Before playing Halo 5’s campaign, I was not opposed to playing as Locke for the majority of the game. The extended playtime as Locke could have been justified with solid story and characterization, but neither of those things are in the game. Locke has no character or motivations, and his backstory is not even discussed outside of some line to Buck along the lines of “You’re not the only one who is here because of Chief.” Does that get explored? Nope. We wouldn’t even need a backstory if he was an interesting character who said and did things that made sense. His big confrontation with the Chief boiled down to a punching contest, and we weren’t even given an argument between the two about Chief’s plans. We all knew Chief wouldn’t be dumb enough to be fooled by this new Cortana, so it would make sense for Locke to at least talk to Chief about what he was doing before a fight broke out. Because of the lack of characterization, dialogue, and plot regarding the whole “hunt for Chief,” I believe Master Chief should have been the only protagonist in the campaign. Some minor changes to each mission would have made this a much more interesting story to play through. Here’s how I think it should have happened:
Blue Team is dispatched to retrieve Halsey, Jul is killed, and everything proceeds as it did in the actual campaign.
Blue Team gained new Intel from Halsey regarding the ONI station Argent Moon that Jul had recently acquired, so they proceed to investigate it. Near the end of the mission Chief gets the message from Cortana and gets permission to investigate. The UNSC wouldn’t want Chief (and his team of old friends) to be emotionally compromised, so they send Buck to search for Cortana with the rest of Blue Team. Buck can become a new playable member of the squad.
Blue Team heads to Meridian. Sloan allows Chief and his buds to investigate because Cortana contacted him a while ago about the Guardians and informed him that Chief is to be trusted. Instead of interrogating townspeople, we casually walk through the town and suddenly Prometheans invade at the orders of the Warden, because we all know he doesn’t trust Chief, just like in the actual campaign. We find the Guardian and Cortana calls for Chief to join her, and he accepts. He argues with his team, believing that he can resist her if she tries any emotional tricks. He wants to be the one to deal with her; if she acts up and needs to be stopped, he is going to be the one to do it. Buck gets into a quick fight with Chief and ends up using the armor-lock on him. Before Buck(and the rest of Blue Team) teleports through with the Guardian, he fires a single magnum shot at the armor-lock to break Chief free so he can protect everyone on Meridian. The rest of the level plays out similarly to the actual game, but Chief takes in all the destruction and death and realizes what Cortana has become.
We play as Blue Team with Buck now, on Genesis. We fight lots of Prometheans and Cortana makes many comments about how events were not supposed to proceed this way. She explains that she was able to cure her rampancy, and that Chief needs to see her plan. She’s angry that Chief is not here, and the level ends with her imprisoning Blue Team.
Having seen all the destruction Cortana has caused, Chief knows that she must be stopped. He learns of the Guardian on Sanghelios and the missions there play out the same way they do in the real campaign. Chief and Arbiter have a quick reunion at some point, and together they have a final battle with the Covenant. Arbiter finishes them off as Chief rides the Guardian to Genesis.
On Genesis, Exuberant Witness greets Chief similarly to how she greeted Osiris in the actual campaign. Together, they are able to find and free Blue Team. The rest of the game’s events unfold as normal. Chief has to fight the Warden and get back to Cortana. Cortana imprisons him, Blue Team and Buck rescue him, and Cortana escapses. The end. This proposed story creates some complications with coop characters, but that never stopped a Halo game before. See Halo 1-4.
I wrote all of this to show that Halo 5 made a huge mistake by having Locke as a protagonist. We have no connection to him. His character and the hunt for chief were such an unused aspect of this game that it makes it wholly unnecessary. I even threw Buck in this alternate story because Nathan Fillion can naturally add flavor to any lines he’s given. But we didn’t even need him as the one to stop Chief; it could have been any member of Blue Team. And it’s much more interesting to have another character speak to Chief about following Cortana, rather than having a wordless fist fight. There are other issues with Halo 5’s story, since it is basically just a 5 hour setup for the real story in Halo 6, but I think they should have put more effort into this disjointed campaign. If you are going to make us play as another character, at least do something interesting with it.