Everything We Can Tell You To Expect In Halo 5: Guardians
It’s not often that we get to do something like this so I thought, what the hell.
We were recently provided with an early review code for Halo 5: Guardians, ahead of its release next week. Unfortunately the embargo is still very much in place until next Monday. Fortunately, we can still talk about some stuff. According to the embargo, we are allowed to freely publish (in this case, written) preview coverage as long as it only consists of content from the first three missions (more or less), is adequately marked with spoiler warnings where necessary, and provides no hint of a score or final impression. So, the facts.
Here is a basic guide of what to expect from Halo 5: Guardians, at least, the stuff we’re allowed to talk about.
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Let’s first begin with the story stuff and get it out of the way, since it’s likely the most confusing aspect of the game leading up to its release. There hasn’t been a lot said about it, over and above Master Chief being hunted by Spartan Locke. This is where we must add the obligatory spoiler warning so if you’re story-shy, and want to experience all of this for yourself, then we strongly encourage you to skip past the picture below for the non-spoiler stuff.
Well okay then.
You start the game in the company of Fireteam Osiris as Jameson Locke, former ONI agent (think stealth and assassinations and stuff) turned Spartan soldier. Working together with the UNSC Infinity, your task is to rescue Dr Halsey (whom you might remember from Halo 4 as Cortana’s creator) from the clutches of a rebel Covenant force. Fireteam Osiris comprises both fresh and familiar faces, while allowing for four-player co-op from the start.
Meanwhile in a different part of the galaxy, Master Chief and his Blue Team are conducting a mission to an abandoned research station in an attempt to recover what they can, and destroy what they cannot. They are met with resistance, as can be expected in Halo games, which results in Master Chief being contacted by Cortana, presumed dead at the end of Halo 4, or at the very least a victim of rampancy. Wanting answers and to rescue his beloved AI, Chief decides to follow her trail despite explicit orders not to.
This is when Locke gets called in. To bring Chief back, and ensure he doesn’t make a crucial error of judgement.
Aaaaaaaaand that’s all we can tell you! For now. Sorry.
It’s safe again!
Next let’s talk about the myriad changes introduced in Halo 5: Guardians.
There are many changes to the Halo formula, mostly focussed around the first person experience. As to whether they improve or hinder the game’s moveset I’ll keep for a section of my review, but what I can tell you is that this game has a lot of change-ups in the mobility department.
For one, the crosshair is finally centred on the screen; a radical change from previous Halo games where it was offset slightly south of centre for… reasons I could never fathom. Another drastic change is the addition of iron sights via what they’re calling Smart Link. Now you can aim down the sights with any weapon (although getting hit still disables it), not just weapons with a scope attached. A controversial addition for some, but you can decide how you feel about it.
What should likely also come as big news is that the campaign lacks for the powerups introduced in Halo: Reach and then kept for Halo 4. Instead players get various persistent abilities to use throughout. These include: A ground pound you can perform while in the air, which causes your character to quickly descend where you aim it, and do damage to nearby enemies upon landing; A charge ability that lets you bash into weak walls, revealing hidden areas and alternative paths, or into enemies, causing damage and knock-back; a dodge ability that is kind of like the boost dodge from previous games, and finally the ability to clamber (climb) areas, meaning you can finally scale things properly rather than awkwardly jump-bumping into a ledge until the game finally decides to let you up.
To aid navigation, you can now press a button to use the Artemis ability and do a sort-of scan of the nearby area, revealing a bunch of things on your HUD but, importantly, also highlighting your objective. Which makes it that much more difficult to get lost now.
Also making a return is the health bar, but here it regenerates along with your shield, effectively providing two regenerating life bars that can deplete quickly depending on your situation. But not to worry, because even if they do you go into a down-but-not-out phase for a while (depending on your situation, if you’re in a vehicle then you’re toast the moment it blows up) until a team member revives you, or your time expires and you die phoreals.
To facilitate these additions to combat and mobility, the controls have been reworked again. But if like me, you’re a stubborn old fool, you can choose from a whole bunch of preset control schemes including Southpaw, Halo 4, the default, and more. Finally, Skulls have made a return in this game and can be found on most levels, and there is also Intel spread throughout each level for you to collect. You can use Artemis to help you find these, where the nearer you are, the more your controller will vibrate.
And that’s about all we can tell you right now. Halo 5: Guardians releases October 27th 2015 (next week!) and we’ll have our full review out for you the moment the embargo drops, on October 26th (also next week!) so definitely make a note to return and check that out. In the meantime, let us know what you think in the comments below.