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Halo 5 Campaign Review

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I don’t know why I bought Halo 5 for launch day. I enjoyed Halo 4 but only for its campaign; I gave the multiplayer and Spartan Ops a few tries but the lack of Xbox Live! Gold meant that lasted a whole two weeks before I never touched it again. I suspect it has to do with my unending search for the next Halo: Reach campaign. That was an excellent and challenging adventure that tackled the Halo fiction from a different angle instead of being another galaxy saving romp.

I finished Halo 5’s campaign in four sittings and while I found it enjoyable in many respects, it left me feeling empty. The story was another one of those “save the galaxy” arcs that the Master Chief was no stranger to. The marketing wanted me to believe Locke was hunting down the Master Chief for disobeying orders but that was nothing more than a minor tiff. I wanted it to be more than a minor moment. I wished we spent more time tracking down the iconic hero and feuded with him. Instead, the situation culminated with a cutscene. Locke cracked the Chief’s visor a smidgen then the two heroes were off chasing down crazed Cortana and her plan for peace through total annihilation.

The decision to move to 60 FPS was the right choice. The game played sublimely and I cannot believe it took six games before they made this decision. Unfortunately, a number of compromises had to be made to maintain the framerate, the expected elevation in graphical fidelity and all the things Halo was known for including its larger scale battles.

343 Industries and Microsoft weren’t going to allow the next big Halo game to make its debut on the Xbox One and not be a looker. While the art direction was top notch, it still couldn’t hide the fact that the game didn’t run at 1080p at all times. It was fine in enclosed areas but when it got hectic in the larger battlefields, I noticed the game was a little bit blurrier than usual.

While the size and scope of the battles was larger than Halo 4’s, it failed to match the larger free flowing battles of earlier instalments. I was fine with this concession though. I’m not playing Halo for its vast worlds. I was looking forward to duelling with Elites and other enemies in moderately sized arenas; it’s the Halo sandbox that I was after. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like the enemy A.I was improved all that much. Disappointingly, Elites and other equivalents weren’t nearly as aggressive or cunning as the ones found in Reach.

The Covenant compensated their lack of Elite ferocity with numbers. The Prometheans continued to teleport around annoyingly like they did in Halo 4. Both employed more power weapons than I could recall. A recurring boss called the Warden livened the encounters at regular intervals with his copious amounts of hit points but instead of making his encounters more interesting through an ever expanded repertoire of tactics, subsequent encounters merely spawned clones of himself. By the end, the Warden reminded me of all those Destiny damage sponges that I found so very boring.

343 Industries took the time to create six characters to team up with Locke and the Master Chief. I liked how they were simply known as Linda and Frederic. They could have gone down the route of making them clones but they didn’t and I appreciated the effort. The last game that had three other A.I companions was Halo: Reach but in that game they didn’t design an encounter that was clearly meant to be tackled with 3 other live companions. The fight with multiple Wardens was a mess of my companions being too distracted to rescue me and the Wardens ganging up on me. It was silly and I don’t want to think about how that fight would be on Legendary difficulty.

I wasn’t against Halo 5’s move to introduce aim down the sights (ADS). I thought they handled it very well in this game; ADS didn’t affect a weapon’s accuracy. The different sight views gave weapons a bit of personality with their elaborate animations and styles. I also commend 343 Industries for their integration of the modern movement system seen in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. I think they did a fantastic job and even outdid Call of Duty in that department. I don’t know if they should go down the path of adding wall runs in future installments but who knows what the future has in store.

I’m trading in Halo 5 for $35 over at my local Bestbuy. I don’t see myself replaying it and I didn’t develop an attachment to it like I did with Halo: Reach. It’s a solid Halo campaign but once I got passed the shift to 60 FPS and got down to it, I was left wanting more out of the game. I wanted the next jump in Halo artificial intelligence and campaign design. I didn’t want another story about how the universe can find peace if it was purged of all that was evil. I found the entire campaign too rote for what’s dubbed “the next big Halo game.” I was lenient with Halo 4 because it was 343 Industries first crack at the franchise. It was a bit formulaic — especially coming after Reach — but they needed to find their footing. I didn’t expect Halo 5 to stick so close to the formula again.

It’s okay

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