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SPOILERIFIC: Discussing Halo 5’s Story and Shortcomings

If you haven’t already guessed, this article is going to have massive spoilers for the campaign mode of Halo 5. If you have yet to play all the way through the campaign, we strongly advise you to bookmark this article and come back to it when you have finished the game.

Halo 5 has finally been unleashed into the world, and it is great. The gameplay, the multiplayer: both are absolutely top notch. Where the game does have some issues, though, is in the story that the game told. Let’s talk about the good points of the story first.

First of all, the biggie, having Cortana as the baddie/antagonist was a brilliant move. Cortana has been the only constant in the Halo series other than Master Chief. I was genuinely gutted when she ‘died’ in Halo 4. To have her back in Halo 5 is great, even if she is the one causing trouble. To have the antagonist as someone who cares deeply about Master Chief, and for him to feel the same way about her, can lead to some really interesting situations. The cut-scene where Cortana meets Blue Team is fulfilled brilliantly. There’s real tension, heartache, and sadness played out here. For me, it was the highlight of the entire story.

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Something else I really enjoyed was the banter between Fireteam Osiris. While Locke was a bit of a damp squib, Buck (whom we last saw in Halo 3: ODST), Tanaka, and Vale showed elements of camaraderie, pathos, and humour in the few lines of dialogue they had. As the characters that we knew least about, the writers were able to give us a lot of information about the inter-relationships of the team, all while using minimal dialogue. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about Blue Team. Master Chief has been reunited with his long lost cohorts, the last of the SPARTAN-IIs. But there is almost no banter between these colleagues; in fact there is very little communication between them at all.

While Master Chief rejoining his comrades should be a fantastic thing, it leads to various questions. First and foremost, what were they doing while Master Chief was busy saving the world? These super soldiers are supposed to be the best of the best, far superior to the SPARTAN IIIs or IVs. So, if they were that good, why have we not seen them before? Halo 2 and 3 was supposed to be the battle to save mankind; if that was the case, shouldn’t we have drafted them in? Secondly, if they are as powerful as Master Chief, why are they all together as a team, doing a mission of little importance to the UNSC? Surely they could be far more useful spread out across the galaxy helping in lots of missions and different theaters of conflict.

Speaking of SPARTAN-IIs and SPARTAN-IVs, the face-off between Master Chief and Sergeant Locke is ridiculous. SPARTAN-IIs were taken as children from the best of the best and augmented to the extreme. SPARTAN-IVs are partially augmented ODSTs, and while they are significantly superior to the average military grunt, they’re nothing compared to a SPARTAN-II. To give a real-world example, it would be like the undisputed heavyweight-boxing champion of the world going up against a national level lightweight boxer. The idea that Locke would even survive more than a few seconds against Master Chief, let alone appear nearly his equal, is absurd.

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You might say that these are only things you’d understand if you were well-versed in Halo lore, but this game requires lots of knowledge that your average Halo player wouldn’t have come across. Without having read the novels, seen the videos, or played all of the Spartan Ops missions from Halo 4, you would have no end of questions from the campaign. You probably wouldn’t know that there was more than just Master Chief still around from the SPARTAN-II program. You wouldn’t have a clue why Dr Halsey, all of sudden, has only one arm. I’m not suggesting that 343 Industries shouldn’t ever acknowledge the expanded universe outside of the games. I just think it should either be as Easter eggs or subtle nods and winks, or explain whatever it is before you use it.

One of the things I have a real issue with is the marketing and advertising of the game. We were given massive posters saying that Master Chief was a traitor. This was never even suggested in the game; he went AWOL, but he was never a traitor. The marketing also gave us the idea that the game was basically going to be Locke v Master Chief. In truth they only share two scenes: one of those is the fight I talked about earlier, while the second has them teaming up. The sad thing about this discrepancy in the marketing was that the game that was sold to us was far more interesting than the actual game that we got.

Halo 5 is an absolutely brilliant game. I have no qualms about recommending the game to anyone. I just can’t help but be disappointed by the bland story and the obvious discrepancies. What did you think of the campaign and specifically the story that was told? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

Steve Clist
Joint Editor-in-Chief at Xbox Enthusiast as well as a contributor for Nintendo Enthusiast and PlayStation Enthusiast. Steve is a musician and gamer who loves sharing his passion for each. You will normally find him at the front of the grid in racing games or on the other end of the kill cam when you've just been killed in a first-person shooter.

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    1 Comment

    1. The only information that is required to enjoy the story of Halo 5 comes from Halo 4. Just because you want more information doesn’t mean it was necessary to understand. In fact, questions like, “Why is Cortana doing what she’s doing?” and “What is her end game?” are questions you’re not supposed to have answers for. That mystery will be solved in Halo 6. For all we know the Cortana in Halo 6 could be one of the Rampant Cortanas that split off from Cortana Prime. In Halo 6 we might find out that the only way to take down this broken Cortana is by finding the real one. Or if this is the real Cortana, she might be setting up for a defense against the return of the Flood. What she’s done may have cost some lives, but it might be for the greater good. Sacrifice isn’t evil when it saves more lives than it loses. Halo is no longer a simple “shoot at the bad guys because they are bad” story any more. It’s far more complex and I’m glad it’s grown up.

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