The cooperative single-player campaign mode
Team Osiris in Halo 5: Guardians.

Above: Team Osiris in Halo 5: Guardians.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Other games have moved to four-player co-op in campaigns, and here it serves the same purpose. You can play with your friends and come away with a very different experience. It becomes a lot easier to deal with challenging levels and dispatch tough enemies via flanking. To make life difficult for co-op players, enemy characters such as the Hunters have been redesigned to be smarter and more nimble. So it takes multiple players to take the enemies down.

On the flip side, sometimes your comrades will take the tough enemies out for you, leaving you with nothing to do. If you sum it up, co-op brings a new kind of experience that was much needed in the single-player campaign.

A single, satisfying Scorpion tank mission

The Scorpion tank is a powerful vehicle, and that’s why 343 is always reluctant to over-use it. But when you get to drive the big tank around and take out powerful enemies with a shot or two, it”s very satisfying. The mission comes late enough in the game where you can dish back at powerful enemies who have been making your life difficult in the earlier missions. Exacting revenge with the Scorpion on a landscape where you can take some very long shots gives you that happy feeling of shooting fish in a barrel. But the level is difficult, as the enemies throw every kind of vehicle at you, from mortar tanks to Ghosts.

Driving the tank around makes you too powerful. That’s why there’s usually just one tank mission in a campaign. But I’m happy they included it. The Scorpion tank is really part of the power fantasy that you are a supersoldier who can wreak havoc across the video game’s landscape.

Some very difficult boss battles

The Kraken warship is one of the big boss obstacles in Halo 5: Guardians.

Above: The Kraken warship is one of the big boss obstacles in Halo 5: Guardians.

Image Credit: Microsoft

I had a tough time with some of the big firefights in Halo 5. In one, you had no choice but to stage a frontal assault against a well-entrenched Covenant position. It took me a number of tries to get through it, and I wouldn’t have survived without the help of A.I. squad mates. This was a pleasant surprise for a Halo game. After playing so many Halo games over the years, I need new challenges to keep from getting bored.

The presence of these boss characters makes the fighting more difficult in the later levels. And it gets exceedingly difficult when you find there are multiple boss characters in the same battle arena. That means you can no longer take on the bosses in an aggressive way. You have to attack, run away, and then close in for another opportunity. You also have to spend more time reviving wounded co-op Spartans, or being revived yourself.

When you fight these characters, it becomes a lot easier if you have the right weapon and access to ammo. If you don’t have the right weapon, you may have to repeat the difficult missions over and over again. This makes the game more challenging and satisfying when you finally beat it. And that makes the game fresh.

What you won’t like

Halo 5: Guardian's Warthog.

Above: Halo 5: Guardian’s Warthog.

Image Credit: Microsoft

There’s no really good Warthog mission

With the addition of co-op play, it makes sense to add two-player vehicles. But the Warthog — which can fit three characters in a single vehicle in the form of a driver, a side passenger, and a gunner — is the perfect vehicle for this campaing. But there aren’t enough chances to use the Warthog to the fullest, and that’s a mistake. I did enjoy the addition of a big Mech vehicle that enables you to become very powerful, so long as the enemy doesn’t wear down your armor.

But the Warthog is faster and gives you much more of a sense of freedom. When you fight with the Warthog, you feel like you’re in a larger open world. That’s a feeling I really missed. I drove a Warthog for a short time, but it wasn’t a critical piece of the game, as it was back in the original Halo game.

It needs more variety

The game designers have a lot to work with. They have a wide variety of enemy types, including Covenant, the Forerunners, and new kind of bosses. You also have different combat styles when switching from Master Chief to Spartan Locke. The levels have more vertical combat than they have had in the past. But across the dozen or so hours of fighting in the single-player campaign, you get a lot of shampoo, rinse, and repeat. The boss battles and the artificially-built arenas of the final chapters of the game are extremely repetitive. And that could make you feel like you’re playing a video game, not immersed in a fictional world. Even veteran players might be tempted to drop the controller in the final chapters.

The team characters don’t add to the story

Team Osiris in Halo 5: Guardians.

Above: Team Osiris in Halo 5: Guardians.

Image Credit: Microsoft

On another front, the game’s four-person co-op structure introduces more characters. But these characters aren’t fleshed out. Locke’s Team Osiris consists of Buck, Vale, and Tanaka. And while these characters are pulled from the fiction of the Halo universe, they might as well not have any names. They aren’t used to the fullest, and it’s easy to confuse them, as they’re all just wearing Spartan armor. There’s a moment in the showdown between Master Chief and Spartan Locke where the team members could come into the story in a bigger way. They don’t.

A story that is hard to follow and hard to buy

I counted the times I either didn’t understand what was happening or when I didn’t buy what was happening because it was so unbelievable. It was pretty high. As noted, Master Chief becomes a bad guy, and it’s up to Spartan Locke to hunt the hero down. Because you play Spartan Locke for some missions and Master Chief for others, you gain knowledge about each character’s intentions. So you realize that what these two really need to do is get together and have a nice talk. They are not getting along because they’re not talking to each other, or their leaders are not talking to each other.

The emergence of a new kind of enemy also had me confused. I won’t spoil that part, but it’s another part of the story that just didn’t make sense. The bad part? The story ends as a cliffhanger, and that means we’re going to get a lot more of it in future Halo games. You don’t really get a resolution or explanation of the whole Locke-versus-Chief story, and that’s pretty annoying.

No split-screen

This version of co-op play is a lot more fun with four players fighting. But they’re all connected via Xbox Live, and have their own dedicated TVs with unique points of view for the different Spartans. No longer can you play in the same room with another player on a split-screen on a single TV. Some players are going to miss that.

The enemy has the best weapons

One of the tougher bosses in Halo 5: Guardians.

Above: One of the tougher bosses in Halo 5: Guardians.

Image Credit: Microsoft

As much as I know the weapons of the Spartans well, I pretty much had to fire them until I ran out of ammo and then ditched them for the enemy’s weapons. Since there always a lot of dead enemies, finding enough ammo for commandeered weapons was never a problem. But the Forerunner in particular had some of the best weapons, like the Scattershot shotgun, the giant sniper gun, and the trusty plasma cannon. You would think that humanity would have learned. But it means that you face tough enemies, steal their weapons, find lots of ammo, and then repeat. It gets a little old.

In Arena mode, it’s easy to blame the loser

While I liked the new Arena mode’s breakout sessions, there was one aspect I didn’t like. If you are the weakest player on a team, that fact can become painfully evident. In the single-death matches, where you can’t be revived, a team depends on every player for victory. If one player is weak and gets killed all of the time, that’s going to become pretty obvious. And it will be easy to get mad at the loser.


Master Chief in Halo 5: Guardians

Above: Master Chief in Halo 5: Guardians

Image Credit: Microsoft

The Halo narrative is at its best when it brings home the supreme sacrifice of the soldiers who fight to save humanity. In Halo: Reach, the story didn’t involve Master Chief, but we did see Spartans sacrificing themselves for the greater good. In Halo 4, Cortana made the choice of giving herself up in order to save the universe. You had this growing feeling of tragedy as the human race loses its battle with vastly superior enemies.

That’s the kind of story about Master Chief that I like. He knows what the odds are, and he keeps attacking anyway, taking the fight to enemy. Instead, we get a story about betrayal and an ultimate showdown. But that showdown isn’t that satisfying, and it’s not even what Microsoft promised in some of its earlier commercials. I was disappointed because I expected something really significant to happen in the ending, and all I got was a cliffhanger.

The saving grace of this game is multiplayer. I love the Warzone combat and hope to work my way up to Arena, where the pros play.

Score: 83/100.

Microsoft provided us with a copy of the Xbox One game for the purpose of this review. 

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