- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2015

The latest chapter of the epic conflict between humanity and the Covenant gets rebuilt from the ground up and running at 60 frames per second in a first-person shooting extravaganza Halo 5: Guardians, Digital Deluxe Edition (Microsoft Studios, and 343 Industries, Rated Mature, $89.99), exclusively for Microsoft’s entertainment console.

Offering up to four players the chance to control members of an elite Spartan Osiris or Blue fireteams, the game’s story encompasses a near universe-wide search for Master Chief while showing the best-looking Grunts (Unggoy), Promethean Knights and UNSC (Untied Nations Space Command) soldiers ever brought to virtual life in the franchise.

The action begins with a frenzied 15-mission campaign (solo or co-operative) offering players the chance to even control John-117 (pssst, Master Chief).

The return of the online multiplayer matches gets spread out across 20 maps and features the brand new Warzone mode with up to 24 warriors (two teams of 12 each) battling against each other and pockets of computer controlled enemies in locations three to four times larger than any previous Halo map.

A perfect gift for beginning or seasoned Halo fanatics alike, the code package also includes the Warzone REQ bundle with 14 extra premium packs and the 3-part (roughly 60-minute long) computer-animated series “Halo: The Fall of Reach” revealing the origins of the UNSC Spartan program.

Also, icing on the cake arrived last week with the free downloadable content update “Battle of Shadow and Light.” It offers 8 versus 8, team combat, four new ballet maps (Deadlock, Basin, Guillotine and Recurve) and 48 REQ packs that include the Shinobi and Tracer armor sets.

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Action-enhancing gadgets or extras: First, MegaBloks offers a full line-up of “Halo 5” construction kits ($19.99 and up) — Banshee Strike, the UNSC Attack Gausshog, the Phaeton Gunship, the Scorpion’s Sting and the UNSC Vulture Gunship — and each of these includes a code to enhance the game experience.

Specifically, Halo 5’s Requisition System features the ability to collect trading cards of different exclusivity that offer permanent and one-time use of new weapons, armor, paint jobs, vehicles and assassination animations.

The codes in MegaBlocks kits offer a free pack of virtual cards redeemed in the Xbox Live Marketplace to use in the online multiplayer battles.

For example, spend half of your life or so building the UNSC battle tank, Scorpion’s Sting ($54.99, 616 pieces). It features rolling rubber tracks and rotating turret and includes 2-inch tall, maddeningly detailed mini figures of Spartan Protector, Spartan Buck and a Covenant Elite (all with weapons and some tiny pieces of removable armor). Next, admire the creation liberally, show off to friends, even role-play a bit with the vehicle; it is certainly sturdy enough.

Now, get back to the video game (after redeeming the Intermediate REQ supply pack code and virtually opening it) to use such items as the Corp Warthog War Zone RP Jackpot card and gain some extra REQ points at the end of a successful Warzone firefight.

Another gift idea gives “Halo” gamers an easy way to communicate with teams online while getting an ear full of the action.

The Halo 5: Guardians Edition, A40 Headset and Mixamp M80 (ASTRO Gaming, $220) completely cushions and envelopes a user’s ears while its glowing mixer attaches into the Xbox One controller to deliver the perfect blend of stereo sound.

That Mixamp specifically allows the owner to use a knob to control volume between the game’s sound versus communicating with other players through the headset’s adjustable microphone.

The A40’s shiny silver, black and metallic-blue color scheme and decals make it looked ripped from a UNSC gear locker. Of course, it comes with a code for another REQ pack.

Finally, for a stocking stuffer, McFarlane Toys offers a collection of highly detailed, multi-articulated Halo 5: Guardians action figures ($15.99 each) featuring articulated, 6-inch tall representations of such characters from the game as Spartan Locke, Spartan Kelly, Spartan Tanaka and the mighty Master Chief, all with signature weapons.

Each figure’s package also contains a code for a REQ pack to redeem and use in the multiplayer action.

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