By Jonathan Leack (for Game Revolution)
Halo 5: Guardians is arriving next Tuesday along with something the Halo franchise has never seen before: Warzone. This large-scale multiplayer mode isn’t just another online mode, it’s good enough to support the game on its own two legs. It will be the premier way for shooter enthusiasts to get their Battlefield kick this year. Below I’ll go over why.
Objectives: Dynamic and Ever-Changing
One of the greatest qualities of Warzone is its multi-phase design. There are several objectives that are offered over the course of a match making it feel dynamic and interesting.
First, your team lands at your destination base via air. It’s an epic way to get things rolling, and after you spend a moment clearing A.I. you can setup shop. Afterward, group up with your friends, and decide where to go next. With multiple routes to get where you want to go, you’ll want to think about whether to confront opponents directly or try for a flank attack that depends upon the timing and synergy of your team.You’re given free reign of the environment. It feels like a resurgence of Battlefield 1942’s Wake Island where you’re provided an open map to explore, which is uncommon in the multiplayer space. You can split up into groups and hunt SPARTANs, go for player kills to keep the enemy total count down, or specifically target base objectives. It’s very freeform, something Halo multiplayer hasn’t seen before. Despite the series’ more focused arena-style roots—which are available outside of Warzone—, what’s here works organically.
A.I.: Chaotic Satisfaction
There are a plethora of reasons that Titanfall remains what many—including myself—believe to be the most enjoyable first person shooter of this generation. Part of that was owed to its design which integrated A.I. into the competitive environment. Halo 5: Guardians is going for a similar delivery with Warzone.
Like Titanfall, there are both friendly and enemy A.I. As your team conquers bases, you’ll be rewarded competent A.I. reinforcements. These ally reinforcements will aid you in pushing back the enemy team
While busy on the lookout for enemy threats, non-player characters will spawn and try to kill you. In most circumstances, they are easier to take down than players. There’s even a high health pool boss that will spawn that grants a large sum of victory points to the team that kills it first. It’s not too dissimilar to boss camps in Heroes of the Storm or Dragon in League of Legends where successful players will need to take into consideration when and where bosses spawn due to their high reward.
The result of these A.I. being thrown on the battlefield is there’s a sense of contribution and therefore success even when you aren’t playing so well. In addition, it makes the atmosphere feel more alive. 24 players is a lot, but given the size of the maps the friendly and enemy A.I. do a lot to fill out the map with noise and combat effects.
Balance: Keeping it 50/50
The maps available for play in Warzone are very well crafted. Take for example March on Stormbreak which is set in the snowy mountains of Kamchatka. There’s a healthy balance of outdoor areas that provide ample opportunity for mobility and snipers. Meanwhile, the indoor sections and tight choke points provide a means for close-range weaponry like the shotgun and SMG to do some damage.
Warzone maps such as March on Stormbreak might not be symmetrical, but they’ve been made with balance in mind. Both teams have ample opportunity to hit a base from multiple angles, and compete for territory.
It’s all a breath of fresh air after playing Walker Assault in the Star Wars: Battlefront beta, which had a win/loss ratio of somewhere in the range of 80/20 to 90/10. Anyone playing as a Rebel was frustrated to no end. Given the fact that the game mode is intended to be Star Wars: Battlefront’s mostBattlefield-style place to play, it doesn’t bode well for the November launch game.
Vehicles: Death From Above
Once again, 343 Industries has beaten DICE at its own game by integrating a proper vehicle system. By completing objectives and killing enemies you are granted points through a Requisition system. Once you’ve earned enough REQ level, you can spend accumulated energy to be granted one of several impactful rewards, including vehicles. While power weapons like the Railgun and the M41 Rocket Launcher are sure to be crowd favorites for those who are tired of being popped by enemy vehicles, many will fight fire with fire by spawning a vehicle of their own. There are a variety of options to choose from, ranging from classic ground vehicles like the Warthog and Ghost to the air superiority of the Banshee. The process of earning requisition and spending it on equipment or vehicles is simple and rewarding.
Made better, the vehicles feel great in the hands no matter if you’re controlling a ground vehicle or aircraft. Gameplay feels natural, as movement, dodging, and attacks are fluid with responsive feedback. You’ll become acclimated to your hard-earned vehicle in no-time, and be provided an opportunity to make a strong impact on the outcome of the game.
Gameplay: The Best Halo Yet
You should get used to hearing that Halo 5: Guardians has some of the best gameplay in the business. Gunplay, movement, thruster packs, and tons of visual and audio feedback, this game has it all. It improves upon its predecessors by taking risk with bold mechanics that end up working wonderfully.
There are many elements that must be well designed and polished to make a game feel this good. Part of it is the 60 FPS frame rate, some of it is how the game communicates input and output to the player through visual and audio cues, and a lot of it is the highly optimized engine that the game runs on. The result is something truly extraordinary, and it’s much more tight and cohesive package than what Battlefield fans have become accustomed to over the years.
It’s hard not to be impressed by what 343 Industries has accomplished here. Warzone is addictive and offers its own flavor while delivering a great large-scale shooter experience that 2015 desperately needed. And when you aren’t playing Warzone, you know you can be playing Campaign alone or with friends, or even competing online in Arena, all with the same impressive presentational detail and reliable gameplay mechanics. What a game.
This post originally appeared in Game Revolution.