Halo 5, Level-by-Level Analysis – Unconfirmed

I had a lot of very positive things to say about the last mission.

Not so much with this one…

We’ve got a fair bit of ground to cover with Unconfirmed, including but not limited to 343 managed to do the unthinkable, the unexpected, the unfrigginbelievable in how the main thing they marketed their game on (the confrontation between Chief and Locke) ended up being incredibly lackluster. But before we get to that we’ve got to talk a bit about Halo 5’s marketing…meridian18We start the mission off with yet another missed opportunity for a scene, time has elapsed and we’re missing out on some vital character perspective from Osiris. The mission begins with some Pelicans landing at Apogee Station and… that’s it.

You get out of a Pelican…

This is the mission in which Locke and Chief meet for the first time, but there’s no build-up to it whatsoever because the writers keep missing these chances to have scenes where the characters actually talk to each other. We are a third of the way through the game at this point, this is mission five-of-fifteen, and we have had a grand total of one relatively brief scene so far where Buck expresses concern about the mission. Nothing about that is followed through even on a thematic level – it’s the Cold Tea problem again.

Overall, this feels like a pretty bog-standard mission rather than a tense and anticipatory lead-up to an epic confrontation that the entire marketing campaign of the game hinged on. But I’m getting ahead of myself… the problem I’m trying to articulate here is that the lack of an opening scene to provide meaningful context to the progression of the situation is a major flaw in this game – thus, it does not feel like there even is a meaningful progression, an escalation, of the things that are going on. A five second scene of getting out of a Pelican is what I expect from a secondary game mode like Spartan Ops or Warzone, not the main campaign.

Even the ambient dialogue during gameplay doesn’t bring up any of these essential aspects of the story. I think a big part of the problem here is that nobody in Osiris actually has a motivating force that’s driving them to go after Blue Team because, as I said as early as the second mission, everything is contextualised already. This obviously runs contrary to the bookend cutscenes in the Master Chief Collection:

Thel: “I admire your sense of duty, Spartan. But if he has left the fold, he has his reasons.”

Locke: “I’m sure he does, Arbiter. And I intend to find out what they are.”

Within the context of the game, Locke already knows everything at this point – everyone knows everything at this point. Cortana is back, she’s awakening Guardians, she’s called John to her, he and Blue Team go AWOL. I hate saying “that’s all there is to it” because it’s an inherently reductive comment to make, but in this case that’s all there is to it.

There’s no truth to be hunted, there’s no questions that we’re seeking the answers to, because the game has already delivered that context to us before the first act of the story is even done.meridian20I encourage you to go back over the marketing materials for Halo 5 and see how they built up the antagonism between Chief and Locke because none of it is reflected in the game. And they were running this narrative well into October, with the Halo 5’s BELIEVE clips:

Locke: “My mission is warranted – bring down a verified traitor.”
John: “I’ve made my choice, my path is clear.”
Locke: “Our greatest threat is believing in a hero.”
John: “I believe in completing my mission. At all costs.”
Locke: “I believe in protecting humanity.”
John: “I believe great threats require great sacrifices.”
Locke: “I believe in taking down a traitor.”

John says that he has made a choice, one which makes him out to be a “verified traitor” to humanity. We see more of a philosophical difference established between Chief and Locke, as the latter decries the notion of belief in heroes – that, at the end of the day, these are people and we are all equally fallible.

There’s also the suggestion here that John is going up against a great threat and he’s going to have to make some kind of sacrifice. Locke is driven by protecting humanity, while John is being driven by his mission. It is made to look like we will be experiencing a battle of perspectives and beliefs, which could have been so easy to tell if 343 had stuck with the story they had been building up across the last few years with all these disparate factions and humanity’s Great Schism.

Looking further back, there’s the live action material we got in the All Hail and The Cost trailers. Now, as a caveat, I know that these trailers are not canon in the sense that they don’t actually happen, but these are quite clearly and obviously meant set up the themes, tone, and atmosphere of the game.

In the All Hail trailer, Locke blames John for the destruction of the world (which is quite clearly intended to be Meridian) that they are both standing in.

“All hail the conquering hero. Let us remember him as our protector and not the one who gave us this. As our saviour, and not our betrayer. Let us see him forever as you. And not as you. All hail the conquering hero. The one who was supposed to save us all! But now I must save us… from you.”

all hail1There’s… not really much ambiguity to draw out of that. Locke makes things crystal clear – John is responsible for this devastation in some capacity and his actions are seen as a betrayal of humanity.

And then there’s John’s trailer, The Cost, where his dialogue is very telling as well.

“This… is this what you wanted? Is this what you were looking for? Was everything you’ve compromised, everything you’ve done, worth it? Was it? You’ve completed your mission, Spartan Locke. Mine is just beginning.”

Now, there’s a few ways you can interpret this, but I think the presentation of the trailer makes it quite clear that John is talking to himself (up until he starts referring to Locke completing his mission), because the whole time he’s walking towards Locke he is looking up at the statue of himself. The statue of the idealised hero and saviour of humanity, the image that absolutely crumbled in the wake of whatever monumental choice it was that he made. And he says that this is just the beginning, that this is the start of his mission. As we see in a later live action trailer, the Master Chief is officially declared dead in the wake of this.

I’ve suddenly decided that I want to take a detour and talk about this a bit prematurely, as John won’t be declared dead in the game for another few days yet. But I’ve got to talk about this trailer.

I actually found it very emotionally evocative, the music coupled with these little glimpses at ordinary civilian life where everyone across the galaxy is watching the news that the Master Chief is ‘dead’ felt really quite profound.

We see workers, possibly miners, running into a run-down, makeshift cafe – covered in grime and stewing over a hot meal as they go about their everyday duties.

We see a retired war veteran sitting alone in his home, the walls and floor totally bare, like a military barracks. This is a man who’s evidently struggling with adjusting back to civilian life, we see a photo of his comrades (how many of them are dead?) and a medal on the wall in front of his bed so he’s waking up every day to look into the faces of that photograph. He stares down at his prosthetic arm – perhaps he met the Master Chief once and was the reason for why this soldier didn’t lose more than his arm.

We see young boys and girls from many different backgrounds in training, all stopping to stare at the screen as the news of their hero’s demise hits home. The camera fades into the construction teams just out the window, even the assembly lines for the Warthogs have halted.

We see a woman performing maintenance on what is presumably Lisbon Station, in orbit around Installation 05. We see a train car on a colony world where a mother holds her child, who is playing with a Spartan-IV action figure he’s repainted to reflect Chief’s iconic green armour and gold visor.

It really gives a sense of what John-117 means to humanity, as the one who saved them from the Covenant, from the Flood, and from the Didact. As a result, we feel the weight of that loss when looking at those faces, despite the fact we know he isn’t dead. It feels like the entire galaxy has just stood still.

This is what the human race looks like feeling the ‘loss’ of John-117, without the Master Chief, and it looks like a galaxy without hope.a hero fallsAnd the game just absolutely forgets to do anything with that. There’s not so much as a single mention of the Master Chief being declared dead, no indication that anybody even cares. I just find it astonishing that a minute long live action trailer managed to capture more emotion and more of a sense of consequence through a collection of three second glimpses at ordinary people than Halo 5 managed across its entire campaign…

Would it have killed them to have had one scene devoted to this in the break between Reunion and Swords of Sanghelios? To explore this massive blow to humanity? I’ll be talking more about that in the next post.

Remember what Bonnie Ross told us about the journey that John is undergoing in Halo 5 as well, that he’s “questioning everything” – who he is, and what the UNSC and ONI has ordered him to do. There was a very coherent narrative presented within the span of Halo 5’s marketing, particularly when Hunt the Truth entered the picture and Mshak says to Ben:

“MC is the precedent for free reign in the military. He’s responsible for protecting a galaxy. A job that big requires absolute mobility, but then, that’s a whole lot of power to give one man… hence the dichotomy, Benjamin – power and responsibility.”

What happens when John’s sense of responsibility leads him away from the UNSC where there is this illusion that he is safely leashed with the “good guys”? Chris Schlerf laid the groundwork for this in the first arc of Escalation.grey“What you fight for isn’t always the same as who you fight for.”

Scruggs, a Spartan, is fighting for the New Colonial Alliance, who are opposed to ONI and the UNSC. This is further built upon in the Spirit of Fire arc with Daniel Clayton’s dialogue about the NCA having agents on every human world and that he and Lord Hood will see each other again the day the UNSC falls. It also sets up the arc of Palmer’s shift in perspective, from a very black-and-white one to being more understanding of the grey, that was supposed to be the point of her arc in Escalation.

That was effectively supposed to be Halo 5 in a nutshell, the greyness of this escalating conflict, looking at all the marketing material and where that was pointing us with the difference between Chief and Locke – as well as foregrounding ONI as an antagonistic force. Not to mention that tiny little plot detail in Halo 4 where the Librarian unlocks the ‘gifts’ she hid in human DNA, the only reflection of which we see in the game is the Domain vision which is swept under the rug and forgotten about (Cold Tea) as soon as it serves its purpose in getting the plot going.

I don’t know how you just forget to do something meaningful with that, and I’m being generous in presuming it was forgotten because the alternative is the writers saying “let’s just… not do anything with that” and the implications of that are just so much worse with that storytelling approach.

Of course, I think I know which of those two is more likely to have happened…

The genesong would have been a perfect opportunity for John’s actions to be driven by an additional layer of something that was just so beyond the understanding of everyone else. Yet another missed opportunity to add to the list, I’m starting to lose count of how many of those there have been at this point.meridian21Anyway, back to the mission itself.

Sadly, there’s honestly nothing much to analyse in terms of the mission’s content leading up to its ending because a lot of it is just reiteration of information about the setting that we learned in the last two missions – Sloan being unhappy with the UNSC’s presence and Tanaka explaining the deglassing process. Even the intel doesn’t offer an awful lot of discussion here.

One interesting thing that is brought up is the endgame of the deglassing process being Liang-Dortmund effectively having land rights to an entire planet. With the overall idea of colonial independence and the history of the UNSC’s monopoly of power over its own colonies, this might have had some interesting implications for the setting going forward, especially if we were still rolling with the idea of the human Great Schism happening in Halo 5.

But, unfortunately, the advent of the Created’s introduction to the setting along with the Guardians derails these comparatively smaller story beats…

So that pretty much brings us straight to the confrontation with the Warden Eternal.we13I remember seeing this area for the first time in one of the ViDocs and my mind was buzzing with ideas about how this looked a lot like a visual parallel to the Mausoleum of the Arbiter in Halo 2 with all those caskets lining the walls.

One might hear an echo of Truth’s words in their minds upon seeing this:

“Here rests the vanguard of the Great Journey…”

I guess that parallel still holds, it’s just a shame that 343 managed to do what I thought was impossible and make a Forerunner character boring.

For those of you who know me and have read pretty much any of my previous stuff over the last three years, you’ll probably know that the Forerunners are my absolute favourite part of the Halo universe. They always have been and they always will be, the lore as-conceived by Frank O’Connor and Brian Jarrard in IRIS, Halo 3’s Terminals, and Soma the Painter, and how Greg Bear beautifully built on all of that in the Forerunner Saga… it was everything I wanted.

It was a big part of why I was excited for and ended up loving Halo 4 so much, because I really feel that for a fan such as myself it did the Forerunners justice. Listening back on old podcasts, such as Sparkast #17 which I brought up in the analysis on Glassed, it’s clear that Chris Schlerf had a great deal of investment in that aspect of the story from the way he and Greg Bear geek out over the ways in which we learn about the depth and detail of this race.

Brian Reed quite evidently does not hold that same kind of reverence, looking at how poorly the writing for the Ur-Didact in The Next 72 Hours arc of Escalation. I single him out here because he was the writer for that arc, not because I just want to drag his name in here to bash him. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do that in this analysis but far too much criticism that I’ve seen has moved away from the actual game and shifted onto judgements about Reed as a person – I don’t want to derail the analysis here but it should be common sense and decency that these kinds of ‘criticisms’ are absolutely unacceptable and are ultimately harmful for the series in the long run because it shuts down an avenue for the community to maintain a dialogue with the developers. Case in point, Reed taking down his Twitter and there being a grand total of two post-release sources talking about the story (The Sprint finale and Frankie’s interview with TIME).

Anyway, we’re then saddled with this new character in Halo 5 – the Warden Eternal – who is an utterly static presence with next to no exploration of his history, who he was, what he is… just, anything.we14Here’s the thing. The Forerunner Saga had an AI character called ‘The Warden’, an ancient ancilla that had lived for well over 25,000 years and acted very much on its own accord – aiding Faber, the Master Builder, in escaping from his trial when Mendicant Bias arrives at the Capital with the missing Halo.

As a semi-related side-note: This was actually a really funny moment in Silentium where Faber is giving his testimony to the Master Juridical, and he is accused of bribing the Warden to do this, to which Faber is just convinced that he’s being screwed with because he indignantly retorts “how the hell do you bribe a machine?” and the Master Juridical is just like “you found a way”.

Having the Warden Eternal be a pre-established character, even one as relatively minor as the Warden in the Forerunner Saga, just having any semblance of an established history would do much to make the Warden Eternal a little more interesting.

In this scene, he just strolls up and says “I am the Warden Eternal” as if that tells us everything. But this is another case where both fans of the expanded universe and fans who haven’t read the expanded universe are on the same page because we’ve had no hint of the Warden Eternal (or the Guardians for that matter) in any prior fiction and nothing is done to give us any understanding as to who this is. There is one line of dialogue in the thirteenth mission where Exuberant Witness says that “Warden is not a robot”, alluding to the possibility that he was Composed. And that could be interesting, for a Forerunner to submit themselves to such a fate – to be a single mind occupying a million bodies standing in defence of the Domain, the very soul of Forerunner society, for eternity.

However, his official Universe page on Waypoint refers to him as being an “artificial intelligence”, so we’re pretty much in the dark as to what 343 actually intends for this character. It’s funny because the Didact was criticised for having too much of his history not being in the game, so they swept the Didact under a rug and replaced him with a new character with no history whatsoever.meridian30The conceit of the Warden ends up making very little sense after the body in which he confronts Osiris is defeated because there’s literally about two dozen more bodies behind them… Considering that he later has no problem occupying about a dozen bodies at the end of The Breaking to ineffectually walk very slowly towards Blue Team, why didn’t he just activate these?

Of course, the obvious answer is ‘because Osiris would be killed and the story has to progress’, but this speaks to how little effort went into actually thinking this stuff through and establishing any rules regarding his abilities.

And now we come to one of the most controversial parts of the game – the long-awaited face-off.

Before we get into that properly though, I have to criticise the fact that none of the area we see in the Guardian’s Shelter is actually a playable space. Not the fight itself, I’m totally fine with that being a cutscene, but there were so many awesome new movement -based abilities we were given in Halo 5 and when it finally comes to a location where we could meaningfully use them it’s just shown to us in a cutscene.

The area itself that we see feels very much like a parallel to the final area of the Mantle’s Approach in Halo 4’s final mission where you have to disable the shield around the Composer. You could have Blue Team be surrounded by an energy shield as the portal into the Guardian powers up and Osiris is trying to disable the shield just as John and Cortana did to the shield inside the Composer that the Didact was using to protect himself.meridian25Imagine if you were to reshuffle the story in such a way (going with the ‘split Halo 5 into two games’ idea where you play as Osiris in one and Blue Team in the other) that this is the first time you see Blue Team – so you are lacking the context from the second mission that tells us everything. To have this first meeting parallel the final battle with the Didact in Halo 4 would be an effective means of establishing the conflict, I think.

In terms of gameplay, you’d have lots of platforming that would take advantage of the clamber and other movement mechanics – it would be something completely new for the series to experiment with. Have lots of different routes, lots of opportunities for trick-jumping, and have the paths move/teleport in a cycle.

Maybe you’d have to fight groups of Prometheans as well, which would layer on even more uncertainty to both Osiris’ perspective and the player’s since they’d be defending Blue Team. And maybe you could have an actual ticking clock, if it runs out then the Guardian activates and Blue Team leaves before you get a chance to confront them, thus resetting the checkpoint. Obviously game design is no simple task, but we’re at a point now where something along these lines can literally be made in Forge, and they had the whole area rendered with in-game assets as well so there’s a significant, already-established framework to work with there. I don’t think it’s all that unreasonable to ask that the moment this game’s marketing bigged up, this epic confrontation, actually had some sense of ceremony about it in challenging the player in a new way that the series hasn’t done before.

As it is in the cutscene, this actually ends up being the opposite of breaking the cardinal rule of cinematic storytelling in games because Osiris looks like they’re jogging across these Forerunner platforms. It doesn’t look like Spartans are in this scene, it’s such a stark contrast to the bombastic opening of the game where Osiris is charging down the mountain. I really don’t feel a sense of dramatic tension here, but I’ve seen lots of mixed discussion about this scene with some people who were perfectly satisfied with how it played out. That’s totally valid, but I myself was left wanting – and I’ll explain why in a moment.half166Another question is on my mind here: how exactly did Blue Team end up getting to the Guardian after Osiris?

They had a head start getting to Meridian as soon as they left Argent Moon, they didn’t have to sweet talk Sloan, they didn’t have to fight through hordes of Prometheans, so… how did they arrive at the Guardian behind Osiris?

Did they stop off for a picnic in the glassland wastes?

We might have a potentially satisfactory answer to that if we actually had a Blue Team mission during the Meridian arc.

If you’ll indulge me here on this related tangent a moment, I was rewatching The Force Awakens yesterday now that it’s out on DVD. Great film, absolutely love it. As I was playing this mission back today in preparation for this analysis, I was thinking about Han Solo’s death scene and just how many elements of the story and the setting had to come together in order to make that scene possible. I think everyone caught onto the lighting of that scene – the sharp divide of blue and red on Kylo Ren’s face as he faces his father and makes his choice.

Just think about how much effort went into setting that up…

They arranged the pieces of the story so that the scene could happen – Starkiller Base has to absorb the power of the sun, they establish this as a ticking clock for the other perspective in the story (Poe and the other X-Wing pilots – “as long as there’s light we have a chance”), they set it up so that everyone would be where they have to be in order to maximise the impact of Han Solo’s death in the moment that the sun dims, the blue light fades from Kylo Ren’s face, and the room is flooded with red light. It really demonstrated the lengths that the people involved in the story of The Force Awakens went to in order to emphasise and do justice to the characters.

It was some masterful narrative craftwork as far as structure goes.

And when I look at the confrontation that 343 had built the ‘mainstream hype’ of the game around, I can’t help but feel disappointed to see how little thought seemed to go into the construction of this scene.half168Where The Force Awakens positioned its pieces – its characters – so they would all be receptive of the moment where Kylo Ren kills his father in a moment that will be looked back on as a definitive moment, Halo 5 comparatively tries to hurry its characters out the back door. Literally.

Locke confronts Linda, Fred, and Kelly, but they say nothing. John appears and Locke tells him to stand down, while Blue Team look over at him downright comically like “lol who’s this?”

John just nods at them and they walk out of the scene. They literally just walk out of the scene. It just… it comes across as unintentionally comical. It feeds into the point of contention that a lot of Blue Team fans have in that they are so inconsequential to the story. They don’t even have a single line of dialogue here, and within seconds they’re just ushered off the stage.

That’s not the only problem either because Osiris are sidelined here as well.

Again, literally.

They’re standing on the sidelines across a gap they could easily jump…half169Obviously, they needed to foreground Chief and Locke fighting here, and there’s a few avenues you could take the criticism down with this. For one, you might say that the team dynamic of the game ultimately detracts from the conflict between Chief and Locke because you’ve got a main cast of eight characters – which is a lot to juggle.

At the same time, as we learn, the story isn’t about the Master Chief versus Jameson Locke and the battle of perspectives we thought we were in for because the Cortana/Created story throws a spanner into the works there. And a case can be made regarding 343 showing a lack of confidence in making John a more controversial figure because of much of the fanbase’s inherent sense of loyalty to him over a new character like Locke.

Working with what we have in this scene, I think this could have been fixed relatively easily by having the various members of Blue Team and Osiris split up during the ‘sprint’ to this translocation device. Have it so Blue Team is making Osiris have to go after them individually, but Locke catches up to John and they have their confrontation while the others are occupied off-screen.

You would have a really great chance here to demonstrate the natural cohesion that Blue Team has after literally decades of fighting together, while Osiris struggles to keep up with them because they’re a newly formed team who are still getting to know each other on a personal level – in contrast to Blue Team, who are family.

Imagine how futile Locke’s offer for John to come home peacefully would seem as Blue Team has the upper hand, how he’s outmatched but he is still bound by his sense of honour and duty to do his job. I think that would pretty effectively demonstrate Locke’s mindset as a character.half31Again, thinking about the dialogue here between Chief and Locke – his very concise “I have a job to do” – imagine if this were the first time we saw Chief in Halo 5 with no context as to what he’s actually doing. The scene would be a lot more effective with that sense of ambiguity hanging in the air in my opinion, but again that would only really work with the ‘split Halo 5 into two games’ idea. Considering the extent to which Halo 5 feels like a prologue to Halo 6 more than anything else, I don’t think the split would be that big of a deal.

Chief’s retort of “like hell she is” when Locke says that Cortana is Osiris’ concern… it kind of feels unearned to me. When John disobeyed Del Rio’s order to enable him to initiate final dispensation on Cortana, that moment was a culmination of a lot of build-up where, for the first time, John made his own decision. I would be more positively predisposed towards this scene if it turned out that Cortana wasn’t alive and John was being manipulated by some outside force (*cough* Ur-Didact *cough*) so the story actually ended up being what was promised – John having to emotionally deal with the loss of Cortana.

The line isn’t out of character by any means, it’s definitely something that John would say in this situation and I can’t fault that. But without seeing John go though the stages of grief (which would be denial at this point where of course he would jump at any small hope that Cortana would be alive, making him easy to manipulate), because it ends up being Cortana, I think the ultimate potential of this moment ended up being lost.half170As for the fight itself, I have mixed feelings. There’s one part of it that I like and one part that I don’t like.

The part I don’t like is the speed of it, or the lack thereof. Like the brisk little jog to this translocation platform earlier in the scene, it just doesn’t look to me like two Spartans are fighting judging by our knowledge from the books – how ridiculously fast Spartan reaction times are and all that.

Now, before anything, let’s point out the obvious here – this was performed by motion capture actors who are not biologically-enhanced supersoldiers.

Go figure.

But I watched a fan-made edit of the scene where certain motions were slightly sped up and it just looked so much better to me. I think that’s how they should have played it because they tried to put a bit too much weight behind each action and the result felt really quite sluggish. Additionally, there are far too many pauses in the fight where Locke had the perfect opportunity to use the armour restraint – like when he smashes John’s visor, he’s down for a good little while and Locke waits until after John has gotten back up and turned to face him to activate the restraint device.

I’m tempted to say that this is further indicative of Locke’s mindset, his sense of honour as a person is matched by his sense of honour in a fight… which is true, that is definitely Locke’s character in a nutshell, which we see explored more in the Sanghelios arc. But at the same time I think that’s a bit of a handwave when you consider the nature of Locke’s mission and who he’s going up against. But then it escalates so you could argue the strength of Locke’s convictions even in this situation and how that is ultimately one of his flaws, which would neatly connect to Thel’s dialogue in the Master Chief Collection bookend scene where he says he admires Locke’s sense of duty, and all too often we have seen that kind of sense of duty be the downfall of certain characters – like, funnily enough, Thel.

The part I do like is the bit where Chief and Locke are grappling for the armour restraint. This bit was really well done in my opinion, particularly due to the music which actually succeeded in building a lot more tension.

For me, ideally, they would have taken a leaf out of Red vs Blue’s book here because the animation for those fights is incredible. The Tex vs York, Maine, and Wyoming fight is what I would have in mind for this (starting at 2:30).

Locke loses, he has the armour restraint put on him, and the rest of Osiris still just stands there. A good fifteen-to-twenty seconds pass from the moment Chief wins to the moment he steps into the translocator and it’s not until after he goes that anyone from Osiris makes a move, where John would realistically have a lot more trouble going up against three Spartans of varying skillsets – like Vale’s more acrobatic fighting style, and Tanaka’s immense talent for bulldozing her way through rocks and Banshees.

Obviously, the story has to go on and it has to keep moving, but it ends up feeling cheap when things are being contrived to keep Blue Team and Osiris out of the fight. But then, we should have all seen this coming from the moment they only brought one armour restraint instead of four.

The cave starts to collapse as the Guardian awakens and Osiris has to escape. Again, we are denied the chance to actually play the exit sequence just as we were denied the entrance sequence which really was a hell of a missed opportunity.half38I like that Buck wasn’t quite fast enough to keep up with the rest of Osiris, and I like that Locke was the one to go back for him. It’s a nice little continuation of the bond that was established in the opening cutscene, and we’ll see it again in the Sanghelios arc.

The Guardian rises and the mission ends.

We’ll talk extensively about the Guardians themselves next time…

We’ve hit our first milestone here as we’re now a third of the way through the game now, pretty much approaching the end of the first act. I would be lying if I said that this does much to set up excitement for the rest of the game because this still feels like it was meant to be the second act of the story and not the first. I guess the true meaning of ‘Unconfirmed’ is whether we’ll ever find out if that was the case or not.

Oh, and incidentally this is the 100th post published on this blog. *pats self on back*

About haruspis

Writer and aspiring teacher who cares and talks far too much about fictional universes.
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7 Responses to Halo 5, Level-by-Level Analysis – Unconfirmed

  1. jetpowerfie says:

    I’m still convince 343i was planning on giving us that grand story they set up, but when MMC failed, corporate said: “Uh-oh. One more like this and Halo is done for. We gotta play it super safe this game, then maybe we’ll try for the next game instead. Take out this, this, and that, bring it down to a small manageable story, and focus on fixing multiplayer from Halo 4. If we can get into e-Sports, we can have a lot more profitability and notoriety back for Halo, then we can try some more daring things later.” Thus Halo 5’s bait and switch happened. (Now I’m not niave, just really optimistic in hoping that 343i still cares about the lore enough to recover from this in the next few releases. We’ll see if not but I’ll hold out hope. )

    Loving your analyses still btw.

  2. Quinn Heff says:

    Your ability to so clearly describe what makes this campaign so disappointing to many Halo fans is phenomenal. Personally, the worst part about Halo 5 for me is that now the Halo story is headed down a path of mediocrity when we were seemingly *this* close to having an in-game Halo story that would have propelled the franchise’s story in the right direction (emotion, expansive universe, detail, canon consistency).

    I remember listening to episodes of Hunt The Truth over the summer and saying to myself, “This is it! This is finally gonna be the Halo game that we’ve all been waiting for.” I mean, releasing that series right before Halo 5’s release was diabolical. It still hurts to think that the marketing campaign had a more compelling story than the actual game itself. Like I’m not even kidding when I say there are days where I get depressed thinking about Halo 5’s missed potential. We were led to believe that it would be the greatest Halo campaign/story ever, and then 343 zapped up with its sentinel beam just as we neared the control room’s console panel.

    Rant over. One big question I have for you (if you have the time to answer) is do you think at this point, given the “Created” story line, the story can be redeemed? Or is the Halo story kinda screwed just because of one game’s boneheaded decision to pursue one disappointing story line over other, more compelling ones.

    Thanks again Alex! Big Fan! Keep doing what you’re doing!

  3. dude527 says:

    I disagree with you on a few things, here. You raise a lot of good points, though. I want to talk about what I disagree with first.

    While I feel the promotional campaign was effective in setting a certain tone, especially in that ad where Chief is declared dead, I’m glad this was downplayed ultimately in the game. One thing I’ve never really “bought” from the new generation (Halo 4 onward) of lore is Master Chief’s celebrity. While his achievements certainly deserve special recognition, it seems to me he shouldn’t be specifically celebrated by civilians. These are civilians who would strictly not be allowed to know about the Halos, the Flood, the Ark, etc, much less John’s personal role there. ONI may have released Spartan-II stories to build morale, but my feeling is that they probably didn’t specifically highlight John’s actions, considering his identity and origins are supposed to be top secret. I know that’s not necessarily the case in the new fiction, considering Ben Giraud took that Halo 2 photo of Chief and he already seemed to have some celebrity at that point, but I just feel like this is one of the weirder retcons 343 has done – it makes Chief feel more “superhero” than “top secret super soldier”. Suddenly even the layman is aware of the galactic importance of Chief’s actions and is rooting for him. It just isn’t realistic, nor very consistent with previously established canon. Civilians shouldn’t really have access to Spartan-IIs on a personal level, just as we in the modern day don’t really have access to the personal lives of our top secret military troops.

    I guess I just don’t get why a kid with a Spartan-IV action figure would be so upset over John’s death when there’s no realistic way he could have a notion of the reality of John’s life or his combat operations – there’s no way a kid would be rooting for the kind of soldier Chief actually is – because without access, there can’t be empathy. And yet suddenly Chief’s actions are so inherently heroic, so base paragon, that even a small child is mourning his death. Again, this is something out of Superman, not Halo.

    So ultimately, I’m glad that wasn’t really in Halo 5, because it’s a plot point 343 has shoehorned in without actually earning it. The most bare minimum thing they did to earn it was to mention using John’s return as a PR boost in that Escalation arc – but I have a hard time even buying that, because it clearly wasn’t thought through very hard. To do that would be to admit the existence of the Ark and to endanger the general public, in my view – there is no tactical advantage to amending John’s KIA status to the general public, especially since he’s just hopping into secret missions with Blue Team between The Next 72 and Halo 5. So all the statues and the mourning of a hero… They could absolutely sell me on the idea that Locke was feeling that moral dilemma of watching a hero fall, since he seems to have access to Blue Team’s past… But it’s just a harder pill to swallow when people aren’t supposed to know anything about the most important of John’s exploits anyways.

    Phew. Sorry for the essay, I kind of derailed myself.

    Also a sidenote: You mention John going through the “stages of grief”. While I wish they would have explored his plight in Halo 5, I’m glad they didn’t poorly write anything about the “stages of grief” or anything, because that mischaracterizes the entire process of grief. There are no stages to it and so to tie up John’s feelings into a simple little “denial” knot and then have him progress to the next “stage” later on would be… Problematic. John strikes me as a character who might only overcome his grief and learn to live with it by embracing that side of him which in Halo 4 was screaming to, above all, save Cortana. That’s where I was hoping Halo 5 was going, because it gives a chance to explore John’s personal grief and a chance to bring forward that “man vs machine” theme in a logical way, rather than just having John regress back to machine. Either way, I just wanted to mention that I’m glad they didn’t even try to tread that problematic “stages of grief” myth which only people who haven’t experienced deep grief perpetuate.

    When I watched the Locke-Chief fight, I was among those scratching their heads. The fight made no sense. It was like two grown amateur men wrestling. I looked to things like Haloid and RvB, like you. Then I realized you don’t even have to look beyond the game itself – Osiris’ opening scene, the Jul assassination scene, the running down the side of a Guardian scene – these are all more how Spartans move and fight. I recognize the logistical problems of having to use motion capture actors and having an ensemble cast of eight characters, but I don’t think that’s an excuse – they shouldn’t have even tried with a Spartan fight cutscene if they couldn’t manage to do it correctly.

    • BLACKED96 says:

      Hi there! I want to be a good fan and talk about your first comment, the part about John being some kind of Superman. I think it makes sense because we already have a short story in the First Strike adjunct, called Petra. Here we are given information about public perception of John. Most people only see him as a martyr, they think he single handedly save the human race, but they are been kept in the dark about the Forerunners and The Flood, much like we learn about the glassing of Africa in the Flood mode of Spartan Assault.

      John had already been conmemorated in live TV, much to his dislike, just at the open cutscene of Halo 2. This is the important thing about because, along with the revelations that Ben does in the first season of Hunt the Truth, the reality behind John’s life (who up to that point was the secret super soldier who was Humanity’s hero) is revealed to the Outer Colonies. John’s status before HtT reminded me a lot of the Batman Incorporated comic story line, being a hero with a secret identity that is regulated by an organization, in this case, ONI.

      I understand if you don’t like it, everyone has their own opinions, but it is mine that there is enough canon information to make logical that trailer. But that’s just my point of view, tell me what you think! Greetings.🙂

    • ccbqc2 says:

      I have to disagree with you on a civilian’s perspective of Chief in the Halo Universe. It is already established in the early novels that the stories of Spartan IIs are used to bolster humanity’s morale. It makes complete sense for ONI to give the Spartans an immense media presence, especially when taking into consideration the fact that humanity was litterally being wiped out and pushed back on every front by the Covenant. If the human race was being systematically destroyed and faced with extinction, it would not be unreasonable to think that the UNSC would latch onto anything that would improve morale. They don’t need to reveal the true nature of the SIIs for them to have a positive impact on public morale, hence the idea that no Spartan II has ever been killed in combat. Besides you only need to look at recent history to see how the exploits of elite groups of secret special operations troops can have positive impacts on public morale in a largely failing war. Seal Team 6 taking out UBL and the exploits of Seals in Afghanistan chronicled in the book Lone survivor are just two that come to mind. Now many of the details of these two operations are undoubtedtly kept secret, but the courage and skill of the men involved and the public narrative given to the public by the government definitely had a positive impact on public morale. So yeah my point is that Chief and the IIs would be viewed as heroes by civilians in the Halo Universe.

      And I gotta agree with Haruspis about the fight between Chief and Locke. It was so slow. It looked like two inexperienced boxers or MMA fighters going at it.

  4. CH Gorog says:

    Another great article. The only downside with going with the red versus blue fight choreography is that often Monty’s choreography doesn’t really have a sense of weight to it. There’s a perfect balance between the two, but I do agree that the fight felt a little too sluggish.

  5. d0x360 says:

    I think its reasonable to assume they fight the way they do because they don’t actually want hurt each other. Also blue team walks off because john, if he wanted could have ripped Osiris to pieces and Osiris knows this which is why they keep their distance. They know if the odds are suddenly stacked against master chief he will hulk the **** out and actually pummel the living shit out of them. Instead he’s much more restrained fighting just Locke who really never had any hope of winning. I think that’s pretty obvious since at the start chief is taking is pretty easy which allows Locke to get his hits in then when chief gets back up he readily hands Locke his ass while still not actually hurting him.

    These aren’t enemies these are fellow soldiers so your thoughts on how they fight need to suit that and they don’t…at all

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