Halo 5: Guardians
Halo 5 brings back the character of Dr Elizabeth Halsey, the creator of the SPARTAN II program that produced the Master Chief and Blue Team soldiers. She was responsible for basically kidnapping promising children, training them, altering their genetics, and turning them into the super-soldiers that ultimately won the war against the Convenant. Halo 5 touches on the “at any cost” drama surrounding Halsey’s decisions, although she’s not the main focus except to set the stage of the Fall of Reach animated series, I believe.
Locke and his Team Osiris is also another creation for Halo 5, although Locke was introduced in in the Halo Waypoint series, Halo: Nightfall. Ultimately, it’s Team Osiris (the Egyptian god of the dead, if you absolutely must dissect something) that’s tasked with tracking down the legendary Master Chief and his team to somehow bring them back to stand trial for desertion. The ramifications of such a task aren’t lost on the team, as Nathan Fillion’s character corners Locke before they head out and reminds him that in carrying out these orders, Team Osiris will be the most hated humans in modern memory. Despite the military breach that the Master Chief has committed, he’s still the one who single-handedly defeated the Convenant, and is considered a hero and a role model by billions.
The rest is more or less spoiler territory, although if you’ve player Halo 4, have read the Forerunner Saga by Greg Bear, or are just really perceptive, you’ll probably catch on to the eventual reveal through the application of simple character math.
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I think I enjoyed playing as Locke more than I enjoyed playing as the Chief, for a few reasons.
Overall, I felt that Locke and Osiris were a much better, more interesting team. They had more interplay between them than Blue Team did, which may be explained away as the difference between the original SPARTAN II soldiers and the more modern SPARTANs. Of course, fan favorite Nathan Fillion as ODST trooper Buck (from Halo: ODST, wouldn’t you know) is always there with the cast-for-type wisecracks.
The newer SPARTANS seem to have more range in terms of gameplay, although it’s not a lot. Locke has a special ground-pounding ability which allows him to jump and use his jetpack to slam himself into the ground. I guess…I forgot how to do it after I was told how to do it in the tutorial. The Chief has gained something over the intervening years, though, and that’s actual use of his jetpack. It allows him to boost forward, or to the sides, which helps to get out of the way of incoming attacks or to cross wider-than-average chasms. Otherwise, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of difference between the two teams (or the two characters you got to play) besides the interplay between the voice actors. Even in the cut-scenes, Blue Team were more like moody bouncers than Team Osiris’ rough-and-tumble-military-profession-dysfunctional-family-unit.
As was the case in Halo 4, the Promethians really pissed me off. They’re a sentient mechanical race supposedly created by the Forerunners (the ones who made the Halo rings which had been designed to stop the Flood). They teleport, sometimes repeatedly, making them difficult to pin down. They also take a lot to kill. Their Knights are the equivalent of the Convenat Hunters; the arrival of either sent me looking for heavy weapons on the field. It’s been a while, but I think they’ve been toned down since Halo 4, but I’ll have to go back and check with 4 to make sure.
My favorite weapon this time around is the Promethian Boltshot. It operates a lot like the Covenant Needler, but it packs an actual punch. Despite the ubiquity, the Promethian Suppressor is pretty weak. The Promethian weapons are cool to look at when in use, as they tend to “fly apart”, especially the Lightrifle and the devastating Binary Rifle sniper.
The Covenant weapons seemed more watered down this time around. I only grabbed them when I had nothing else to pick from, which seemed to be pretty often as there was a total lack of UNSC ammo. That makes sense, though, as you are almost always on alien worlds with no way to expect human-style armaments to be available.
And you get to drive the mech in one scenario, which is great fun, because missiles.
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I admit that while I love the Halo series, I’ve only every completed 3 and now 5, though I’ve played all of them to one extent or another. I don’t have the actual time in front of me, but I estimate that it took me about eight to 10 hours over two days to complete Halo 5 on Normal difficulty. These days, we’re used to games touting hundreds of hours of gameplay, and as an MMO player, games without end is pretty much the baseline for me, so the length of the campaign may seem ridiculously short for the price.
Of course, the campaign is a strange appendage tacked onto the body of what people are supposed to be really into: Halo multiplayer. As a campaign guy myself, I am pleased with what I’ve gotten. As someone who is generally multiplayer averse — especially Halo multiplayer averse — I have to say that I’m interested in checking out the “Warzone” gameplay.
From what I gather based on what I’ve heard, Warzone is like Titanfall, except instead of giant robots, you get a team of SPARTANS. You have objectives, but you also have A.I. enemies throughout the map. You may be able to reach your objectives without too much fuss, but you might also need to make your way through players and Covenant and Promethian obstacles as well. You can obtain REQ equipment though in-game sales, and these provide you with “burn cards” that you can use in a match. Before you start, you load up a certain number of cards, and can use them during the match. However, you need to build up a certain amount of…energy? time? in order to use them. I haven’t tried it yet, but if it is like Titanfall, then I might enjoy it. I liked Titanfall because I’m really no good at inter-person combat. I’m slow and also spastic when faced with another player. If I see them first, have an awesome weapon, and if they’re already on death’s doorstep, then maybe I can take them out. Usually, I end up dead first. But with Titanfall (and hopefully Warzone), taking out the A.I. helps the team both by taking out obstacles and by giving the team points. I can still feel effective even if I end up getting a virtual scrotum on the helmet more often than not.
I’ll be sure to check back once I’ve tried Warzone. I doubt I’ll try the Arena combat, although since I went back and played the newest incarnation of Unreal Tournament and enjoyed the fast paced, impersonal style, I might give Arena a shot at least once, if for nothing else than to reaffirm why I don’t like arena shooters.
I am debating the path after that. Maybe there’ll be DLC to address the lukewarm ending (pro tip: don’t stay for the credits…there’s nothing waiting for you afterwards) and not just to add more multiplayer action. There’s also four person co-op which allows you and three friends to tackle the story without the need to drag NPCs along with you.
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Overall, I am very happy with Halo 5. It’s given me at least exactly what I expected, and I enjoyed it as much as I believe I could have. I’m interested in checking out the multiplayer aspects, and if I can find three other players who can dedicate time, might try to co-op the campaign.
The one thing that is odd, though, is that none of the promotional material we’ve seen in the lead up to the game had anything to do with the game. Sorry, that’s kind of a spoiler. There’s no “Master Chief in the desert”. There’s no “the Death of Master Chief” scenario. As much as I liked Team Osiris and Spartan Locke, I don’t think the series would be anywhere near the same without the Chief, and the way they ended this one sets up enough drama to carry us through at least Halo 8.
And finally, the name Halo 5: Guardians doesn’t really have much to do with either Blue Team or Team Osiris, which is both weird and telling. You learn that the Guardians are Forerunner technology that’s being unleashed on the universe, and considering this technology only shows up half way through the game (or so), giving it top-title billing tells us that we’ve got a lot more Halo games in the pipeline.