Halo – Still got it after all these years

It’s no secret that I’m a Halo fan.  Hell, my wedding ring is a Halo!

As far as Halo games go, I’ve played them all.  Most of the campaigns have been finished multiple times, and all of them on Legendary.  Beyond that, I’ve spent countless hours playing multiplayer, either online or LAN’s between bedrooms at home.

It isn’t something I play too often these days.  But I like to dip back in now and then, and see how it feels after the plethora of modern shooters that I play.

Playing the original Halo games through the Master Chief Collection, you see how the genre has moved on, although there’s still loads of fun to be had there, too.

Halo 5 however, keeps up with the modern standards and expectations, whilst maintaining what it takes to be a Halo game.  That’s pretty bloody impressive if you ask me!


Maintaining an identity

Yeah, it’s probably quite easy to see when a game looks like Halo.  The armour, the vehicles, the weapons.  All tried and tested, and embedded in the rich lore of the world in which Master Chief et al inhabit.

But beyond the visual aesthetic, there’s a whole host of detail that make Halo, well…….Halo.

Traditionally the experience is a non-recoil, full-screen zoom, floaty space soldier with some great locales.  The sounds.  Oh man, the sticky grenade as it’s about to blow, or a fuel rod cannon firing off.  What about a Wraith tank firing off and that oh so familiar ghost-boost, and the rockets fired from a Banshee?

See, it’s not just looks, it’s sounds, it’s how it all “feels”.

Halo 5 captures this, but then it drags it into the modern world with the faster pace (thanks to 4’s added sprint), and additional non-standard multiplayer gametypes.

Beyond that (I’ll come back to those in a minute), there’s a better control scheme, so you’re not accidentally lobbing grenades when trying to aim down a scope, or melee an enemy.

If you go back to a Halo game (1,2 or 3), it definitely feels like Halo, but it feels old and slower-paced.  We live in the world of rapid-pace twitch-shooters, where speed and skill are intertwined.

Honestly, playing Halo 5 now feels like a modern shooter, but it feels like a Halo game of old, at the same time. No mean feat!

Sure, I’d guess that purists would say it’s isn’t “proper”, or that 343 have pandered to a wider audience (well, yeah……..that’s true).  Fact is, the market has shifted, gameplay styles and standards have changed, and we’re going along for the ride.  All the while, still getting a Warthog, or a Mongoose (gungoose for life!).


Modern multiplayer, old-school stylings

This isn’t about the campaign, this is about the fantastic multiplayer. I’m still playing and enjoying Halo in 2018. It’s fresh and relevant and still has that core essence that maintains the identity of such a long standing franchise.

I dipped into the “Festive Fiesta” playlist and found myself feeling as good as I did when playing capture the flag on Blood Gulch. Or Team SWAT, keeping that rapid, intense DMR/Battle Rifle/Pistol headshotathon.

Everything is still as good as it always was. But there’s more to it now.

Warzone. I had no clue that Halo needed anything bigger than my favourite, Big Team Battle. But here we are.

A hybrid of king of the hill and big team battle. Fighting to take over as many points on a map, as you can. Keeping them in your control, whilst advancing, and hopefully taking down the shields of the enemy base.

AI allies help defend zones, and you and your human teammates take to the maps as best you can. Initially fending off AI enemies to clear-out the buildings you need to inhabit. Then, that’s it, time to advance, and defend at the same time.

Struggling to make headway with your default loadout? No worries, you have requisitions! The better you do, the higher level REQs you can unlock. Suddenly you can equip yourself with a shotgun, or a rocket launcher, maybe even a sniper or a Scorpion tank (assuming you have the relevant cards to use).

Suddenly there’s this frenetic back and forth on a massive map, with constant battle. Always pushing forward, always defending. The winning team is determined by scoring 1000 points.

This can be done through captures and kills. Or when enemy AI like Elites and Hunters are spawned in as high-value targets, you can earn big points from your team getting the kill.

Potentially, there’s always someone around the corner, or sniping from afar. You think you’ve got those points in the bag from that Elite? Not necessarily! Some distant sniper or above-head banshee strike for that killing blow. All that work grinding down their health, for nothing.

Warzone isn’t the bread and butter of the Halo multiplayer, but damn…….it’s one hell of an addition. I’m a massive fan.


The downsides…..

Keeping up with the modern shooter, seems to also mean adding microtransactions. Yep……we earn and unlock the cool requisitions and end up with loads of cool stuff to bust out. But why bother? We can buy these packs with real money!

That’s potentially letting people buy rare/high-powered items and use them in-game against people who might not have earned much yet.

Ok, it’s a one-use item, and you don’t just get a tank at the beginning of a round. So it isn’t pay-to-win, but it does seem like pay-to-get a leg-up.

There’s no requirement to buy this stuff, not at all. But it’s easily done, and it seems like it provides a slight upper hand.

The costs are pretty high, too!

Still, there’s enough potential to earn new packs, it isn’t a game-breaker. Just a shame to see Halo lower itself to that part of the modern shooter, too.


So much fun

The best part about the evolving Halo is that it keeps everything that makes it Halo, it keeps everything that makes it fun, and then it’s tightens it all up and it sits (in my opinion) head and shoulders above the rest of the market.

It doesn’t get the love it deserves, thanks in-part to the campaign and story that people just didn’t enjoy. But Halo 5 is as good as any Halo, if not better in some respects, especially on the multiplayer front.

Sure, I play the original trilogy online from time to time, and yeah, it’s great. The pace is different, but everything is there, and it’s just like old times.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that you can get a proper, fun, Halo experience in any of the games. Halo 5 makes it more modern and slick, but the originals are just as good as they were (thanks to some wonderful remastering).

If you used to love Halo multiplayer but you’ve been put off Halo 5 because of the reviews regarding the story. Ignore it, there’s more to it than that (and it isn’t that bad anyway). If you’re missing that superb Halo multiplayer, it still exists, and it’s arguably better than ever.

Even a few years down the line, it isn’t hard to get into a match.

Halo 5 is every bit a Halo game as Combat Evolved was. It’s just spruced up for the current market, and honestly, it’s arguably better than the competition.

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