Halo as a franchise is that rare beast; a first-person shooter that weaves an excellent narrative throughout action packed set-pieces and sandboxes, while also offering a significant multiplayer component.
Imagine the fanbaseâs surprise, then, when for the seriesâ first move onto Xbox One (aside from the bungled, and now much-improved Master Chief Collection), Halo 5âs narrative took misplaced turns into conspiracy theories; pulling characters from extended Halo lore without giving them proper introductions and stripping out local multiplayer.
Despite these missteps, however, Halo 5: Guardians might be the best multiplayer title that youâre not playing - even 4 years on from launch.
Halo has always lived and died (and respawned) on the strength of its combat sandboxes. Master Chief (painfully underused in Halo 5âs campaign) is a 7-foot super-soldier, and offers up the ultimate power fantasy. Rolled a Warthog into a jeep? Flip it upright as if it weighs nothing. Hell, he remains one of the few protagonists in gaming that doesnât NEED to aim down the sights of his weapon (although this was added in Halo 5, you can still nail those satisfying headshots without using it).
In the move to Halo 5, developer 343 wisely left much of the Spartanâs move set unchanged - aside from some smart, nuanced additions. For one, youâd be surprised how much being able to mantle over ledges and onto platforms adds to the feeling of locomotion. Add to that the new sprint (which prevents shields from recharging when in use) and dash mechanic, and the pace of Halo 5 feels ever so slightly more urgent than that of its forebears.
Movement isnât the only aspect of Spartan movement that was tweaked either, as 343 added a ground pound which players can activate from an aerial position. This move can be absolutely devastating, but also leaves any Spartan using it highly susceptible to counterattack.
Giving players a fresh toolset of offensive and tactical options inarguably drags the franchise into the modern age - and thatâs without factoring in the range of multiplayer modes available.
Is Halo 5's multiplayer suite better than Halo 2? (Picture: 343/Microsoft)
Halo 5 offers arena-based combat as in years gone by, with all players battling for power weapons and vantage points as if itâs 2004 all over again - albeit with the aforementioned modern accoutrements - but also adds in an excellent new Breakout Mode.
Picture the scene. Four Spartans stand on each side of a symmetrical arena, each armed with either the standard issue pistol or the famous assault rifle. Last team standing wins, and your squad is already down to two. You pick up the battle rifle and pop one enemy.
As an enemy tracks your position, your teammate executes the high-risk ground and pound from the second level - taking out two enemies in one swoop but being killed by a third, just as you creep up and use an execution move, Apex Legends-style.
In 90 words, I just summed up an actual match in Halo 5âs breakout mode, and there are many more stories like that told every day through nail biting sniper rifle wins, or lucky grenade throws. Itâs electric, itâs kinetic, and thereâs still a whole other game mode to cover.
That mode is the larger scale Warzone, which is the franchiseâs largest multiplayer battlefield yet (fan favourite Big Team Battle still exists, and was added as one of an impressive 11 fresh pieces of free DLC).
Halo 5 released in 2015 (Picture: 343/Microsoft)
Warzone tasks two 12 Spartan teams with battling across sizeable landscapes to reach 1000 points, bolstered by weapons and vehicles which are acquired by spending âRequisition Pointsâ - grab a few kills, maybe you can fly a banshee. Or, you can save them for a Scorpion tank and really do some damage. Dotted around the maps are powerful AI controlled enemies that offer a significant score bonus to the team that fells them - making them worth deviating for.
We say deviate, because thereâs more than one way to win in Warzone. You can also battle your way to the enemy base and destroy the âcoreâ, almost MOBA-style.
Itâs also within Warzone that Firefight, the frantic co-op horde mode, makes its return - now supporting 8 players.
Halo 5 is now available on Xbox Game Pass, and offers the kind of bang for your buck that puts numerous shooters to shame. Itâs absolutely packed with content, and while the single player lacks the soul of previous entries, Halo 5 might be the best multiplayer game of the generation. Dare we say it, Halo 5 might have a better multiplayer suite than Halo 2.