Once the stand-out series for Xbox, Halo has seen somewhat of a popularity decline in the last few years. The original Halo and especially its sequels, Halo 2 and Halo 3, have been named as some of the best first person shooters of all time and all sold millions upon release and earning the title of Microsoft’s quintessential system seller. Following Bungie’s split from the series and move to Destiny, 343 Industries took over the series and released Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. Despite plenty of hype from the community after the announcement of each game, the attention given to the game was certainly sub par compared to other titles in the series. Halo 5 in particular underperformed significantly, selling less than any other title in the series and arguably getting the most underwhelming reviews. This is unfortunate because Halo 5 is the underlooked Xbox One must have so far.
In terms of presentation, Halo 5 is perhaps the most impressive game the series and even the console have seen so far. Each planet teems with fauna and the light effects are one of the highlights throughout the game. The facial animations continue on from Halo 5 with how realistic and impressive they are, providing the characters without helmets with continued emotion and nuance. As would be expected, the musical score is just as great as it has always been complementing the action and the world effectively. The sound design is also nailed with all of the Covenant, UNSC and Forerunner weapons all being represented as powerful and damage dealing with special enjoyment coming from the Energy Sword’s impact and start up noises. As always, the multiplayer announcer’s several quips and statements all help to make each achievement and accomplishment seem epic and rewarding. Halo 5 is easily one of the most impressive games in the series with it’s presentation, either from the leap to next gen or the care and attention that 343 evidently put in.
As is the case with most Halo games, the campaign is also one of the packages strong points. A new focus on 4 player co-op (or introduction of AI if playing single player) spices up the usual action and means more people can experience Halo together at a time. The action in the campaign itself is also impressive and as fun as you would expect it to be, despite disappointing fans with the lacklustre story. While nowhere near as great as the previous campaigns in the series, Halo 5’s story mode is a great time on your own and especially with other people especially when considering what other first person shooters use as campaign modes.
No matter what you may think of the single player or presentation, the true focus of Halo is in its multiplayer. Does it deliver in Halo 5? Possibly more than any other title in the series. At launch the game was admittedly missing a lot of the necessary Halo content but almost a year later Halo 5 is now thriving with content and fun. 343 have been continuously updating the game from launch and adding tons of maps, weapons and items to earn. All of the traditional game modes are in the game and along with the new gameplay additions such as dashing, ground pounding and down the sights aiming, the game now has a suitably faster pace that really suits Halo. The biggest addition to multiplayer is certainly the REQ pack system and while many have cited it as a microtransaction ridden system, it actually ends up being a great motivation to play. REQ packs are rewarded daily and for any great accomplishments, making it seem as if good play is rewarded. The items that you can get in these packs are either cosmetic or simply for use in the Warzone game mode- making them feel balanced and useful, especially when in a heated match. It helps that Warzone itself is one of the most fun modes to play, feeling very Titanfall-esque. Halo 5 has an amazing community attached to it, making it even more fun to play daily as there are rarely any team killers or hackers in the game, allowing for a smooth experience. And yes, the online works so much better than the Master Chief Collection. Thank god.
All of the praise that I’m giving to Halo 5 is certainly earned but that isn’t to say that it is perfect. The story is lacklustre, the microtransactions feel a bit unnecessary and some would even argue that the new gameplay introductions make Halo feel less like Halo. It’s necessary to point out that even though all of these flaws exist, most of them are actually far from what they seem to be. Halo feels just as much like Halo always has, just faster and with a greater focus on continued online play. Are these bad things? It really depends on how you look at it. Are you okay with Halo evolving beyond what it used to be? I believe that a continued focus on improving a formula and keeping what was good and including new additions to go with the times is never a bad thing if it is handled well. Halo 5 continues to be the best (and one of the most underlooked) titles on the Xbox One and even in the series. No matter what direction 343 choose to go with Halo next, their continued dedication and improvements to the series have certainly shown them as capable of controlling the series.