‘Halo 5: Guardians’ review

Newest 'Halo' feels uninspired but provides fun multi-player

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Illustration by Linlin Xing

By Chris Mudd, Staff Writer

“Halo 5: Guardians” is 343 Industries’ latest adventure in the long-standing shooter franchise and serves to be, at the very least, a unique departure from the established formula.

The combat element of “Halo” has never been better. Weapons have been defined and given unique identities, helping each feel completely different. Every pull of the trigger feels good and the added element of the boss fight mechanic is a welcome change to what could have easily become a stale and formulaic part of the game. While the campaign does sometimes drag, each combat engagement is a breath of fresh air after a long stretch of standing in front of a non-player character for exposition.

Therein lies my biggest issue with “Halo 5”: the story. It’s not necessarily bad, but the way it’s told seems lazy and uninspired. Granted “Halo” has never been the best at storytelling, but “Halo 5” depends so much on the expanded universe novels to bridge the gaps between “Halo 4” and “Halo 5,” it doesn’t bother to spend any time on character development. Which is a problem, considering the larger cast of characters at play. Even the fan-favorite Buck, played brilliantly by Nathan Fillion, falls into obscurity as the story moves along. 343 Industries expects us to care about characters that the player really has no reason to like and gives less screen time to the people we actually want to see.

Other shooter games have managed to tell compelling stories that don’t get bogged down by characters or action set pieces, such as last year’s “Wolfenstein: The New Order.” A combination of cut-scenes and in-game mechanics walk the player through what feels like an expansive world, but with “Halo 5,” 343 seems to have abandoned any storytelling desire beyond their marketing trailers and opening action scene. It’s particularly upsetting after the Master Chief Collection, released in 2014, proved a decent story can still be told within the shooting game formula.

The added element of squad gameplay is an interesting addition to the franchise. The majority of the game the squad AI are responsive and powerful, although I found myself waiting for them to get around a wall for longer than I would have liked from time to time. It breaks up the action when a character you need simply doesn’t follow you when you tell them to.

Given the inconvenience of the computer-controlled squad members, 343 clearly built the game from the ground up with the idea the player would be playing with three of their friends at all times. It’s certainly a fun possibility, but the majority of people don’t have the time to coordinate with three other friends to get together and play videogames for several hours.

If you’re not looking for immersive storytelling or world-building and are looking for the classic shoot’em-up multiplayer experience, then “Halo 5” is the just the thing. 343 has ramped up the multiplayer experience and the quintessential “Halo” matches feel better than they ever have. It casts a huge shadow on the other games in the franchise and there is no going back.

At the end of the day “Halo 5: Guardians” may be a low point on the story front, but it sets up “Halo 6” as a worthy successor to the franchise. Until then, “Halo 5: Guardians” will have to do.