For a certain generation of gamers, Halo defined the first-person shooter. The original groundbreaking games inspired hours of obsession. Halo 5: Guardians doesn’t live up to all of those nostalgic standards, but it introduces enough new magic to relight the passion.
Halo prides itself on its lore, and Guardians promised a thrilling narrative in its pre-release marketing. But while the eight-hour campaign is fun to play and boasts plenty of replay potential with four-player co-op, the story feels numb. Anybody new to the series will be lost, and even casual fans may need a refresher by the end.
But it’s hard to care about the story when the game plays this good. Halo 5 is a dream in motion. The acts of driving, jumping, and popping off shots feel intuitive and sharp. New mobility enhancements and the ability to aim down the iron sights of any weapon make for satisfying combat that shines brightest in multiplayer.
This is a pure Halo experience. Most game modes are back for Guardians, and there’s a great set of game maps. You’ll pick up new guns, mow down foes in vehicles, and keep watch for weapon spawns to get the upper edge. A few fan-favorite modes aren’t available at launch (namely Infection, Forge, and Big Team Battle), but the biggest loss is split-screen multiplayer. My favorite Halo memories all involve a couch full of friends, and it’s a shame those won’t happen again with Guardians.
The most ambitious addition is Warzone, a 12-on-12 multiplayer mode that introduces multiple objectives in a massive team battle. It’s a race to 1,000 points that can be earned by killing enemy players, taking down bosses, or capturing control points. With so many variables in play, it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had in Halo multiplayer.
Weapon and vehicle spawns are where things get tricky in Warzone. Rather than have them scattered throughout the map, players spend cards to spawn in their gun, vehicle, or boost of choice. It adds stress to each respawn, as you know the tide could be turned with the use of a few rare cards. These can be bought in packs for either real money or in-game currency, which is plentiful. Within a few games I felt like I had too many cards, though I could see dedicated players feeling the need to pay. The cards don’t break Warzone, but they do hold it back.
Guardians is a return to style for the Halo franchise. The core gameplay has never felt better, and it looks stylish as hell. While some core elements are sorely missed, the highs it hits will make you fall in love all over again.