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Halo 5 Guardians Review - Reclaiming and Redeeming a Franchise

Mitchell Saltzman | 26 Oct 2015 03:00
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Multiplayer is really where 343 needed to prove themselves and regain some of that goodwill from Halo fans, which is fortunate, because multiplayer is where Halo 5 shines brightest.

Forget everything you knew about Halo 4's multiplayer. 343 wisely went back to the drawing board and scrapped nearly everything about Halo 4's widely criticized multiplayer offerings. Instead, Halo 5's main multiplayer type, Arena, is a back to basics approach. No armor powers, classes, or loadouts; everyone goes into each game on equal footing, which is extremely refreshing in the modern era of console multiplayer shooters based around player progression systems that affect or even decide the outcomes of matches.

All of the usual assortment of modes can be found in Arena, from Slayer and Capture the Flag to a new spin on King of the Hill called Strongholds. My personal favorite is a brand new mode called Breakout, a competitively driven multiplayer mode with its own unique set of maps that are designed specifically for quick, intense round based 4v4 battles, with the winner being the first team to win five rounds.

No matter what mode you decide to play, you'll always be earning what are known as Req Points. In between games, you can spend your Req Points to buy Req Packs, which are best described as trading card game booster packs that provide players with new cosmetic items like armor and weapon skins; boosts that increase the amount of experience gained after a match; or one-time use cards that either provide the player with a weapon, vehicle, or armor power in Halo 5's genre-busting new multiplayer mode, Warzone.

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Warzone is a behemoth of a game mode, pitting twelve against twelve on a gigantic map under rules that feel heavily inspired by the MOBA genre. The two teams begin by capturing various control points on the map guarded by AI enemies. The more players kill enemies and complete objectives, the more experience the whole team receives. That experience goes towards the team's Req Level, which determines the level of requisition a player can call down using one of their cards. For example, once a team reaches level 6, a player can head to a Req Station, burn their Scorpion card, and roll out into the battle riding a Scorpion tank.

It's an ambitious mode, and when the match is competitive, Warzone can be a hell of a lot of fun. When the match isn't competitive, not so much. Warzone does an admirable job of making it feel like you're individually contributing a lot to the success of your team, but if you get matched with a team that can't pull their weight and therefore fall far behind on Req Levels, it can be an awful time. I've had matches where a team managed to get two Scorpions out on the field and just completely shut our team down because we weren't at a high enough Req Level to be able to do anything about it.

While the Req Pack system is great when it comes to rewarding players with exciting new cosmetic items, its implementation in Warzone is flawed. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails quite like using a rare vehicle or weapon card, then getting blown up not even ten seconds after rolling out of your base. I understand that there needs to be a system in place to ensure that everyone doesn't just spawn in a Scorpion once the team reaches level six, but it feels like there could've been a better option than having a player waste a card that they'll likely only get again by playing another ten matches in order to afford a Gold Req Pack.

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It's a shame that Halo 5's story is disappointing, because nearly everything else surrounding it is fantastic. The friendly AI definitely needs work, and there are a few too many enemy types that need to be attacked from behind in order to damage, but the level design is some of the best the series has ever seen, and the new abilities the player can use dramatically improve both the campaign and multiplayer. Throw in the robust Breakout and Warzone multiplayer modes and I think it's safe to say that you could find yourself wrapped in Halo 5 for quite some time.

Bottom Line: Halo 5 proves that 343 is a worthy team for taking over the Mantle of Responsibility for the Halo series from Bungie.

Recommendation: Halo 5 isn't exactly friendly to those who aren't familiar with Halo's lore, making the game a tough entry point to the series as far as campaign is concerned, but for everyone else, Halo 5 is yet another stellar entry in the legendary shooter franchise.

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