*Long exhale* Okay. Be fair. Be critical. Don’t let personal feelings get in the way. I can do all that. Alright. Opening line. Here we go. *Deep breath*
Halo 5: Guardians is the worst video game I’ve ever played.
Fuck! Okay, let’s try that again!
If you’ve been around here for a while, then you know that I love the Halo games. Well, except 4, but that’s beside the point. Growing up, these games were like comfort food. Even now, I’ll still boot them up with my friends and have a good time. Whether we’re playing the multiplayer, a Legendary campaign run, or a LASO run, we can always enjoy Halo.
Not Halo 5. Guardians fails on almost every single level as a Halo game. It completely fails to deliver that energy, that charm and wonder that makes these games great. The campaign is the worst one in the whole series bar none, the multiplayer is bogged down by shitty microtransactions to this day, and you still need an Xbox One to play it!
Thanks to a friend who prefers to go unnamed for lending me theirs, cause god knows I ain’t buying that thing just to review this.
Before I rip this game a new asshole, let’s talk about the things I actually liked! Don’t worry; this won’t take long.
Firstly, the graphics are pretty impressive. The character models are all solid, the environments are gorgeous, and the weapons all look as great as ever. It runs at a solid and smooth framerate from start to end, so no complaints there. Sure, it’s yet another photo-realistic looking game that has none of the somewhat cartoonish charm of the older Halo games. But in terms of pure fidelity, it’s still a fine game.
It also makes a lot of changes with the gameplay that I appreciate. You’ve got the dash move, the dive bomb move, and other abilities like that that give you extra options in combat. They don’t really match the tone and feel of older Halo titles, but I appreciate them trying to innovate; better that than become stagnant.
The multiplayer itself isn’t all that bad either, at least on a gameplay front. All the old Halo game modes are still there and the maps are fine, although a bit too big for my taste. The player base isn’t enormous and it doesn’t have that addictive hook that Halo 2 and 3 had, so it’s not something you’ll want to spend much time on. But if you ignore all the bullshit microtransactions, you can still have a decent time. At least for a bit.
And… yeah, that’s everything. Now to rip this game to fucking pieces.
The story is divided between two characters: Master Chief and a new Spartan, Locke. By which I mean that Locke is the new main character and Chief is also there for a total of 15% of the time. Locke and his team are tasked with bringing in the Master Chief, who has supposedly gone rogue! Meanwhile, Chief and his team pursue a lead hinting that Cortana is still alive! But when she shows her new intentions, it’s up to the two Spartans to stop her!
This. Plot. Does. Not. Work. On. Any. Level. The characters are flat and lifeless; Locke has all the personality of a cardboard box, this game’s version of Chief (cause he ain’t the Chief from the Bungie Halo games) is hardly any better, and the only one aside from them with even a shred of personality is Buck, who is only in this game as a Spartan because the fans like him. The dialogue makes me want to claw my eyes out; it sounds so stiff and robotic that not even the voice actors could make it sound organic. Cortana as a villain does not work no matter which way you slice it; her motivations are confusing and she has no real reason to become ‘evil’ in the first place.
It’s especially annoying when the game tries to have these big dramatic moments. Like when Locke fights Chief. It’s this huge set piece that’s been built up for a hefty chunk of the game. The two exchange four lines of dialogue, the tense and somewhat tragic-sounding music starts to play, and then they duke it out. It lasts all of a minute and a half and I felt nothing but agitation at the fact that Chief didn’t destroy Locke’s ass immediately.
Even on a gameplay front, the campaign is pure misery! This time around, 343 decided to try and copy Borderlands by making it a 4-player co-op game. Rather instead of giving you actual co-op (how could you remove split-screen from Halo?! You think I can get three other idiots to buy an Xbox and this game?!), the game gives you three AI companions. They help you fight, help you get up when you go down, etc. etc.
Except they don’t because the AI is so brain-dead stupid that it makes a snail look like Shakespeare!
And guess what?! All the gameplay flaws of Halo 4 have been carried over into this one! Guns still have far too little ammo and enemies are still way too bulky! Not to mention how it’ll throw waves and waves of enemies at you for waaaaaaaaaay too long practically every mission! Playing this game on Legendary is downright intolerable!
Then there’s the Warden. AKA the single worst enemy in the history of Halo. This dude is not fun to fight in any way, shape, or form. He takes forever to kill, he can kill you in one hit, and he’ll kill your party members in one hit! And you get to fight him upwards of eight times!
Word of advice to aspiring game devs: no player wants to fight a boss any more than twice. At most you can get away with three times, if it’s a good boss.
Okay, so the campaign is awful. But we all knew that already. No one in the world is out here saying that the Halo 5 storyline is any good. With the graphics and the gameplay itself covered, that only leaves a few things. Including one of Halo’s most important aspects: music.
Well, that leads to my next complaint: the music. Halo is legendary for it’s soundtrack. Everyone can hum at least the main theme, even if they don’t know it. But the music in Guardians is just… so generic! It has none of the spark that makes Halo music so memorable! It feels like someone just stuck generic orchestral music onto the game whether it fit stylistically or not! The only music that didn’t immediately vanish from my mind was the few tracks they reused from the Bungie era games!
Now, to wrap things up, we need to talk about the microtransactions. Now, some people will argue that these are just cosmetic, so they aren’t bad. And that you don’t even need to spend money because you can earn all the armor pieces in-game. Therefor, they aren’t affecting your gameplay.
First of all: if it’s in the game, it’s affecting my gameplay. That’s just how video games work. I hate to break that to you. You can’t have a clock with a gear that doesn’t do anything and you can’t have a game where one thing doesn’t affect the gameplay.
Second: yes, you don’t need to spend money and you can earn all the armor just by playing the game. Except that it takes a stupid long time just to earn one piece of armor. The game is banking on you running out of patience and just busting out your wallet to get the piece you want. The grind is tedious and unfulfilling.
Third: I shouldn’t have to spend more money in the game I already spent money on for something as pointless as cosmetics. And yes, I am still going to make that point even though I didn’t spend any money on this game. If the people who did drop cash on this won’t complain, then I will for them.
They probably did. I almost forgot how old this game is now.
*Sigh* Okay. I’m done now. There’s nothing else to be said about Halo 5. At least not from me.
Is this the worst game I’ve ever played? Despite what I claimed with that opening line, no. There are worse games out there. Yes, the campaign is pure suffering and the multiplayer is bogged down by predatory practices. But there are dozens, hundreds of games out there that do the same thing to a much more offensive degree.
But none of those games are Halo. None of those games disappointed me as deeply as Halo did. So I held a grudge against the game for years and probably will continue to do so for years to come. Even if, looking back, I can admit that it wasn’t as bad as I remember.
With that, we’ve reviewed each of the main-line Halo games. What a rollercoaster that was! We went from extreme positivity to extreme negativity!
Now, we’re going to end on a bit of optimism and excitement.
At this point, we still have no idea how Halo Infinite is going to turn out. From what we’ve heard in the press, development has been an absolute nightmare. But from what we’ve seen from various story and gameplay showcases, the game actually looks really solid! It feels like a true Halo game, one reminiscent of the golden days of Bungie!
343 has made it perfectly clear that they’re listening to the fans. They’ve taken all of our feedback into account when making Infinite, as well as in their updates to the Master Chief Collection and even Halo 5! It’s clear that these guys do care and that they’re trying their best. Maybe now, with Infinite, they can finally prove themselves to the fans!
Yes, there are still microtransactions in the multiplayer. Yes, several directors have abandoned the project. Yes, it’s been hammered with numerous delays. Will all of that prove to be the game’s downfall? Or will it prove to be as promising as we hope? We’ll only know when the game finally comes out.
This is Halo’s last chance. If Infinite falls flat on its face, the series could very well see an unfortunate end. There is a lot riding on this next entry.
But for the first time in a very long while, I have hope for Halo.