Halo 5 review
Developer: 343 Industries
Platform: Xbox One
Say what you want about Master Chief but I've always been a fan of the Halo series' green-suited protagonist. He's instantly at home on the frontlines of any battle, the strong silent type that's at his best when he's dishing out the pain up close, letting his actions do the talking.
It's perhaps convenient that Halo 5 is similar, better in the thick of it than actually trying to say anything meaningful. The moment to moment combat is amongst the best you'll find on Microsoft's big black box, but many of the new additions are jarring, perhaps none more-so than Spartan Locke, who fills in on protagonist duties for much of the game, with Master Chief just a recurring character in his own saga.
The three missions when you control Master Chief feel like greeting an old friend, you charge about with the Chief and his old friends, Blue Team. Their short knowing responses and those familiar green hands are comforting, but for many of the games 15 missions these are snatched away and replaced with Locke and his merry band of rookies, including Nathan Fillion.
Unlike the other games, here you're always in a 4 man fireteam, and they're generally useful except for when they decide not to revive you because there's a grunt 300 metres away that needs a fresh lead injection.
The missions are all pretty solid although are just a series of engagements one after another - this is rather the point of an FPS and when the alternate is Halo: Conversation Evolved as you walk around a hub level trying to talk to different people / listen to conversations, I was always happy to be in the thick of it.
It feels a good length too - I finished it on Heroic in around 8-9 hours and didn't feel cheated - although there were 2-3 moments that were spectacularly tricky and had me yelling at the controller through repeated retries. As I was playing on a harder difficulty, this isn't really anything to be alarm about either.
The addition of verticality immediately sings. New mechanics like a jetpack and mantling means there's a Y-axis to the combat, which allows you to pick off enemies with ease from above, while your teammates battle below. Unfortunately, the AI can't keep up with the game and level design, and most enemies seem unable to comprehend how to deal with your airborne assault.
The few enemies that can are the ones that are annoying because of all of the armour strapped to them. It's the Prometheans that are most guilty of this, taking several rounds to their robotic heads to bring them down. Oftentimes early in the campaign, fighting them felt like a slog and although this got easier later as I got the hang of it, there were a series of boring encounters early on.
By and large though, it's a solid campaign, despite the abrupt ending - a symptom of Halo 5's status as the middle child of 343's Halo trilogy. It's impossible to say right now whether the plot is needlessly convoluted or just a stepping stone on the path to greatness. Right now, it feels a little ridiculous but the characterisation is solid and the cutscenes are skippable if you decide not to worry about the story. No one will judge.