REVIEW: Multiplayer sizzles, campaign fizzles in Halo 5

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A renegade Master Chief and the return of Cortana can't salvage a haphazard story mode for Halo 5, but the multiplayer modes are excellent. | Image courtesy of 343 Industries

A renegade Master Chief and the return of Cortana can’t salvage a haphazard story mode for Halo 5, but the multiplayer modes are excellent. | Image courtesy of 343 Industries

It’s clear 343 Industries prioritized perfection of the multiplayer experience in Halo 5: Guardians, and the result is a competitive mode that is certainly one of the best, if not the best, in the series.

The story mode, however, seems to be a throwaway campaign.

For all the epic battle scenes and fantastic graphics treatment Halo 5‘s campaign has, its actual story line falls far short of Halo 4‘s soft-spoken but dramatic storytelling.

The much-anticipated title, which comes out a few hours from now, takes a back-to-basics approach to combat with a few additions to enhance the melee side of the experience. Movement is aided by a burst trigger to push the player quickly in any direction, and the shoulder charge adds a fun twist for fans of charging in guns blazing. Having some compatriots to revive you during battles is helpful, too, though your AI-controlled team members are often painfully dumb.

For all the epic battle scenes and fantastic graphics treatment Halo 5‘s campaign has, its actual story line falls far short of Halo 4‘s soft-spoken but dramatic storytelling. The structure of Halo 5‘s edition of this epic is disjointed, and its attempts at creating tension fail. The plot flatlines early on after a fistfight between Spartan Locke, the soldier chasing Master Chief, and Spartan 117 himself. It’s set up as an intense scene with high stakes, but much like most of the game, comes off as amateurish and ultimately ineffectual.

Cortana, a beloved, complicated character, picks up some inexplicable naïveté in Halo 5, and missions that include only conversations with non-playable characters and no shooting don’t serve much of a purpose other than to raise questions that are never answered — the main one being why 343 included these missions in the first place. All in all, with collection of in-game extras, the campaign will take anywhere from 15 to 20 hours to complete: short, but not very sweet.

Despite its shortcomings, the story mode does fill gaps in the Halo lore that set up for a dramatic sequel. It’s also easy to feel compassion for the characters, especially Locke and the rest of Team Osiris. Their mixed feelings over chasing Master Chief and his companions is palpable throughout, and that drama overpowers even that of Chief’s struggles while searching for Cortana.

The Forerunners play a large role in Halo 5's story mode and serve as the catalyst for Cortana's return. | Image courtesy of 343 Industries

The Forerunners play a large role in Halo 5’s story mode and serve as the catalyst for Cortana’s return. | Image courtesy of 343 Industries

The multiplayer, though, makes this a game worth picking up for PvP fans.

Warzone is unlike any game mode ever drawn up for Halo. Like many games with multiplayer components these days, the mode draws on multiplayer online battle arena gameplay and pits competitors against other players as well as a slew of AI enemies. It’s intense, fast-paced and more fun than I’ve had in games built just for that purpose — Titanfall comes to mind.

The rest of the multiplayer modes found in Arena are also worthwhile, and the combat is fluid throughout. Each player starts with the assault rifle and pistol, reminiscent of early Halo editions, instead of working heavily with loadouts. This makes fights for sniper rifles, rocket launchers and other game-changing weapons, a good part of the tug-of-war that is multiplayer. After about 15 hours between Arena and Warzone, we can say PvP offers a complete experience unlike any other Halo.

That experience, however, doesn’t make up for a lack of sound storytelling in the single-player component of the game. Halo 5‘s campaign is serviceable, but it’ll need the same type of focus the multiplayer mode had in this rendition from 343 Industries. Competitive multiplayer fans won’t be able to put this game down. Fans of the story and Halo lore, however, will have to balance out the often-poor dialogue and structure with some pretty epic battlescapes and revamped enemies.

RATING: 7.5/10

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