Every franchise has one. That one thing that studios just want to pretend doesn’t exist. Star Wars has the prequels, Marvel has their old TV shows and DC has the Snyder Cut. For Halo, it’s Halo 5: Guardians. With Halo: Infinite on the horizon, it’s good to look back at 343’s most recent Halo entry. A title that has been criticised as the worst game in the series.
Easily the biggest and most criticised aspect of Halo 5 is its story. This will contain spoilers for both Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians
Halo 5 is a direct continuation of Halo 4, after the “death” of Cortana. The Master Chief finds out that Cortana is actually still alive and receives a message from her. Chief is told not to pursue the message, but decides to go AWOL with Blue Team to search for his old friend. Agent Locke and Fireteam Osiris are then sent to find Chief and bring him back. Chief soon discovers that Cortana has been waking Forerunner artifacts called Guardians so that she and other AIs can take over the galaxy. The game ends with Locke saving Chief and Cortana using her guardians to attack the UNSC.
Setting up Cortana as the villain and seeing how her relationship with Chief changes because of this is an interesting idea that’s worth exploring. It could even give some amazing character moments between chief and Cortana.
Except that’s not this game. You only play as Chief for 3 missions and Cortana doesn’t even show up until the end of the game. Instead, you spend 12 missions playing as Locke, aimlessly following the Chief’s trail from planet to planet, and 3 of those missions are just talking to people. And when you do get to play as Chief, you’re just aimlessly following Cortana.
It also probably wasn’t 343’s best idea either to bring back the Arbiter. It just reminds me of Halo 2, a game with a far superior story and characters. Plus he looks like one of the weird new elites instead of the classic design.
While the story wasn’t great, what I feel really killed this game was the marketing.
The trailers paint the picture of Locke vs Chief. Somehow and for some reason, Chief betrayed Humanity and Locke needs to bring him in. They even made 2 versions of a trailer from each perspective, showing one as the hero and the other as the villain.
The trailers pose the questions of “Why would Chief do this?” and “Why is Locke determined to bring him in?”. The anger and passion of both characters are felt and both are ruthless to each other. It makes Locke seem like a terrifying figure and Chief scarier than we’ve ever seen him. It even appears that the Chief is responsible for all the destruction around them. And the phrase “Hunt the Truth” implies a bigger narrative and mystery to hook fans. These are easily some of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. The marketing for this game was phenomenal, except it’s not advertising Halo 5.
There is no big mystery and no hidden truth to be revealed, other than “Cortana’s evil now”. We only ever see Locke and Chief interact twice, once where they punch each other for a bit, and towards the end when they just agree to team up. Chief doesn’t cause some kind of horrible destruction and Locke has no hidden motives.
As pieces of standalone storytelling, the marketing for Halo 5 is incredible. However, as actual advertising for a video game, it could not have been any worse.
With more and more information about the future of Halo being revealed, it’s clear that 343 want to bury this game.
In 2020, The Master Chief Collection was released on PC, which included Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo 4, and Halo: Reach. Halo: Infinite has also been announced to be coming to PC at launch. This would make Halo 5: Guardians the only mainline game in the series to not be on PC. During a Livestream last year celebrating Halo 5‘s 5th anniversary, 343’s community manager, John Junyszek, confirmed that there are no plans to bring Halo 5 to PC.
Now it even seems like the story 343 were trying to set up is also being swept away. Halo 5 ended with Cortana using her Guardians to attack the UNSC and a mysterious shot of a Halo ring. While the fate of Cortana is still a mystery, it seems now that 343 aren’t interested in making her the villain of the series. The promotional materials for Halo: Infinite suggest that The Banished are the main villains of the game, and many fans are speculating that The Flood may even return. But Cortana and her Prometheans are nowhere to be seen.
It’s looking like Cortana’s AI uprising wasn’t interesting enough for 343. It’s a shame that she got swept under the rug along with Halo 5. But hopefully, the new direction 343 seem to be taking the franchise in will bring about new stories for the Halo Universe.
If you’re interested in this black sheep of a game, check out Halo 5: Guardians
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