It’s currently Twinfinite’s Game of the Year week! All week long, our Editors and Writers will be nominating games from this year that stood out in 2015. Today, Associate Editor Justin Carter tells us why Halo 5: Guardians is worthy of being Twinfinite’s 2015 Game of the Year.
The Halo franchise has been around for nearly 15 years at this point. A decade and a half of gunning down aliens, punching them in the face, and jacking their vehicles. Bungie handed the reigns over to 343 while they decided to do Destiny, and the response to a studio shift didn’t entirely go over well when Halo 4 was released. It’s easy to say that Halo 4 was more or less a transitional game for 343, one where they had to prove that they at least knew what they were doing with the franchise.
Each of the Halo games have had a unique challenge with their release: “Can Microsoft make it in the games industry?”, “Can there be a stellar online console experience?”, “Will Bungie be able to stick the landing?”, and so on and so forth. Since Bungie left the series with Reach, the underlying challenge has been “Is Microsoft capable enough to continue the franchise and keep up the series’ hot streak?”.
The challenge for Halo 5: Guardians has been twofold; asking players to give 343 another shot after the Master Chief Collection managed to ruin the fun of having all the core Halo games on the Xbox One, and to accept that the hero of the series may possibly be on the wrong side of things now that Cortana’s out of his head. For months, the marketing has been building up this whole “Master Chief’s gone rogue and you have to hunt him down!” narrative to get people hyped up about going toe to toe with the Spartan.
Real talk, it’s a bit annoying that 343 was pulling the whole “two sides to every story, #HunttheTruth” BS with the marketing when the story is incredibly straightforward and offers no ambiguity as to what’s really going on. If the story was done more as a framed narrative or the marketing was more about “hey, is this person really dead?”, it would’ve been worth all the speculating and weekly audio logs. As it is, it just feels like the writers and the marketing team weren’t really in communication with each other in any capacity.
Which isn’t to say that Halo 5’s narrative is bad; even though it’s practically unkind to anyone who hasn’t read the books or comics with Master Chief’s fellow Spartans (which we’ve helped rectify!), it’s still pretty fun and entertaining. While Blue Team gets the short shrift in character development — it’s crazy how they just show up and the game expects you to roll with this while offering nothing for you to really learn about them — traveling the galaxy with Osiris is fun, and it’s nice to actually feel like part of a Spartan team. There are plenty of moments in the cutscenes where you feel like you’re a superhero (sadly, none of them playable), and the sight of watching four supersoldiers drop into battle with the Arbiter and a pack of Elites doesn’t really lose its cool factor.
If nothing else, the story didn’t feel like it was for two completely different games like the early Halos, and I’m pretty excited by what the ending means for the series. I actually ended up liking the dynamic between Osiris, Buck and Vale in particular. He’s always got something funny to say, and I found her knowledge of the Elite language and their lifestyle interesting.