Halo 5 is out tomorrow and with it we will get to continue the story of Master Chief and his search for Cortana. This entry into the series not only brings back the return of some of John-117's team from his training days in reach, but also introduces Team Osiris.
Halo 4 left us at the end of the fight against the Diadact. This fight not only concluded with the death of the Diadact and the destruction of the Composer, but also the death of Cortana. Chief was found in space debris and returned to the Infinity. The story then really concluded at the end of the episodic Spartan Ops with Dr Halsey defecting to Jul 'mdama, the right hand of the Diadact. With Chief beginning his search for Cortana, and Team Osiris being ordered to initially recover Halsey, that's where Halo 5 picks up.
The story in Halo 5 not only goes through Chief's journey, but takes us deeper into the Halo universe. In previous entries of the series, the story would revolve around Chief and his solo crusade into the most dangerous situation he can manage. In Halo 5 you get to not only explore strange worlds but even get involved in local politics on a planet that's being brought back from the brink of destruction. This increase in depth of the story not only shows the scope of the game that 343 Industries was going for but also shows the build up for how much larger they want the consequence of this game and future games to be. No longer are you just tied to the conversations between Chief, Cortana, and the few soldiers he interacts with, but a full cast of characters.
The problem, though, with a lot of those characters is that there is very little development. For the players who have read the book, you already know a fair bit about Fred, Kelly, and Linda, but for players who haven't had an urge to read into John's origins, then you will find their characters confusing. It is the same case for most of Team Osiris too as Locke and Buck have a history familiar to the fans, but Vale and Tanaka only show up in a book or two issues of a comic. Aside from idle dialogue or barking mission objectives, we don't learn much about the rest of team Osiris. All in all, learning less about these other characters doesn't detract from the experience but makes you feel less attached to your team mates.
Being the first Halo game built entirely from the ground up, the one thing you can say for sure is that Halo 5 is pretty, displaying in a beautiful "whatever the game needs" and 60 FPS with thanks to a variable resolution system. This system means that normally the game will play in 1080p/60fps, but when too much begins to happen the resolution will dynamically scale to accomodate instead of the FPS taking a hit. All throughout playing, though, if there was any loss of resolution it was not noticed; my assumption is that this lowering of resolution was hidden in other effects, such as motion blur. The amount of work that was put into all of the different locations during the campaign missions and on multiplayer maps show just how much thought and effort was put into them. Every location you're on looks like what it's meant to be, and it helps you feel further involved in the game as you play.
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The soundtrack for Halo 5 is every part of what you want in a Halo soundtrack. The background music is never one to take over from the action nor is it quiet and unheard in the background, but it does everything to enhance the experience for the player. The soundtrack itself was released for free on SoundCloud last week, so if you do want to experience the soundtrack for yourself then you can, perhaps while reading a Halo 5 Review. In game sound effects are just as on point as the soundtrack—every shot you fire, boost used, and grunt assassination you perform can be heard perfectly. This goes equally for all of the dialogue that occurs in the game too. If you have team members talking through comms, a character looking at you talking, or you're in the middle of a battle giving directions, everything can be heard above background noises.
Halo 5 is built to be a lot more like traditional shooters, while also giving its own spin on the way that sets it apart. Some new features of the controls of Halo include the ability to aim down the sights (ADS) of all of your weapons, a clamber feature to aid in scaling to new heights, and your thruster pack which can be used in a variety of situations. Through testing of weapon damage and spread of ADS versus traditional Halo sighting, there seems to be next to no difference. This means that the ADS is purely cosmetic, but for traditional shooter fans it might be more comforting to them to use it while taking on opponents. The clamber feature is used quite frequently as it can add a sense of verticality to almost every mission and map that you play in Halo 5. More often than not, if you want to get from point A to point B across a map, there are plenty of different ways to get there and not just paths side by side but also up and down. The thruster pack also aids in this added movement as you can cross larger gaps than before by boosting out or even evade enemy fire or an oncoming warthog by boosting out of the way.
The multiplayer of Halo 5 is one aspect of the game that has changed quite a lot with new game modes, ranking systems, as well as a new reward system. The first of the multiplayer game modes is Arena. Arena is your traditional multiplayer, but with Halo 5's push towards competitive Halo, most modes are team based, with each team comprising of four spartans. During the pre-release period, a playlist was available in Arena that had the following gametypes: CTF, Slayer, Strongholds, Swat, Swatnums and Breakout. CTF, Slayer, and Swat should all be pretty farmiliar to Halo fans, where as Swatnums is just Swat using Magnums, so nothing too different there.
The new game modes are Strongholds and Breakout. In Strongholds three capture points appear on the map that you need to claim for your team. Once your team has possession of at least two, then you start gaining points. The trick comes from maintaining your control while also trying to steal all your opponents bases. This game mode is one that might be a bit difficult to new players, especially if they aren't going for the objective. This game mode could easily be a landslide victory or close till the last minute.
Breakout is an interesting game mode, as it forces you to be a lot more tactical in your play style. Each team is able to score a point by either picking up and planting a flag in their goal or by killing all the enemy Spartans—each spartan is also only given one life per round. Once a team has scored a point, then the game resets and it is the first to 5 points. This game mode is extremely fast and fun to play, and due to the fast reset can have the scores change around extremely quickly if you're not paying attention. People who are familiar with other competitive FPS games shouldn't be too out of the loop with any of these game modes as they are all variants of gametypes they're used to.
Warzones is a whole new beast, offering a strange twist on the big team battle style of game mode. Depending on what map you get in Warzones, your objective will be different, but some aspects will remain the same. The first mode is the traditional Warzone, where two teams of Spartans will drop into a large map and fight it out over three different bases. The point of this mode is to get to 1000 points by completing a series of tasks, including maintaining dominance on the bases, killing enemy Spartans, and killing high value targets. These targets are different groupings of Covenant or Promethian troops that will randomly spawn into the world.
The second game mode is called Fight for the Core. In this mode you will be either in an attacking or defending team. This mode plays a lot like the Invasion game mode from Halo: Reach, where you need to successfully capture a point and then move onto the next in a set time limit. If the defending team is able to stop you from capturing a point in the time limit though, then they win. Warzones seems to combine aspects of Big Team Battle and Strongholds with the added AI controlled bosses in Warzone and the set up of Invasion for Fight for the Core.
What can make Warzones really interesting is when you call in REQs, but before I explain that I need to give background. REQs are cards obtained from REQ packs. You can get REQ packs by either purchasing them for REQ points, or you can get them when you reach certain levels of commendations. REQ points are earned from completing Arena or Warzone matches; you get REQ points based on how well you did in the round. In my experience I've been getting up to 1000 REQ points per Arena match and up to 2000 in Warzones. There was one game of Warzones where I was able to get over 3,000 REQ points though, so points a game is all over the place, but you are still getting a lot.
The REQ packages that you're able to purchase are 10,000 REQ for Gold, 5,000 REQ for Silver and 1,250 REQ for Bronze. There are a variety of different cards that can come out of a REQ pack; consumable cards of weapons or vehicles, Armor boosts, exp and REQ gain boosts, emblems, armor pieces, weapon skins, stances, and assassination types. The higher level pack you purchase the more cards you get and the better your chance is to get something good. The only REQ cards you're able to use in the Arena mode are boosts for experience and REQ point gain, as well as cosmetics, such as weapon skins and armor customization.
In Warzones as the match progresses, your available REQ point cap increases. This bar fills up by completing objectives and scoring kills, not just by you but also from your team. As your point cap becomes available, you can spend those REQ points to buy armor boosts, power weapons, or vehicles to use in battle. Once you've spent the points, your cap will continue to increase, but you must wait for a cooldown time to use spent points again. The stronger the weapon or vehicle you want, the more points it will cost, so that near the start of a battle you'll be able to use a mongoose, but if you want to use a wraith or anything stronger, you'll need to save up. Calling in REQs can be a great way to sway the tide of battle by calling in a quick Scorpion tank, but when the other team calls in REQs too, the battle can get hectic fast.
While it might seem overly complicated on paper, the REQ system makes sense as soon as you have five minutes to play with it yourself.
There is one big negative of the multiplayer that has also been sold as quite a large positive, and that is the promise that you will never jump into a multiplayer match that is halfway done. While that sounds great, that you will always get to influence a battle from the very start, if you're already playing a game and someone drops out, it leaves you at a disadvantage. With no one being able to join mid-match, it means that you're now three against four with no chance of getting a fourth. This then becomes even worse when a player on your team might find the outcome hopeless and decide to leave as well. Getting left in a Swat match two against four with one player AFK is not a fun situation to end up in. There are also penalties in place for players who repeatedly leave matches or suffer from frequent disconnects, so hopefully the chance of punishment will keep people from leaving matches too frequently.
Halo 5 isn't just the next step in the story for Master Chief, it has become the next step for the Halo Universe. The development of this game has also shown just how much 343 Industries has been working on making Halo 4, 5, and 6 their own connected trilogy. If Halo 4 was meant to be background and setting up, then Halo 5 brought all the fast paced story and action. Where 343 Industries was also trying to build a competitive shooter with 4, they've done a fantastic job with PvP in Halo 5. Halo 5 is a game build for fans of the lore of Halo just as much as for fans of the multiplayer experience.
Halo 5 was provided to TechRaptor by the developer.