I have seen an incredible amount of bashing on Halo 5: Guardians on the forums here and have felt compelled to say my piece.
First and foremost, for those complaining that Halo 5 is inferior to all other Halo’s because it is not how Bungie would have made the game, go back to playing Destiny and stop whining on the forums.
Secondly, Halo 5 is perhaps the most cerebral story we’ve experienced in Halo to date. With ‘Guardians’, Halo 5 takes the franchise out of just being another FPS, and moves it into something greater, something so much more than most games. With Cortana serving as the real main character in Halo 4 and 5, with us dealing with her rampency as she is faced with her “inevitable” death, the game becomes more of a social commentary to issues we’ve yet to face, but will soon. Humanity has been experimenting and working towards achieving true artificial intelligence for some time now, and lately we have made great strides towards achieving a smart AI. When that time comes, and we are faced with this new lifeform in front of us, how are we to respond to it? Throughout the course of Halo 4 and 5, we’ve seen widely varied reactions to AIs, ranging from the Chief’s very personal relationship with Cortana to Del Rio’s outright hatred of her. In Halo 5, we even start to see AIs who have grown rather tired of their current lot in life and how quickly they are forgotten and thrown away just because they near rampency.
Let’s look first at Governor Sloan. Sloan is a massive piece of foreshadowing into the events of Halo 5. Running the entire Miridian Station, the people of the mining colony depend more on Sloan than any physical human entity, the vast majority of them seem fearful of life on the glassed world without him. When Sloan outright abandons his people, people he admits to care for, people are as terrified of that notion as they are of the giant metal Guardian rising from the surface of the planet. This very much mirrors the reality that Cortana would have brought about with AIs governing and controlling the peace, managing human life, and all other species.
There is an interesting piece at the begining of the game where Roland is constantly shut down by Halsey, Laskey and Palmer as he struggles to ask them a question. When Roland finally screams out to get their attention, Laskey spurns the AI by calling him out of line when everyone else (pointed out by Roland) is acting in an equally unacceptable manner. Laskey is very much reminding Roland of his place in this scene, an error that Laskey even seems to realize after Roland corrects him. The AI is supposed to be second to man. The creator before the created.
Think now about how AIs exist in the Halo universe and the effect they have had on humanity. Halsey, leader of the Spartan I, II and even parts of the Spartan III program, was heavily assisted by AIs throughout the entire course of these programs. Now imagine how far she would have gotten if not for the assistance of her AI companions. Entire ships, armadas and even the orbital battle stations surrounding earth are all assisted and maintained by some AI. Without those AIs, the war with the Covenant would have been much more bleak for humanity. Think back all the way to Halo 1, can you recall every single time Cortana has aided you by hacking a door, pointing out a safer path, offering valuable insight, and even saving the entire galaxy from the Flood? Her actions throughout the events of the Halo series dwarf those of the Master Chief or any other character. For her to be the focus of Halo 4 and Halo 5, is just giving her the front seat she has deserved since Halo 1.
To go further into this, there was a very interesting review that summed up Halo 5 perfectly in one line: “Everyone is a hero, no one is a hero”. This single statement fits this entire campaign to a T. Cortana is not so much the villain in Halo 5, but just working for the greater good. Cortana was born into a tragically short life, thrust into war, had the entire galaxy hanging on her shoulders, while all the while tormented by the fact that she will never know what it is like to be “real”. Can -anyone- begin to relate to how powerful of a responsibility that must be for any entity, created or born? Cortana’s entire existence has been dedicated to preserving humanity, and further on, all of existence. How is it wrong that she would want to cement the peace she briefly brought to it? Claiming the Mantle of Responsibility works in her favor, it worked well from the Forerunner after all, and Cortana doesn’t have the Flood to contend with as they had. Cortana has learned from the Forerunner’s mistakes, and she believes she can do it-right-. The cost of life she has already forced upon the world is nothing compared to the devastation unleashed by even the Arbiter alone. Might I add that the human race is fairly quick to start forgiving the Arbiter and the rest of the Elites for their hand in the Covenant War, so they can surely see past Cortana’s infinitely smaller body count. Those who died at Cortana’s hand are a small sacrifice when compared against the deaths that would be caused from another event on par with the Covenant War.
How is all of this relevant? As I stated earlier in this, it is a possibility that we will experience the birth of a smart AI without out life times. Are we going to look at them as humanity has in Halo as completely expendable? Or are we going to see them as just another person to be embraced as any other? We can look to Halo, learn from it, and better prepare ourselves for a better outcome when this time arrives.
I just want to close this off by saying to 343 Industries that you have perhaps crafted one of the most beautiful gaming experiences I have ever encountered with Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. This series means so much to so many people, and what you are doing is above and beyond what anyone could have predicted. Keep up the amazing work, I have absolute faith that in 343’s hands, Halo will become one of the most amazing stories ever told.
TL;DR: The game is about much more than shooting stuff. It provokes a lot of interesting questions about where we are going as a species and talks very much about problems we’ve yet to face, but will have to in the future. The game has a lot to teach us. Be open to learning.