If there is one thing Microsoft is really good at, it is advertising their Xbox exclusives, and no exclusive is bigger than Halo. It came as no surprise to see countless trailers, commercial, ads and websites pop up as October 27th approached. Halo 5: Guardians was coming and Microsoft wanted to make sure not a person on this earth didn’t know it. Now that the game has released, I look back on those trailers, seeing the Meridian commercial for the first time, realizing it was Halo, hearing the words, “Spartan 117, the Master Chief, has died.” As a diehard fan, I can’t lie and say there wasn’t some emotion, and my hype for this game was reaching unbelievable heights. I was such a fool.
My hype has long since faded and I write this as a broken man. The excitement and intrigue of the countless advertisements was all absent, and the brief story featured in the game was far from the series’ finest. Normally, it would be okay if the story didn’t quite live up to the hype, but the big problem for Microsoft is that the story they told in the trailers was far superior to the one they told in the game. That’s correct; a live action commercial for the actual game left me more impacted than the entirety of Halo 5: Guardian’s campaign. Let me be clear and say that the campaign is far from bad and it really nails what it should feel like to be a Spartan, but the poorly constructed plot and a few lousy twists don’t make for an award winning experience, especially for those with an appreciation for the lore outside of the games.
Since the beginning of the Hunt the Truth ad campaign, we’ve been led to believe there is some nasty tension between Locke and the Chief. The two could be seen, depending on the trailer, ready to deal the finishing blow on the other. We knew Locke was hunting the Chief, who was AWOL (Absent Without Leave) and believed to have gone rogue. From the brief snippets here and there, it looked like we had the makings of a legendary battle between two Spartan teams the likes of which Halo has never seen. Instead, we spend only three missions playing as the Chief and company and the only development between Locke and the Chief is a fight where Locke cracks his helmet and the Chief, in turn, shows him what a real Spartan can do. As satisfying as it was, one solid fight does not a conflict make.
It is such a shame that 343i left so much on the table and was, frankly, outclassed by their marketing team with regards to making a compelling story. With the success of Halo 4, it seemed that Frank O’Connor and the gang were ready to take Halo to the next level. Instead, they squandered the opportunity to evolve Halo’s campaign. With rumors swirling that Halo 5 is the beginning of a new trilogy of games, there is hope they can improve, but with the drastic shift away from the Chief we could be looking at unfamiliar horizons for Halo’s future.