Halo 5: Guardians is the only first-person-shooter worth revisiting this year, says Sherif Saed.
"343’s post-launch support so far has been excellent. The Halo 5 package is looking even more tempting weeks from launch."
We’re rapidly approaching the end of 2015. This year saw the release of many great games, and the shooter genre in particular wasn't lacking. We had yearly releases like Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, the Star Wars shooter in Battlefront, and the somewhat niche Rainbow Six: Siege. All shooter fans were catered for, one way or another.
However, for me, there is one shooter I played this year that I will continue to return to in the next few months. That game is Halo 5, the prime holiday release on the Xbox One. Halo 5 came out near the end of October. Now, having played all major shooters of the year, it remains the one I found most interesting and most enjoyable.
I knew the core of Halo 5 was going to be solid when I played the beta back in December 2014. I couldn't wait to shoot the AR and BR for hours on end and learn all the new maps on launch, and ended up playing as much as the beta allowed. But, betas don’t always give a good idea of the launch experience. I was all over this year’s Black Ops 3 beta, to the point I felt the new specialists were a major step in the right direction in how they changed the pace of the game, and it made me look forward to the game’s release.
Black Ops 3’s release came and went and I didn't even reach half of the ranks in multiplayer. For all of its changes, Black Ops 3 remains a Call of Duty game to the core. Unfortunately for me, no amount of movement or Destiny-like supers could change that. A couple of weeks after launch, it was the same Call of Duty story of getting shot from behind and dying before I even realised.
Then there’s the terrible campaign, a big part of the reason I play these games. I also don’t have any intention of reading a guide to even begin to understand the multi-layered and convoluted Zombies mode. As petulant as it may sound, Call of Duty didn't cater to my interests in any way this year.
Rainbow Six: Siege was one of my other anticipated games that ended up a disappointment. The game’s launch was plagued with connection issues and weird glitches that, in some spots, almost makes it feel like a free-to-play game with a price tag. The tactical nature of its combat is unique, and remains its best asset, but there’s only so much a rough gem can impress you before you realise it lacks polish.
Through all of this, Halo 5 remained the only multiplayer shooter that kept pulling me back. Having dropped it shortly after launch to make time for new releases, I recently went back to find that it has only improved, and now occupies a spot that only Battlefield could fill for me; the satisfying, varied shooter with reasonable gunfights that remain exciting after launch hype dissipates.
There isn't one prime reason as to why it does this, there are multiple. The game’s single-player, is the best Halo campaign to date, and coupled with the new movement mechanics and co-op support, result in some of the best encounters you could ask for.
Although it may not seem that way, Halo 5 was the most innovative shooter of the year. The one ancient franchise that really switched up everything about it to fit the modern age, without abandoning anything that it stands for. Halo 5’s pace in multiplayer may seem slow compared to Call of Duty’s, but it’s actually the fastest Halo has ever been. This is a huge leap for a franchise whose ardent fans will go apeshit over the smallest of changes, and I mean the smallest (AR starts vs BR starts etc).
In order to appeal to such adamant fans and be able to push forward at the same time, developer 343 essentially shipped two multiplayer games; the classic Arena 4v4, and the new Warzone mode - the game’s ace in the hole.
Warzone is the best multiplayer mode I've played this year. Think of how every Call of Duty or Battlefield game has to include a new gimmicky mode that gets lots of love pre-launch, lots of marketing, but turns into a wasteland four weeks post-launch because everyone went back to whichever classic mode each franchise excels at. Halo 5’s Warzone is far from a throwaway mode or back-of-the-box bullet point. In fact, the way the studio’s pushed it pre-launch lead some to believe the core arena gameplay would suffer because of it.
It didn't, and now two player-bases with different interests can both play and enjoy Halo 5's multiplayer because of it. Warzone is the only successful attempt that I've seen in bringing elements from MOBAs into a first-person shooter and have them be meaningful and add depth. The pace, objectives, and power allocation in it make every part of the round exciting, a rare thing in today’s dominance of hyperactive, five-minute rounds.
There’s also the fact that everything in Halo 5 runs on dedicated servers. From the co-op campaign all the way to every multiplayer mode. As a long-time PC gamer, the fact that we don’t have dedicated servers in all major multiplayer releases on consoles saddens me. You won’t find a lot of buzz about this feature, which is another puzzling aspect, but it elevates the game’s service to another level.
343’s post-launch support so far has been excellent. With the recent addition of Big Team Battle, new Arena and Warzone maps, and countless other bits of armour and weapons, the Halo 5 package is looking even more tempting weeks from launch.