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Halo 5: Guardians: Reinventing the Ring

When a franchise spans multiple generations of gaming hardware, the expectations tend to be high when the first installment on a new platform shows up. And often for very good reason: who wasnít blown away by God of War IIIís opening sequence or Super Mario Galaxyís first glorious launch into the void of space? Sometimes, though, it doesnít really have the same effect. All of the Xbox 360ís Halo games, while very good in their own right, didnít do very much technically or functionally to distinguish themselves from Halo: Combat Evolved or Halo 2, despite being on a newer system. You never got the sense that those games could only work on new hardware. This series has needed a shot in the Mjolnir-gauntleted arm for a decade now. Iíve spent some quality time with the beta for Halo 5: Guardians, but even within my first few minutes with the game, I could tell that it feels simultaneously familiar, yet fundamentally different. Halo has changed; for better or worse, we canít say yet, but based on my time with the beta, Iím leaning towards the better.

Letís get the biggest change out of the way first: Halo 5 is fast. If youíre accustomed to the floaty lumbering around of previous Halo games, youíll be in for a rude awakening. Up until Halo: Reach, the player never really felt as though they were in control of anything other than a man in gravity-defiant power armor. The Master Chief was an excellent marksman and benefited from some really amazing personal shielding technology, but other than that, he just felt like any other shooter protagonist. In Halo 5, that changes. Spartans feel like super soldiers now.

So yes, Halo 5 is fast. Not Call of Duty fast, and definitely not Titanfall fast, but itís much faster than any of its predecessors. Spartans can not only sprint, but they can use their speed as a weapon. If youíre running at an enemy at a full clip, a tap of a button will have you lower your shoulder and burst forward in a Spartan Charge. Landing one of these is satisfying, but the window of opportunity is always tiny. The same is true of the Ground Pound, a devastating divebomb attack that must first be charged for a second or two in midair.

Itís taken a long time, but we can now aim down the sights with the left trigger in a Halo game. The Smart Link allows you to do just that, though accuracy boosts seem to be quite negligible if youíre using an non-scope weapon. Classics like the DMR, Sniper Rifle, and Lightrifle feel easier to use now as a result. An additional battle application of the Smart Link is the ability to hover in place every time you aim down the sights. However, this hover mechanic often leaves the player exposed and incredibly vulnerable.

Halo is credited with introducing the regeneration mechanic that has driven the health systems of countless shooters since. That is also changed in Halo 5, and in my opinion, to its benefit. In other Halo games, running away as fast as you could was often a valid response to having your shield ripped apart. In Halo 5, your shield will not recharge if you are sprinting.

All of these elements together lead me to believe that Halo 5: Guardians is shaping up to be a gamechanger. Some people may cry foul at the changes that have been made to a formula that has been consistent and mostly concrete for thirteen years. But sometimes, change is necessary. Itís the only force that can make a good thing better.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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