343 Industries first attempt at a Halo game had its highs (the campaign) and its lows (the multiplayer) but it was still a decent game overall and I think that as a first attempt at a Halo game it was a good effort for them to get their feet under the table with a great campaign but they made some wrong choices with the multiplayer and leaned too much towards Call of Duty and not the Halo that people wanted. It was certainly a good learning experience for them though and Halo 5 will ultimately decide what they took from Halo 4.
The good news for me is that I feel that 343 have proven with an excellent Halo 5 Guardians that they do listen and do understand the Halo franchise, I’ve had a lot of fun with the game and I think that any questions of their suitability to develop the franchise have been washed away in a sea of exploding plasma grenades.
So lets break this down between the campaign and multiplayer…
The campaign is excellent, when I saw the media reviews go out there were some doubts in my mind about what to expect and whilst it was not perfect I thought it was a good length, the level design was excellent, and the biggest criticism I can muster was the story lacking in character development and big wow moments which was a bit of a bit of a step back from Halo 4 leading it to be the weakest part of the package but apart from that the gameplay is top-notch and generally as I said I thought it was excellent.
What I liked most was how refined and improved the gameplay was from previous Halos, additions like the jet-pack boost and ground pound which have a big effect on the game and its speed, you burst through to the covenant shooting everything in sight, doing some mêlée here, a pistol headshot there and topped off with a ground pound, it feels like its Halo on crack which is pretty great. I will admit I was skeptical about the new abilities and whether they would fit the franchise and it really does improve it a lot, perhaps they put Combat Evolved as the subtitle on the wrong Halo?
For the level design, there was a lot of criticism for Halo 4 that it was too linear, I didn’t personally find that so much myself but I did notice that Guardians is much more open with many more paths you can take, levels generally are just bigger and you can see that sense of scale as you play through it. At various points you are also assisted by a variety of vehicles which was good although strangely I never felt as though a warthog or mantis or scorpion (to name just a few) were coming up they just appeared and that was good although unfortunately I’m not the best person at wielding the power of these vehicles!
I mentioned above the story is undeveloped and weak in places which I do standby, I felt like most of the action happened in the Chief levels (of which there are too few in my opinion) and Locke’s levels were definitely mostly about getting to Chief. Speaking of Locke I do think he was the most lacking in character development especially given how key he was supposed to be to the game. On the flip side Halo 3 ODSTs Buck was a much more interesting character who says more things than sappy one liners, not that Locke is full of clichés but there was very little personality coming out what he said and did which was a shame. Maybe 343 are massive Nathan Fillion fans?!
I really hope that if Locke is to continue to be part of this main story that he is given something to make you care about his existence because I just don’t, I’ve seen various comparisons between the games story and the marketing it received (which was great) but I will admit there is a bit of a disconnect between the two and I expected something quite different to what I got.
Without spoiling the story I’m intrigued as to where it is going next though so that was something they did well I guess, I just hope that there is a middle ground found between perhaps somewhat convoluted story of Halo 4 and having something simpler but lacking in Halo 5 Guardians. I think 343 are doing really well if the best criticism I have is that the story wasn’t as deep and developed as I’d hoped.
For the multiplayer I should say straight off the bat that if you know me you will probably know I’m not big on competitive multiplayer, I prefer co-operative experiences (campaign or other specific modes) as I generally find them much more compelling, I noticed the multiplayer achievements were not particularly difficult to get and dived right in and I was very impressed.
I prefer Arena, the shorter matches and different game modes are just more my thing but as I said in the campaign with the new gameplay additions I really think the boosting, ground pound and clamber add a lot and make it much more fun and fast paced. I am a bit torn on the “smart-link” (aiming/zooming), for most guns its pretty worthless really so it doesn’t matter, I don’t feel like it ruins anything at all though and on some guns in the previous games they had aiming anyway so it’s not a big deal and is necessary for stuff like the pistol, sniper rifle and battle rifle anyway.
Halo 5 Guardians for me was 343 Industries showing they get what Halo is, they advanced the mechanics and core gameplay well, made an exciting and worthy multiplayer which fans will enjoy, the game is not perfect and they need to keep improving things like their story telling and character development but this was certainly proof they are heading in the right direction.
I hope for Halo 6 they look at adding back something like Firefight, I think have a campaign (with co-op), competitive multiplayer and co-operative multiplayer is a good balance for shooters these days, the DLC plan they have is nice as well which is good for players to receive all of the same free maps.
Well done 343, now the wait for Halo 6 begins, see you in 2018, Chief.