Even alone, Halo 5’s campaign feels warmly familiar, even in the sexy new cinematic…
After skipping out on the remakes of last year, it’d been sometime since I’d played anything new in the Halo Universe. Last week I got a chance to go hands-on with Halo 5: Guardians pre-release, I was worried that my modest skills with the game were gone. Now that I’ve played through two chapters of Halo 5’s campaign, I can say I slipped back into the game’s single player rhythms fairly easily, whether playing as Master Chief or his new frenemy, Locke.
Quick rundown if you haven’t kept up with it all. Halo 5:: Guardians picks up where Halo 4 left off, with Chief in a weird, Cortana-less place mentally, and it appears he and the squad, Blue Team, have gone rogue. Locke, introduced in Halo: Nightfall and backed up by The Arbiter, is leading Fireteam Osiris in his search for Chief. The campaign is split following the two groups, and they head all over the universe, including a Covenant spacecraft and the Covenant’s home world, which were the two areas I played.
Master Chief’s section came first, with him walking the corridors of a massive Covenant structure, in search of some mysterious stuff, but mainly finding a bunch of alien fools looking to get blasted. The mix of wide open spaces and tight corridors gave me room to find my bearings with the action, and while there were new weapons and enemies hanging around, the flow of combat was inviting in its familiarity. The lengthy campaign chapter even made room for a sizable chunk of vehicle and flight portions in outer space.
I was falling back into routines burned into my brain back on the first Xbox. I was swapping out weapons, reloading, tossing grenades while backpedaling from a fight that was going south, and praying that my AI comrades would be good enough to cover my ass while my shield respawned. Of course, this stage seemed built more with smart AI companions and four player action in mind, because there was definitely ample space to try out the new squad commands available for Chief to order around the NPC spartans.
The storytelling of the stage also shifted a bit with Blue Team’s constant involvement. In the past, Master Chief could be pretty silent unless chatting with Cortana – I wouldn’t call him verbose now, but he does have more pals around to chat about a mission or how scary some Elite was. In the mission I played, it had a nice way of softening John-117’s edges.
When it was time to head into Locke’s mission, the difficulty definitely amped up, but that’s to be expected when this chapter is in the game’s second half. After Chief’s journey in space, the bright outdoor shootouts of Locke’s Osiris team was a big difference. The barren rocks made for a great grunt shooting range, and the massive skies were a perfect spot to watch Covenant ships blast one another – don’t make my mistake and get killed while marveling at the huge cannons on the ships.
The biggest section of Locke’s map may have been the most challenging, but it also reminded me of one of my favorite parts of a Halo campaign map. There was such care into the architecture, enemy layout, and weapon placement that there were so many different paths to take in clearing a map. Searching for new paths were usually rewarded – attempting a jump on a rock you think you could reach paid off in placing you directly behind that annoying turret operator that wouldn’t stop blasting you and your team.
In a positive way, my couple hours with Halo 5: Guardians campaign felt like meeting back up with an old friend, albeit one that now runs at 60fps. Even if you plan on avoiding the game’s expansive online features – though why would you – what’s seen in story missions is a promising addition to the series. I don’t know if I’ll be ready to play Halo 5 on Heroic come October 27, but I definitely think I’ll have a good time with the action all the same.