So I finally made time to sit down and play Halo 5: Guardians. I'd heard nothing but bad things about it, so I decided to sit it out when it first dropped in 2015. In fact, it's the reason I never bought an Xbox One. Now that I'm in my thumb-twiddling twenties and I can afford things, I made the big boy adult decision to play this thing. Now, before you read my thoughts on Halo 5: Guardians, let it be known that I am an unapologetic Halo 4 stan. I think the Prometheans were cool and the plot was great. Feel free to get in your nasty comment wraiths and shoot nasty comments at me in the form of nasty plasma comment bombs.
At the end of Halo 4, we see Cortana die. A super emotional moment not only for the player - but more importantly, for Master Chief too. Something that is pretty much unheard of in the whole of the franchise, Cortana's death was a great development for Master Chief's character, forcing him to experience loss at the end of Halo 4 strived to make him deeper than the guy who holds your gun. We begin to see less of Spartan 117, and more of John: the man Master Chief becomes after the war he was created for is over, and he is without purpose.
So anyway, Halo 5 tosses all that character development out the window and immediately rezzes Cortana like she's Shadow the Hedgehog. Somehow, Cortana returned. Not only that, but she’s also the villain now! Which, while not a terrible idea, it is completely un-earned and just feels like there was no one else to fill the role. The sad part is every part of Halo 5's plot that doesn't involve the rampant AI (or the bloody Warden) is actually pretty entertaining. Unlike most Halo fans, Team Osiris hunting down Blue Team and Master Chief does not offend me - in fact I like it a lot! At least, I like the IDEA of it. Feels like I’m playing Dog the Bounty Hunter, only instead of belligerent crackheads I'm hunting the green guy from Fortnite.
The plot is entertaining despite itself. Locke continues to hunt Chief for the duration of the game because neither of them will explain themselves to the other for absolutely no reason. It’s this kind of writing that makes the plot particularly difficult to be immersed in. Halo 5: Guardians’ plot is more like sitting in a kiddie pool; I’m submerged up to my ankles, but the sun’s out, and I’m playing with my limited-edition Knuckles the Echidna rubber duck.
Spartans Locke, Vale, and Tanaka are admittedly shallower than a Californian puddle. However, seeing Nathan Fillion reprise the role of Edward Buck is a total treat. He makes the otherwise strait-laced dialogue of Fireteam Osiris a lot more bearable. The whole "teams" angle this game takes is perplexing; after playing my way through I'm still left wondering why it was emphasised so much in gameplay. John's old friends were clearly ONLY brought back to support this model, and at least 2 members of Fireteam Osiris are un-interesting non-characters who serve the same purpose. I can't help but think the narrative would have been stronger if they ditched it and just had Locke hunting John like was advertised. Hell, even if Buck was the protagonist of Osiris that would've put this game up a few points at least.
If, like me, you've read Halo: Fall of Reach - you'll be over the moon to see Chief’s old buddies Spartans Fred, Linda and Kelly make their debut off the pages and onto the screen. Although their introduction is a lot like Cortana's resurrection; you're left wondering HOW they got here. It feels like I missed something, like there's a game between 4 and 5 that I haven't played.
The combat is damn good, a natural step forward for Halo. Every bullet you fire has a visual and sensory feedback that just feels great, you could play this game while skipping all the dialogue and cutscenes and have a great time just shooting aliens. Where the gameplay takes a bit of a dive is with the promethean weapons introduced in the instalment previous. For those who don’t remember; the light rifle acted as a DMR (single-fire) when scoped, and a battle rifle (3-shot burst) when un-scoped, which was neat. That’s gone, now it’s just a DMR with LEDs on it. The bolt shot and the suppressor now have homing bullets for whatever reason. If you wanted to use the hive-hand in Halo, well here’s your chance.
None of this matter though, because while you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, about 99% of the ones you do are going to end up in the Warden. You fight this dude no less than six times. SIX TIMES. And in those six fights, you need to kill him like three times. This character is the only boss fight in the game, may I inform you. Imagine Dark Souls but you have to fight the asylum demon a bunch of times! ...Wait that's a bad example.
In summary, Halo 5 Guardians is just alright. Halo games as of late have had a habit of bringing back old problems that were fixed years ago (not naming names) which admittedly brings this game’s potential down a good bit. The story is enjoyable enough - mediocre at best, while the plot actively destroys what made the previous game so great. Immediately resurrecting Cortana is just bad enough, but then taking her in the worst possible direction is just unforgiveable. Watching Cortana die in 2012 was heart-breaking, but her return only 3 years later makes me miss when she was dead.