have been thrown into Halo 5: Guardians, it’s faster, more frantic and incredibly addicting. What most people will be spending time with, however, is the all-new Warzone mode, which puts you into epic 24-player battles that include both PvP and PvE elements, as well as friendly and enemy AI. Yes, it may seem like a lot, but it’s quite frankly one of the best multiplayers modes on the market and it works very, very well.
Taking place across massive maps, your team’s goal in Warzone is to earn 1,000 VP (Victory Points). To do so, you’ll have to kill players on the enemy team, capture and defend bases, defeat enemy AI (including powerful bosses who spawn randomly from time to time) and more. With the average Warzone match lasting 20-30 minutes, these battles are enormous in scale, lengthy, strategic and undoubtedly, the highlight of Halo 5: Guardians.
Giving Warzone matches even more depth is the new REQ system, which you’ve undoubtedly heard all about by now. Aside from your standard customization options that have been found in previous games, like pimping out your armor and color co-ordinating it to your heart’s desire, you’ll now have some control over the weapons and vehicles you’ll be using online, as well.
Only available in Warzone, REQs allow you to bring weapons, vehicles and even some power-ups/boosts of your choosing into the match. The way it works is as follows. As you compete in online matches, you’ll earn REQ points, which in turn can be spent on REQ card packs. Gold packs cost the most, with silver costing less and bronze, of course, being the cheapest. You’ll also be rewarded with card packs for completing various tasks/challenges across your multiplayer career.
Each card pack comes with several weapon, vehicle and power-up/boost cards. If you’re lucky, you may also get some new customization pieces, like armor and emblems. Obviously, gold packs will come with better and rarer items, like a Wraith, Banshee or Rocket Launcher, whereas a bronze pack would probably be full of Warthogs, Needlers, perhaps a speed boost power-up, etc.
Now, each REQ card is assigned a level, with the more powerful items having a higher level. So again, for example, a Wraith would be REQ level 6, whereas a Ghost would be REQ level 3. There are a ton of weapons, vehicles and power-ups to collect, and once you use them, they can’t be used again. You can also sell cards if you don’t think you’ll use the item or if you have too many of that particular item. For instance, if you’ve got 40 Mongoose cards and don’t use them too often, you can sell some for 50 REQ points each.
Once you’ve started building your REQ card collection, you’ll be able to use them in Warzone. What happens, is, at the start of the match, only level 1 REQ cards can be used. This is obviously to keep things balanced and prevent everyone from starting off with Banshees and Spartan Lasers right from the get go. To be able to unlock your higher REQ cards, you’ll have to progress through the match.
As time goes on, and you rack up more points by completing objectives (capturing bases, killing enemies, assisting teammates, etc.), your REQ level will increase. It does take some time, too. I’ve only hit REQ level 8 once, and that was in a match that ran about 30 minutes. Of course, those who play better will unlock higher REQ levels quicker, and thus get access to better equipment earlier on in the match, but it’s certainly well balanced and you’ll very rarely feel at a disadvantage. As long as you’re at least competent on the battlefield, you’ll find yourself unlocking your higher level REQs in fair time.
The other element to consider here is that you’ll need to wait for your REQ levels to re-charge once you use them. So, say you’re 10 minutes into the game and have a REQ level of 6, if you choose to use say a Speed Boost, which is 2 REQ levels, you’ll lose those 2 REQ levels, knocking you back down to REQ level 4. You’ll then have to wait a bit while you charge back up from level 4 to 6, which means that for a short period of time you’ll only be able to use REQs that are level 4 and under.
As you can imagine, there’s definitely a bit of strategy here in choosing which REQs to use, when to use them, and how often. By the time the match really gets going though, it becomes all out war, with everyone bringing their biggest and best cards into the fight. REQ cards can be activated either before you respawn, or at stations spread throughout the map, so there’s always a chance to switch up your gear. Things get pretty crazy by the end, too, as every0ne’s achieved a high REQ level and is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to win.
If it all sounds confusing, that’s because it is. With no real guidance or tutorial, it did take me a few matches to really understand the REQ system, but now that I do, it’s basically become second nature. It’s not terribly hard to get the hang of and it adds a very welcome element to the proceedings, drastically changing the gameplay and giving us an experience that’s completely different from anything that we’ve seen with the series before.
With the addition of REQs, you can rest assured that Warzone is chaotic at all times and you’ll never find yourself just wandering around or without something to do. It’s an ambitious and bold mode for the series, but it’s also one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve had on a console in quite some time. Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t visit Arena, and I imagine that most of the hardcore Halo players will spend a lot of time there. But, for a totally different and quite frankly, insane (in a good way) Halo experience, I definitely suggest putting in some good time with Warzone.
343 Industries had a herculean task ahead of them when they set out to make Halo 5: Guardians. Not only did they have to win back a fanbase that mostly abandoned them after The Master Chief Collection debacle, but they also had to bring the Master Chief to the Xbox One in memorable and fitting fashion. And, minor gripes aside, I’d definitely say they’ve accomplished their task.
Halo 5: Guardians, is, by all accounts, the total package. The gameplay is immensely satisfying and leaps and bounds ahead of previous entries, which is saying a lot. And while I wasn’t terribly engaged by the plot and felt that the campaign was a bit more underwhelming than some of the series’ other games, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have a blast playing it. Throw in classic Halo multiplayer with Arena and a robust, exciting and epic new mode in Warzone, and there’s really no reason that anyone should be left feeling like they wanted more with Guardians.
Hats off to 343 Industries, and all hail Master Chief!
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which was provided to us.
Flawless gameplay, one of the best multiplayer experiences on the market and a shiny, new coat of paint make Halo 5: Guardians an easy contender for Game of the Year.