Halo 5 Guardians: Multiplayer Review
After the absolute shambles that was The Master Chief Collection gamers were naturally very concerned over the stability of Halo 5 and many within the community wondered if 343 were capable of delivering a stable Halo game. Thankfully i haven’t had many issues with poor connectivity, disconnecting sessions or glitches it has been a pretty exceptionally stable launch for 343 industries. Compare it with other AAA titles and they have done a brilliant job ensuring the game is smooth, stable and lag free for everyone. The only issues that have been noticed are a couple of issues with the REQ servers being offline for a few minutes and i believe 1 session where the matchmaking servers were down for a short period of time but soon came back up and we were able to join games. The average waiting time for lobbies is very low in part due to the high player population but the servers and infrastructure is certainly in place to support the next influx of players as we get to the Xmas period. Major Kudos to 343 and Microsoft for doing there best to give us the best platform for Halo possible.
Multiplayer has always been a key part of every Halo game from the split screen or LAN only Halo Combat Evolved through the classic Xbox Live launching Halo 2 all the way till Halo 5. Numerous features have come and gone but at it’s core it has always been about the Halo trinity of Weapons, Grenades and Mellee and as Halo Reach found out adding to that can prove very unpopular with the vocal Halo community.
Part of me was really concerned when the 343 started to show off the new Spartan abilities Ground Pound, Clamber, Spartan Charge and Slide as they would radically alter the flow of Multiplayer Matches. In use I’ve found them to be very well balanced and implemented in such a way that they don’t ever feel cheap or game breaking in fact they complement the new faster flow of Halo Multiplayer and removing them actually lessens the game. A slightly more subtle but equally important change for Halo 5 is the sprint mechanic that has cleverly been tied into shield recharge to prevent players from just blindly running around the map. In use it’s perfection and whilst the Hardcore players never wanted sprint in a Halo game it works incredibly well and the game flows so much better with sprint. Engagements are more immediate, more unpredictable and you have the option to flea and take cover if you’re losing the battle but that restriction is always there preventing the games from feeling like another COD game where players just sprint, sprint, sprint.
Elsewhere in Halo 5 343 has shown that deft touch and none more so than in the excellent level design that is on par with the brilliance of Halo 3 and is evident especially in the 4v4 Arena mode. Arena is a stripped back, hardcore set of game types that pit you against other equally ranked Spartans over a variety of game modes and maps. My favourite is Stronghold which is essentially territories where teams compete to control as many points on the map as possible to earn points. The maps are fairly small leading to almost constant back and forth battles to secure the location and power weapons are king. My favourite map is The Rig which is simply perfect for 4v4 objective game modes with it’s corridors and open spaces providing multiple routes for a well coordinated team attack.
Ranking makes a big return in Halo 5 and should go some way to preventing the highly skilled players from being matched with less skilled players that typically end with a crushing defeat. After playing enough games in each playlist you’re awarded a rank and a Competitive Skill rank that is used to intelligently pair you against other players and team of a similar skill. Your rating is unique to all playlists so for those players that are maybe great at FFA types but bad at Team Slayer will hopefully find good matches.
Level design is excellent on all the maps I’ve played especially the smaller, more traditional Halo maps that provide frequent engagements and multiple routes for players that like to flank behind enemy teams. Halo Reach and Halo 4 made the mistake of making the maps far to complicated and visually similar none really stood out and this made them instantly forgettable thankfully Halo 5 has bucked that trend. Maps now feel like a mix of Halo 2 and Halo 3 and have a unique visual style and easy to remember key areas and call outs no doubt a product of the 343 in house pro team. Maps are simpler, flow better and are more fun to play on whether you are the aggressive rush type player or the more passive long range player. Many of the maps have multiple routes and short cuts that allow you to get a better angle on your enemies and when you add in Clamber you can really explore the levels and find some brilliant hidden routes.
Visually many of the maps are utterly stunning and littered with incidental details such as the whales swimming past the windows on Fathom are an excellent example of the attention to detail have lavished on Halo 5. The lighting is a particular highlight that really adds a sense of individuality & drama to each map and with Forge coming in just over a month the possibilities for some stunning remakes of classic Halo maps are mouthwatering.
One major point of frustration for me within Arena has been the amount of players that quit out of games when it’s not going there way often leaving me 2 or 3 vs 4 which is rarely a fun experience. Whilst this isn’t an issue with 343 but more a community one that i hoped would be left well behind. 343 have stated that repeat offenders will be punished with bans and rank resets which i hope they follow up on as it’s a game ruining experience and from the feedback I’ve had it’s been all too frequent an occurrence.
Warzone is a fun new mode that requires some tweaking before it realises it’s obvious potential. I’ve found the majority of games are poorly balanced and often favours one team over the other. Breaking the defence of a team is almost impossible and in most cases the team that takes early control goes onto the dominate the other team. This is in part due to the team in front gaining access to the higher powered weapons and vehicles that they can use to effectively barricade a team into their home base and rain death, murder and misery on them. How 343 balances this out is going to hold the key to the potential success of Warzone. Along side that issue is the problems using the new req system which I’ll avoid detailing but it’s overly complicated and needs some adjusting. It’s far from bad but just requires some tweaking to make the game mode a little more balanced and to encourage closer games.
Reviewing a Multiplayer game is always harder than a static campaign as the dynamic shifts with every update, every patch and as new modes come online the community will split and find their own preferred ways of playing. New exploits are found and new ways of abusing the game whether through glitching or bugs can have a large impact on the overall experience. Saying that it’s clear Halo 5 Guardians Multiplayer modes are well designed, fun to play and built to grow with the community. Playing Halo 5 in many ways reminds me of the first few months after the Halo 3 launch such is the overwhelmingly positive feedback and reviews. Everyone is deserved and in my opinion correct because like it or not Halo 5 is the best online Multiplayer Experience on the Xbox One to date. It’s superior to Halo 4 in every way and whilst it has work to do in the coming months to keep things running smoothly and address the issues that have arisen 343 have undeniable put Halo back on the top of Multiplayer pile.