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Five things Halo 5: Guardians did right

For a brick, it flew pretty good.

Halo Infinite may not be without its problems, but despite technical foibles, delays and concerns about Battle Pass progression, there’s a sense that Microsoft’s onetime golden goose is finally back on track after a more than half-decade existential crisis.

The series’ prolonged absence is in no small part due to how its notoriously hard to please fanbase reacted to Halo 5: Guardians. Ultimately, hardcore devotees weaned on Magnums, LAN parties and endless games of Team Slayer on Blood Gulch didn’t much care for mod cons such as sprinting, aiming down sights and clamber. Plus, controlling Spartan Locke for most of the campaign and the utter absurdity of the story arc went down like a plasma grenade in a squad of Grunts. 

That’s not to say that Halo 5 was a complete failure, though. Far from it. So, as a new era of live service, semi-open world ring exploring beckons, let’s look back at five things that Halo 5 did right.

Image credit: 343/Microsoft

1. Promethean Weapons

With the Covenant and Flood mostly defeated after Halo 3, 343 Industries faced the unenviable task of coming up with new antagonists for Halo 4 and beyond. Inheriting a rich, beloved universe and with some Mjolnir-sized boots to fill, they opted to expand on Bungie’s existing lore by creating a Forerunner offshoot faction called the Prometheans

Whatever your feelings on the Prometheans, their toys sure were fun to play with and Halo 5 afforded 343 the opportunity to iterate on them. 

Ok, so perhaps the Boltshot and Supressor are a little bit underwhelming, but the shotgun-like Scattershot, semi-automatic Lightrifle and absolute house of a sniper that is the Binary Rifle feel great to use and the orange, digital disintegration effect seen when enemies are killed by them is very pleasing. Not to mention the delightfully monickered Incineration Cannon, an over-the-shoulder behemoth that fires spinning, flaming projectiles.

For Infinite, 343 have removed all of these and replaced them with the Cindershot and Heatwave. Not only do they hew far more closely to the Bungie-era Forerunner aesthetic, but also offer unique utility rather than being higher tech – albeit fun- retreads of existing UNSC weapons.

Image credit: 343/Microsoft

2. Sanghelios

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the Sangheli are Halo’s famous staple enemies, the Elites. Following the revelation in Halo 2 that the Halo array is not, in fact, a one way ticket to paradise but rather a galaxy-clearing weapon of last resort, most of the Elites leave the Covenant. By Halo 5, an uneasy truce exists between the UNSC and the Sangheli. 

Perhaps the best part of Halo 5’s campaign is your visit to their homeworld of Sanghelios to aid in their struggle against what remains of the Covenant.  Never shown before in-game, it’s a cavernous, arid desert world, honeycombed with lore-rich stone temples that make for excellent environmental storytelling.

Not just a treat for established Halo scholars, this mission also includes some of the very best combat scenarios in the game; wide open playgrounds full of vehicles and power weapons.  Plus there’s the thrilling vehicular assault on the Kraken, a colossal Covenant war machine that dwarfs even the series’ famous Scarabs. 

Later on you’ll assault Sunaion, an oil rig-style floating platform that evokes the curved, purple interiors of the multiple Covenant vessels boarded during Bungie’s classic Halo campaigns.  Again, these intense shootouts recall the franchise at the peak of its powers. It’s just a pity that a tedious boss fight against The Warden rears its ugly head right at the end.

Image credit: 343/Microsoft

3. Performance

Xbox and 360-era Halo games targeted 30fps and, truth be told, were not always great at maintaining it. 

Since the launch of the Xbox One, however, 343 have been keen to push for a smoother 60fps and beyond where possible, even going so far as to retroactively improve performance of the older titles contained in the Master Chief Collection to great effect.

Halo 5 was the first flagship game in the series built with 60fps in mind, and feels all the better for it.  While compromises (in particular, a very aggressive DRS solution) are obvious and to be expected on the base Xbox One, it’s a handsome looking game overall that only struggles to achieve its performance target in the largest multiplayer battles. 

Here’s hoping it eventually receives a PC port and/or proper Series S/X optimizations at some point in the future. 

Image credit: 343/Microsoft

4. Infection

Bungie introduced the Infection game mode in Halo 3. Essentially, a super fast group of Energy Sword-wielding Infected would try and overwhelm a small team of Spartans with limited ammunition. Each felled Spartan adds to the Infected’s numbers, further stacking the odds against them as the match progresses.

Halo 5’s iteration features some cool visual effects for the infected team, exclusive medals, plus a number of specially designed maps and creative new takes on the established ruleset.  Contagion, for example, tasks Spartans with moving through a linear map that gradually opens up while constantly being bombarded with respawning Infected. It’s great fun, even if on paper it sounds more like something you’d find in Left 4 Dead than a Halo title. 

Image credit: 343/Microsoft

5. Big Team Super Fiesta

The premise of the Fiesta game mode is simple: you spawn with two weapons plucked at random from Halo 5’s more than generous arsenal.  The Big Team Super variant takes place on large maps with vehicles, in two teams of 8.  What’s more, some upgraded iterations of the standard weapons taken from Campaign and Warzone are thrown into this chaotic mix; there’s a buffed Scattershot called Didact’s Signet and an equally beefed up Energy Sword, Prophet’s Bane, for example.

What ensues is pure, unadulterated carnage that bottles the fun factor of multiplayer Halo in a way that’s rarely been matched, even by Bungie.  Balance goes out of the window, of course, but you’ll be having too much fun to care. 

Image credit: 343/Microsoft

Did you love or loathe Halo 5? Let us know in the comments below.

Dan Smith

Hailing from grim, rain-lashed Northern England, Dan enjoys shooters, strategy games, RPGs and classic Sonic almost as much as using short vowels and complaining about the weather. He can usually be found playing copious amounts of Team Slayer.
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