Lets be honest here, Halo 5 probably has the or at least one of the weakest campaigns in the series. Sure the gunplay and level design was great(but not without several issues) but the actual story, plot and pacing were pretty bad and I don’t think thats really a controversial statement.
To anyone who has played Halo 5’s campaign its clear that something happened during development. The game just feels like large chucks of it are missing, the plot itself feels very rushed along. The big Cortana reveal is thrown at us in the second mission and a big bad from previous media is killed in the first. The “greatest hunt in gaming history” effectively ends in mission five and the rest of the game is simply hitching a ride and then all drama is shoved in the final three missions. The cutscenes themselves too feel rushed and cut off suddenly and without notice, the most obvious ones to me are Roland’s sudden rant in the beginning of mission three(that never really goes anywhere and is never brought up again) and a moment between Locke and Halsey that just sorta happens and then ends without mush build up or emotion(1:37:04 - 1:37:35).
No matter how you cut it it seriously seems that the entire campaign was apparently reworked before release, the strongest evidence of this has to be the concept art and the marketing for the game. Its no secret that what feels like the majority of concept art for Halo 5 shows something we didn’t get, a game with a lone Chief usually wearing a poncho wandering and fighting though the lands alone, left with seemingly only his emotions. These pieces are too many to simply be abstract concepts and ideas, it feels like this was going to be the major theme and tone of the game at one point. It would explain the E3 2013 trailer very well and would explain the years and years of talk from 343i about tackling Chief’s emotions and finding his humanity(something that Halo 5 oddly enough seems to have almost nothing of).
There is also the marketing campaign for Halo 5, one that hyped up a game with themes and story elements we never really got. The “Hero or Traitor?” tagline was one pushed around for months and months and yet that was barely there in the game. Yeah Chief does go AWOL which in the military is a pretty big deal but as a story element, to the players playing the game its seems so minor its ridiculous. All Chief does is leave…thats it. Thats the big, questionable action that was supposed to make us rethink him? Thats the moment that starts off the “greatest hunt in gaming history” and causes people to question their savior? Thats crazy. There is also these themes of a darker story with ONI coverups and the players being forced to question “what is real?”. Remember the two Locke and Chief ads?
And even if you somehow missed all that, something that literally everyone who has played the game has seen is that for a game that is supposedly all about two sides to the same story, a galactic game of cat and mouse with themes of duality we have a 80/20 split. Literally 80% of the game we play as Locke and Osiris thats 12 out of 15 misisons. Chief and Blue Team(you know half of that whole two sides thing) get 3 missions, a mere 20% of the game and one of those missions isn’t even relevant to the plot in any way, shape, or form. Halo 2 had duel protagonists but the split was a solid 50/50, no one hogged the screentime.
Thats the thing, Halo 5 gets a lot of comparisons to Halo 2. And say what you will about who is the better second protagonist Locke or Arbiter thats a story for another day. What is important however is after Bungie faced a now legendary development cycle of time constraints, scrapped concepts and ideas, and more rewrites than you can shake a stick at. Bungie straight up told everyone what happened. The only reason we know any of that is because Bungie owned up to it, they were like “Yeah we had a lot of issues here and here so thats why this is like this” etc. They didn’t have to but they did and I feel like thats not only respectable but also the right thing to do, we know why Halo 2 was a mess in certain areas because Bungie told us why, and now 11 years later we are facing a similar event. I seriously feel that at some point 343i should be upfront and show some transparency with what went on during Halo 5’s development. Its only after all this kind of introspection that best helps someone learn from their mistakes and do better in the future and isn’t that what we all want? A better Halo?