Halo remains the best competitive first-person shooter

By Grant Meyer l @GrantMeyerDe l Daily Egyptian

The Master Chief would be proud of this worthy addition to the prestigious sci-fi franchise.

“Halo 5: Guardians” is the latest entry in the highly-acclaimed Halo series and 343 Industries’ third game since taking over the reins from Bungie in 2010. Halo is the Xbox’s flagship franchise.

343 Industries had a mountain to climb when it came to this game. Their last two entries were great, but changed the formula too much or had technical issues that hurt the brand. Fortunately, 343 Industries succeeded in creating another great Halo game.

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The story features Spartan super-soldiers Jameson Locke and the iconic Master Chief. The Master Chief commands his childhood friends, named Blue Team, and Locke is in charge of Team Osiris, an un-tested group of highly-skilled soldiers. In the process of defending humanity from threats, the Master Chief goes rogue in pursuit of a VIP and Locke is sent to track him down.

The campaign is playable in four player co-op with every player taking the role of a different Spartan depending on which team is available. If playing solo, the extra Spartans are controlled by the computer.

The premise has promise, but the storyline is the weakest of the series. Despite their interesting backstories, none of the new characters are fleshed out and the ending clearly was designed to set up Halo 6. It certainly gets people pumped for the next game, but there is no closure and almost nothing gets resolved. The ending is particularly poor because it feels cheap attempting to be emotional and hurts the story of “Halo 4” by diminishing its narrative impact.

However, gameplay makes up for the weak story and, as expected, is unparalleled in the first-person shooter genre. The variability is second to none as players combine the different guns, environments, movement and vehicles.

To freshen the experience, two new ways to move around the environment were added. The first is clambering, which allows players to climb up ledges. The other addition is the thruster pack and it allows a player to dash quickly across a short distance. Neither of these new abilities seems like much, but they make a big difference when traversing and fighting in the game’s environments, creating the smoothest Halo game to date.

New abilities were added to the toolset. There is the Spartan Charge, a stronger melee attack granted to the player after sprinting for a specified duration, and the Ground Pound, which allows the player to jump in the air then hurl themselves at the ground for a devastating smash.

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Multiplayer was the biggest hurdle 343 Industries had to tackle. Fortunately, the multiplayer is spectacular and the best in the genre since 2010’s “Halo: Reach.”

Multiplayer shines in the arena category. Classic Halo modes such as Slayer, Swat and Free-For-All are located here as well as the new modes Breakout and Team Arena. Team Arena rotates between three classic modes: Slayer, Capture the Flag and Strongholds. Meanwhile, Breakout is a round-based mode where players only get one life per round.

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REQ points, a virtual currency, are awarded for playing the game. The points can purchase REQ packs, which contain anything from weapons to new, customizable armor. Unfortunately, the rewards given are completely random. Even if a player has a desired armor piece or weapon in mind, they will have to get lucky enough to get it from a REQ pack, which creates unrewarding gameplay.

Warzone is the new, featured multiplayer mode. This pits two teams against each other in a massive battle to see who can reach 1,000 points the quickest. To spice it up, computer-controlled enemies will appear during the match at random intervals, creating a chaotic and fun three-way battle. The mode has some balance issues, and it can be hard to come back from a deficit, but the game is enjoyable and a good starting point for more laid-back players.

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The multiplayer’s few issues are because of odd tweaks to traditional gameplay mechanics and map variety. The classic motion tracker’s range being is so limited, it hardly feels useful at all. Another problem is the lower quantity of power weapons on every map, which creates less gameplay variety.

There is a distinct lack of game modes compared to previous “Halo” entries. Since “Halo 3” in 2007, there has always been another mode in addition to campaign and multiplayer such as Forge, Firefight or Spartan Ops, but “Halo 5: Guardians” only has two. 343 Industries said they will add Forge Mode in the future, which will allow the creation of extra maps, as well as the classic multiplayer mode Big Team Battle.

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Overall, “Halo 5: Guardians” is a fantastic game and worthy of the name, but still does not reach — no pun intended — the bar set by Bungie.

Score 4.5 out of 5

Grant Meyer can reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @GrantMeyerDE

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