Video Game Review - Halo 5: Guardians
Master Chief has gone rogue.
Or, at least, that’s what Microsoft wants you to believe about Halo 5. And, strictly speaking, they’re technically right. Master Chief does indeed disobey orders in order to attempt to rescue Cortana from the Forerunner technology she now finds herself a part of. The question is, does it count as ‘going rogue’ when those giving the orders are insufferable douchebags???
The flaw with Halo 5 is very similar to the movie adaptation of World War Z. [I guess we should mention here that we’re only looking at the story campaign in this review. We here at The Cat are just as antisocial in video games as we are in real life…so we don’t do multiplayer. – Ed.] In World War Z, the novel, you jump from event to event in the conflict against the undead, whereas in the movie it feels like you follow Brad Pitt’s character through events of the same war that vary from not terribly interesting to downright stupid and annoying. Now, before I get accused of having this be a backdoor review for said film, the problem is that Halo 5 doesn’t follow Master Chief’s quest to get his friend back. Nope. I mean, why play a game with characters that you’ve spent the past 4 games having some emotional attachment to, right? Instead, you’re Spartan Locke, commander of the team sent to hunt down the Chief and get him to stop this nonsense and obey orders. Your bosses with ONI? Total dicks. Personally, that alone is reason for a Master Chief campaign. Your character, the aforementioned Locke? Ahem…he’s a no-nonsense, by-the-book commander. Translation: cardboard boxes have more personality. I swear, if it wasn’t for the fact that Nathan Fillion playing Nathan Fillion…ahem, Spartan Buck…does inject some much needed personality to this squad, I would’ve found the campaign to be almost insufferable. [You’re being a little too harsh, I heard you squeal when the Arbiter appeared! – Ed.] In some ways, I can kinda see the reason for taking this narrative approach. Wait, no, I can’t. I’m in the skin of a bland character taking orders from people I wouldn’t mind emptying my assault rifle into. On top of that, the combination of the game’s “big bad” being revealed probably a little too early (whereas, if you were playing as Master Chief, it would’ve been a hell of a twist for the final couple of levels and have greater emotional impact) and thus making the repeating “big bad”, that being the Forerunner Warden, seem like he was just injected into the game so that there could be boss battles at regular intervals.
Speaking of the Warden, let’s talk about the new squad dynamic. For much of the game, I have to admit to liking this new mechanic. If you fall in battle, your squad has a limited amount of time to reach you to revive you, otherwise you die. And the same goes for if any member of your squad goes down, you have a limited time to save them. While this can be a bit of a mixed blessing in a really hairy firefight, for the most part, it works well and I was spared a lot of deaths by cheap shots this way. The place where this feature completely breaks down is every single time you fight the Warden. Sure, one of the perks to having the squad is being able to call out targets for them to focus on. However, do this with the Warden and they’re going to spend their time shooting at him, head on…when his weak spot is the very bright glowy spot on his back. Now, look, I get that we’re not in the days of true artificial intelligence but…seriously? All right, if they’re going to attack the front, then that should leave you to be the one that’s able to flank and take the guy down…right? NOPE! See, the Warden KNOWS who you are. He’ll ignore your squadmates and hunt you down…and you will die. Lots.
While I sound all negative about the game, there’s no knocking the production values. Graphics and sound here are totally top notch. The only mark against that here really deals with Nathan Fillion. You see, since we all know what he looks like in the flesh, actually seeing his character with his helmet off and seeing X-Box One Nathan Fillion? Hello uncanny valley. Many of the other human characters look fine and help to support the argument that we’re getting closer and closer to bridging that uncanny valley…then Buck shows up and we realize that, nope, still some ways to go yet.
Halo 4 left us a bunch of questions: what happened to Cortana and what are the Forerunners up to being at the forefront. Halo 5 does answer those questions, but tries to do so in probably the least interestingly way possible, with nearly zero emotional investment. While I get that I’m in the minority of gamers that prefers NOT to play with other people, that’s really no excuse for what ultimately felt like a weak single player campaign. Sure, I’ll get Halo 6 when it comes out, as I’d like to finish the story and see how (hopefully) Master Chief takes down this new nemesis [You have no idea how hard it is to be spoiler free here… - Ed.], but I have to admit, I’m almost ready to be disappointed. The only way I can recommend this game is if you’re either a die-hard Halo completist, in it for the multi-player or if you just want to show off the graphics capability of your X-Box One. If you’re in it for the story or single player, rent this for a weekend and then return it because, honestly, having bought it, I can’t really think of an instance where I might replay this one.