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Review: Halo 5: Guardians – Xbox One

This review was originally published on our old site, The Games Cabin. We’re republishing it here on Absolute Xbox to save the hard work from biting the digital dirt.


The Halo series is almost as old as me now. No, it’s not. As much as I try to hide it, I am indeed getting on in years. I’ve reached the point where my hair is turning grey; I groan when I bend down, and I groan even louder when I get back up.

I’m 25. I was around 12/13 years of age when I first booted up a borrowed copy of Halo: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox and since then I’ve never looked back. Well, until Halo 5: Guardians came along. Not in a bad way, mind you.

The story picks up from Halo 4 and sees Master Chief and Locke on opposite ends. There’s a lot going on in the narrative and the switches thrown in here and there did cause me a bit of concern. It’s a story told from two different perspectives: Halo champion Master Chief is guiding his Blue Team to hunt down someone he needs, while Locke and his team are hunting down Master Chief. Each have their own reasons and motivations and they do end up interweaving which leads to some cracking storytelling that long-time fans of the series’ lore will appreciate. It’s still a by-the-book affair, and at times it’s a little difficult to keep track of what’s going on due to the shifts in perspective, but at least the tale being told is worthy of your attention and, for me at least, warrants purchasing the game at full price. I’m not a big fan of multiplayer shooters (old age’ll do that to you, kids) but Halo 5 wants me to be.

The campaign can be played with some mates online, or you can just stick with the A.I controlled team mates and fight the good fight. Personally, I preferred playing with A.I. I know, I’m scum. It’s the way it’s always been for me, though. Stories shared in a cinema are great for a crowd, but something like Halo where I’m the main character, the driving force, and the decision maker, I don’t want an audience. I just want to play out my own fantasy of killing aliens while looking like a bad mother hugger.

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To be fair to 343, the A.I is pretty good – most of the time. I could point out targets and they’d open fire without hesitation, whereas on other occasions I’d find one A.I controlled team mate seemingly have a disassociative episode where he’d just walk through the incoming fire, oblivious to the dangers of the battlefield. A mixed bag, then.

If, like me, you choose to play with A.I then you’ll have ups and down, but for the most part it’s a decent experience and it’s comparable with any other shooter that pushes A.I allies on you. It’s no better, and it’s no worse. It’s simply there.

At first I was a little wary of no longer being the lone wolf on a mission. I thought the inclusion of allies was something to draw me away from lackluster mechanics or a naff story. Thankfully I was wrong, very wrong. The gameplay is top-notch in just about every area. Running through the large arenas, leaping over an enemy to smack him in the back of the head before doling out some courtesy shots to make sure the ugly sod was truly dead was immensely satisfying, even after 20 or so times. Gone are the straight forward paths from previous entries. Instead we’ve got massive levels that encourage a bit more exploration and some experimentation with the large arsenal at your disposal. Of course there are also the vehicles that make a return with some missions placing you in various land and air machines, though I’ve never been a big fan of them, but that’s more on my inability to control the things. Still, they look hell of a good on the screen and no captured video or screenshot will ever do it justice. To appreciate the graphical fidelity of Halo 5, you really need to be plonked in front of it. Seriously, it’s amazing to see a group of weedy aliens go boom, especially when it looks as good as it does.

It’s not all gunfire and explosions, though. There’s more than a few instances where you’re left to wander around small areas, collect audio logs, chat with comrades; basically just have a mooch. It’s nice and I really enjoyed the shift from blowing alien scum to bits. Wandering around and listening in to the conversations of others provided some grounding and gave me a chance to get to know the characters a little more. Unfortunately there’s not much within the story to really flesh out the allies you go to battle with, so these moments were cherished by me.

As fun and engaging as the narrative was, it was all over a bit too soon for my liking. Previous Halo games could easily run into the double figures of hours played, so I was a a little saddened to see the credits start rolling after just 6 hours of play. Of course you may get a bit more time out of it if you’re a bit of a wanderer, but I think it’ll take more than taking a different route every now and again to really bump up the playtime. To be fair, it’s worth playing twice to get all the achievements and collectibles and the openness of the levels means it’s not too much of a chore to be playing the same levels again when you get to do things a little differently. Still, I’d have preferred a longer story, but that’s just me.

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While the story is what brings players in and keeps the franchise ticking, it’s the multiplayer that people stay for. It’s faster, harder, and much more competitive than ever before. I’m in the minority here, but I’m not really all that into multiplayer unless I’ve got a few mates round and we’re all playing together. That said, I did give it a go, but I’m just not all that bothered by it. In the small amount of time I spent (maybe an hour or so?) I didn’t really have any issues getting into a game, nor did I find myself hiding in a corner waiting for death to happen upon me. What I did end up doing is dying a bunch of times and being called all sorts for my inability to live. Perhaps I’m not the guy to be telling you about multiplayer, then. I will say that my short time with it was a good laugh (even more so when buddying with mates online) and I’ll probably get really stuck into it sometime over the next few weeks. Once that’s done, this review will be updated with my thoughts on paying to die online. The joys…

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