Halo 5 holds a special place in my heart as well as many fans for both good & bad reasons.
The lead up to the game was massive. Announced alongside the prospect of bringing Halos 1-4 to what was back then the next generation console Xbox One which was fledgling after a disastrous reveal & lagging behind in terms of standout software. While MCC was hyped but disappointed because of how shoddy it was at launch, the real focus was on the H5 beta that you could get if you pre ordered MCC. After it had concluded a marketing campaign called “Hunt the Truth” started after two ads featuring the two protagonists Master Chief & Spartan Locke began and further increased the hype. A gripping narration with new episodes released every week from March to June 2015 & again from September 2015 to the release of H5 that tied the story between H4 & H5.
Further interest was increased by the new MP mode “Warzone” shown off at E3 2015, reveal of new mechanics and the biggest sandbox of weapons, vehicles ,variants, skins, attachments and all sorts of customizable armor options even if the art style was not to everyone’s liking. Competitive multiplayer would also return with a ranking system that was absent in H4. A campaign with 15 missions, more forge options, a stream of the first mission broke records on twitch at that time, etc. the momentum and hype for the game was unbelievable.
When Halo 5: Guardians released on October 27th, 2015. It took the gaming world by storm from an environment that today looks like a alternate dimension. A Console exclusive nowadays seems silly in the age of cross platform play and software sharing between platforms for example. There are features & quirks that you either find charming or dated for a game that came out six years ago. I suppose i’ll Go through the general good and bad things:
1). The sandbox & gunplay seemed to be in a good spot where everything felt balanced & mighty at the same time. Even the guns that fell a little short of being viable would be considered OP in previous games. While there was changes down the line I wasn’t a fan off, overall most guns in H5 actually worked and could kill people.
2). Content updates and feedback by 343 was pretty responsive even as the game no longer received new updates after Spring 2018. There was always playlist rotations and ranked systems to grind. The addition of a custom game browser for the first time in a Halo game gave lively interactions with old favorites and new game types. Warzone Firefight helped those grind for the max rank of SR 152 & filled a niche of pure PvE action. Addition of maps from the devs, forge map showcases and more thanks to the forge mode kept the game from going stale.
3). Many of the points made and feedback concerning how H5 played went into consideration on how Halo Infinite would function. Spartan Abilities would either be replaced by the equipment, phased out and only three returned (Sprint, Slide & Clamber). People upset that Master Chief got shafted in the campaign, so 343 promised to double down on the Chief in the next game. Split screen returning, improved visuals after E3 2020 showing and other factors contributed to Infinite being the game it’s shaping to be.
1), The Singleplayer Campaign. While it did have some good levels and interesting ideas like a squad system, most would argue this was the least liked campaign in the series. They’re not wrong. The story was not well told and seemed to lose focus. The hyped up search for Chief & confrontation between him and Locke was disappointing and lost focus despite the heavy marketing implying it being the main conflict. Most of the new characters were not memorable and even playing as Blue Team didn’t feel special. Warden Eternal as a boss & villain wasn’t fun or interesting. Cortana becoming the antagonist after being revived following her sacrifice in H4 felt like a big slap in the face for those who followed the story of the Chief. The poor reception led to the “spiritual reboot” direction that 343 went for following the outcry,
2). H5 was pretty barebones content wise when it launched. While the game didn’t have crashing issues it was a bit lacking for things you could play. BTB maps were not present since WZ took priority, there was no separation between ranked & regular game sections. A lot of the game felt incomplete as forge and other staples came in later in 2016. Some bugs and glitches were also never fully dealt with like the infamous problem with “heavy aim” and other weird oddities.
3). The Req System & Progression. Most people were surprised that the only obtainable armor was the Achilles set that could only be completed by forming (now defunct) Spartan Companies. All other armor customization and weapon skins were locked behind req packs which were loot boxes in all but name. Those packs also contain the various weapons & vehicles as well as the authorization cards needed to use them in WZ. While I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was a pay to win scheme in totem, micro transactions of this kind are frowned upon especially since lootboxes and other predatory practices by video game companies have been phased out and replaced with systems like a battlepass and cosmetic items only. That doesn’t mean it’s still a problem as 343 continues to rework Infinite’s progression system.
As mentioned earlier, SR 152 was a grind to get to. In reaction to people getting to make rank in H4 too quickly, 343 went the opposite route and required 50 million XP to get social max rank, with the last three levels taking at least 25 million XP of it to reach. suffice to say this both kept player retention but at what cost?
1). How the game’s meta evolved. The game was centered around the AR/Magnum being the starting weapons with both being the “utility weapons”. While most of the guns were fun to use, there was balance issues at times. Competitive players didn’t like playing with default settings and weapon placements of maps at that time. So after the end of the HCS tournament, new settings were put in to cater more towards their playstyle. While a modified radar, no automatics or AR starting weapons and new placements were seen as improvements, other balance problems surrounding the precision weapons & aim assist values became apparent. So the big updates in 2017 addressed several weapons to bring them more in line based on feedback.
The result was a mixed bag. Trying to force a nerfed BR/tuned Gunfighter Magnum into HCS was a disaster, several weapons got well liked tuning while some fell down greatly in terms of usability. The Magnum became the best gun since most guns around it got harder to use and weaker. While not a big deal to the competitive crowd, the more easygoing and regular H5 players didn’t like the changes all that much and this began a divide between the two player bases. The previous forums had tons of pages dedicated to this topic alone and data points with arguments. You just had to be there.
2). Support for the game tapered off after the 2018 last hotfix. Which is understandable since 343 went on to fix the mess that was MCC at the time. While it was sad to see a game like H5 get shafted since it was probably one or two more hotfixes to being perfect, it still was a functional game. The MCC went on to not only include games like H3: ODST & Halo Reach, but it also got ported over to PC. That didn’t mean H5 was forgotten as it still got rank resets and rotation amongst playlists.
3). It leaves a mixed legacy for many fans. People will remember both the visceral feeling of how great it was to outplay opponents and have fun with custom games and WZ while disliking bad campaign and grindy nature of the game. Pretty funny to see this game live out to see another console cycle considering it came from a time before the trend of Battle Royale games like Fortnite, CoD Warzone and other fads that make this game look fresh.
With over 10,000 games played and having recently achieved rank 152. You can say I finally fulfilled my “Great Journey”. Thank you so much Halo 5 for being the game I played the most consistently. I was there to see you at your highest and lowest points. Maybe people will look back on you with either love or hate even more. As we turn the page to a new era of Halo I’ll give thanks to a game that defined an important moment for us Halo fans.