A Halo 5 Review 3 years later
Here is a Halo 5 review I wrote in 2015 after the game came out. It was written for a friend who was creating a game review website for a school project, that was one day going to be published, but here were are three years later and its only going online now. If you listen to the podcast you know already how I like to rate things and talk about them. However here is a sample of what I hope to have more of in the future so you can get a taste of how I think.
Minor Spoilers follow
Hunt the Truth that is what Microsoft and 343 industries have been asking us to do for the better part of six months. However as I put the last bullet into the last Forerunner enemy I sit and wonder, what Truth was I Hunting. While I completely understand that mass market advertising can be misleading, but in no way was I expecting what would play out in HALO 5. The plot of HALO 5 is a bit underwhelming, to say the least. Part of that has to do with the set up you were expecting after some of the more reveling advertisements that ended up on TV and across your social media.
These ads would have led you to believe that the Master Chief and Spartan Locke are engaged in a great philosophical battle, between the Chief and his former command and Humanity in General. Yet this is most definitely not the case, instead you spend most of the time as Spartan Locke, about 80% of the campaign, and Master Chief the other 20%. The big showdown you expect never really happens; it all plays out over a few cut scenes, and some in game chatter. As the game progresses, it sometimes makes you wonder, am I missing something, did I skip a cut scene? But alas you are probably not the only person, a lot of the backstory seems to be missing, or even major plot points. HALO 5 expects you to have played and completed the first four HALO games, and to be heavily invested into the lore. While I understood most of what was going on, as I have fallen deep into the rabbit hole that is HALO cannon, I was still left questioning many things. There is also the question of character motivation and growth. It seems to be lacking both, as great as HALO 4 was; HALO 5 is seriously lagging behind. The world HALO 4 expanded on is almost completely missing; Captain Lasky is relegated to a tertiary background character, Dr. Halsey is magically a good guy again, Captain Palmer is just an afterthought, Roland the AI gets a longer exposure time, and even the Arbiter is in almost blink and you’ll miss him cameo, ok no not really, but you get the point.
That’s not to say I didn’t like the campaign, I liked it very much. The Squad aspect is something new and injected a new spark into the already awesome HALO formula. The set pieces are some of the most beautiful landscape’s I have ever seen in a video game. The Enemies have never looked better, and the weapons are majestic. This is truly one of the best next gen games graphic wise that I have seen. The story is also not as convoluted as I may have made it seem either. There is a clear beginning middle and end; just how you get there is muddled. The squad based combat however is where the campaign truly shines, the interaction between the characters is great, and allows you to understand who your team is without having to read anything or visit a wiki page. This also allows you to last a little longer in the harder difficulties, as you can revive your time and they can revive you. It also allows more for a more vertical playing field, like no other HALO campaign has had before. It creates a new element that allows you to find new angles to defeat your enemies, as well as find hidden Skulls, a HALO Staple, and Intel. The new Spartan abilities also add to the fun, with the clamber ability and of course the new fan favorite SPARTAN Ground Pound, being able to take out horde of enemies in a single go, without a grenade is always fun. While no HALO has ever really had boss battles, the few fights with the Warden Eternal, a new Forerunner enemy, is a welcome break from the normal action. His fights require skill and tactics to beat him, and patience when fighting him on higher difficulties, especially on Legendary where you might have to muster some willpower to outlast him. I did welcome the return of the Arbiter, as it was nice to see that his fight was still going, however if you were one of the people that found and watched all the Terminals in HALO 2 anniversary, and beat HALO 2 anniversary on Legendary, then again you will find yourself wondering, what 343i was trying to achieve, as those cut scenes do not necessarily add up to what is going on in HALO 5.
The biggest change of pace that comes with HALO 5 is the return of Cortana. If you finished HALO 4 then you know Cortana was presumed dead, and lost forever. However in scenes similar to the first half of HALO 3 Cortana reaches out to the Chief seeking his help, and through what seems as random cuts of cut scenes in the Locke portions of the game, we find out the Cortana may not be the same. As it turns out, she has “cured” her rampancy, what happens when AI begin to lose competency, and has taken on the Mantle of Responsibility from the Forerunners. And as such that is why you are fighting the Warden Eternal, as he is tasked with protecting her. Thus Cortana is now the main antagonist of the game, and if you beat the game on Legendary you will see that HALO 5 is only a set up for future HALO games, such as the ending of HALO 2.
After playing the campaign I wondered about the whole Hunt the Truth, was this plan all along, did Microsoft and 343i just want to make you think? Obviously they knew what would happen, and possibly did not expect the backlash. Maybe, just maybe the whole point was to throw you off the main trail, and if you listened to the accompanying Hunt the Truth on Soundcloud it would make a while more sense that the whole point of the ad campaign was to throw you off.
Now let’s get down to what really makes HALO the behemoth that it is, online multiplayer. HALO 5 has one of the best multiplayer experiences since HALO 2 redefined first person shooter multiplayer way back in 2004. After last year’s debacle with the Master Chief Collection 343i needed to make waves and deliver a solid multiplayer experience and they did more than that, they brought the house down. The maps are solid, as ever, and the Spartan abilities, like clamber, the ability to climb up on any ledge, makes for a more well-rounded experience. It has been a long while since I wanted to sink my teeth into a HALO, and this is the one I have been waiting for. While you have the usual stalwarts like Slayer and SWAT, mixed in are new modes Breakout and Arena. SWAT is as good as ever and slayer plays like always. Breakout is a new mode which is 4v4, and players only have one life, the first team to five rounds wins. Big Team battle which was only added last week is also back and better than ever.
Yet HALO 5s biggest best mode is the new WARZONE. It is a massive 12 on 12, along with enemy AI. It all plays out on three of the biggest maps ever made for a HALO game, and is arguably one of the best and most fun additions to the HALO universe.