Forums / Games / Halo 5: Guardians

Writing/design issues with Halo 5's campaign

OP BlitzGirl41

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I know many people here are going to attack me for being "nit-picky". But quite frankly, I'd rather that people keep a civilized conversation. So just hear me out, here. I finally got around to continue watching a two-and-a-half-hour video on YouTube that included all cut-scenes from Halo 5's campaign, including good chunks of game play that show character dialogue/interactions in-game. So this list of "issues" pertains to everything from "Unconfirmed Reports" to the end. Please note that this is a list of issues that popped out at me, and represent my opinion alone. I know that others have criticized Halo 5 for its story and writing, so I suppose that the things I list here are just tiny pieces of evidence. However, if you enjoy Halo 5's campaign, I have no issue with that.

So here are the things that I found jarring or odd:
  1. Many sound effects, from gunfire to shield recharge, sound oddly high-pitched when compared to all previous Halo games, even Halo 4. From a design standpoint, this gives the game a very anti-Halo feel. I understand that technology would have advanced to some degree in the years after Halo 3 and 4, but as a long-time Halo fan, I take issue with the huge departure in sound design. However, other things such as footfalls, the Guardians' noises, and other sounds do sound top-notch. It is simply the sounds that feel like too big a departure from the past games that were jarring to me.
  2. In every cutscene where Vale has her helmet off, I can't help but notice how perfect her hair is. At least Palmer and Tanaka have their hair tied back, but Vale has hers in a chin-length bob. Am I the only one who thinks that such a hairstyle is impractical for wearing a Spartan helmet over? I'm even surprised that she doesn't have "helmet hair", unless if she obsessively brushes it all the time. I know that this seems like a minor complaint, but it is something that I can not ignore. It really makes no practical sense.
  3. One big thing I have noticed in the change of Spartan design is that the Mjolnir armor has gotten more and more form fitting in the 343i era. I understand that it can be explained in-universe by armor becoming perhaps lighter, but in the end it ends up showing off how impossibly skinny every single female Spartan is in Halo 5. Again, this may seem like a minor complaint, but I have seen plenty of very in-shape women who do not have waists as crazily narrow as the women in H5 do. It's as if the designers didn't bother adding variety to each character's physical build, and decided to just make all the women have voluptuous bodies. I just find it odd, a bit immersion-breaking.
  4. Another odd thing about the female characters (in Fireteam Osiris) is that they seem to be immune to any danger in the cutscenes. Buck and Locke, the men of the group, are the only ones who almost fall or die, with the other man being the one to rescue the other. Why didn't Vale or Tanaka find themselves barely making a jump, or needing the assistance of one of their teammates? Again, just a really odd thing I noticed in regards to the women of H5.
  5. It's odd how suddenly in H5 enemies and weapons are highlighted on the HUD, with a red or blue outline. This feels a lot like other sci-fi games, not Halo. I always found it fun in past games having to find fallen weapons with your own eyes, not not have them highlighted.
  6. In the Sanghelios arc, do I understand correctly that Osiris and Halsey planned on deliberately activating the Guardian there in order to locate Blue Team? Although the logic makes some sense, it doesn't seem like something that really should have been risked, as they could potentially have had Sunaion utterly destroyed by the Guardian if they weren't lucky, therefore putting the Swords there in danger.
  7. On the topic of the Guardians, I still don't think that they look Forerunner, nor do they look like something that even belongs in the Halo universe. Their design is much too abstract and odd, too far a departure in design from anything else that's been in Halo.
  8. The almost R2-D2-like beeps of the Constructor didn't feel like it fit in with Halo. No other robot/AI has made such noises before in the franchise.
  9. I found it jarring that every single character in the game referred to Thel 'Vadam as "Arbiter". Not "the Arbiter", not even "Thel", but simply "Arbiter".
  10. The Warden Eternal: Has a cool-sounding voice, but monologues way too much, to the point of being frustratingly annoying in the last levels. He just keeps talking and talking and talking! Was 343i deliberately trying to making him obnoxious? He ends up seeming a lot like how the Didact was represented in H4, but even more irritating. And, in the last level, did I hear right that the only reason why the Warden is even protecting Cortana is because he thought her "clever"? He clearly states that if he didn't think her "clever" that he'd rip her from the Domain. A very odd logic. Also, I couldn't help but notice that he has the same face as the Guardian. Anyone else spot that?
  11. On the topic of the Warden's dialogue...the dialogue/writing of every level that took place on Genesis, especially that involving the Warden and Cortana, was simply awful. So many one-liners that made no sense, lots of unnecessary drama. And I can't believe that the Master Chief would so easily think that he could try to talk Cortana out of her insane plan. Cortana's continued insistence for John to come to her, that she'd explain everything once they are together, was a huge red flag to a trap being in the works. No one else on Blue Team noticed that? Just...dear lord, the writing! And so many things that were said either made no sense (too vague to the point of seeming like a nonsensical sentence), or contradicted themselves (Warden claims his loyalty to Cortana, but then at times he seems to be bashing her. Huh?).
  12. Ok, Exuberant Witness, Monitor of Genesis: She has a distinct personality, that's for sure. But I took issue with her voice. She sounded really young and human, not distorted enough to be seen as an AI construct like Guilty Spark's voice was. I don't know, I just found it really weird. If you didn't know that it was a Monitor speaking you'd think it was just a comm message from another human. A bit immersion-breaking for me.
  13. A portal can just be made to enter the Domain? Never was under the impression that it was a space that could be entered at all.
All in all, the story fell flat. So many contradicting statements, confusing plot twists, lack of explanations. Especially lack of explanation. Many things happened where I was left confused as to how or why they happened.

Running out of words here, now! Again, hopefully no one blindly attacks me for having my own opinions. I did not watch the video with the intent of making complaints. These simply were things that stood out to me. Don't get me wrong, H5 does some good things, but they are so minuscule compared to the blunder that was the story. It completely disregarded Halo 4, it felt like. And there has been no prior evidence of AIs being severely mistreated in the Halo-verse. And really, John should not have tried telling Cortana to "come home" after all that he was hearing. I still take great issue with her being "back" at all...
The campaign is worse if you play it, especially on Legendary. Not only do you have to have to deal with the god-awful writing and other things you mentioned, but you have to deal with it while fighting bullet sponges every single time.
The campaign is worse if you play it, especially on Legendary. Not only do you have to have to deal with the god-awful writing and other things you mentione, but you have to deal with it while fighting bullet sponges every single time.
Oh I am on the fence about even owning it, after seeing the direction the story is going. I know people will claim that my opinions are pointless because I haven't played it, but I have read and watched many things about it and come to my own conclusions. I would probably find all of those Warden fights most annoying, if I played it. D:
The campaign is worse if you play it, especially on Legendary. Not only do you have to have to deal with the god-awful writing and other things you mentione, but you have to deal with it while fighting bullet sponges every single time.
Oh I am on the fence about even owning it, after seeing the direction the story is going. I know people will claim that my opinions are pointless because I haven't played it, but I have read and watched many things about it and come to my own conclusions. I would probably find all of those Warden fights most annoying, if I played it. D:
The Warden fights are the most frustrating and repetitive thing in the game. Dealing with Soldiers comes right after.
This is all really trivial, though you did warn me that it was nit-picky in the beginning paragraph.
I give you huge points for observational skill and for knowing your own mind. And extra points for not merely being another "Brian Reed must die" malcontent. Boy, do I get sick of those. That said, you've brought some things to my attention that make me think it's time to play campaign through a second time. I doubt that my generally positive opinion is going to change much, but it might. You never know. I think of myself as hyper-sensitive to garbage dialogue and Halo 4 routinely set off my warning buzzer - I don't remember it ever going off in Halo 5. Maybe I'm just getting old and unexacting.

Oh, and I loved the feminist deconstruction. Good work.
I give you huge points for observational skill and for knowing your own mind. And extra points for not merely being another "Brian Reed must die" malcontent. Boy, do I get sick of those. That said, you've brought some things to my attention that make me think it's time to play campaign through a second time. I doubt that my generally positive opinion is going to change much, but it might. You never know. I think of myself as hyper-sensitive to garbage dialogue and Halo 4 routinely set off my warning buzzer - I don't remember it ever going off in Halo 5. Maybe I'm just getting old and unexacting.

Oh, and I loved the feminist deconstruction. Good work.
As I don't own an XB1, and therefore don't own the game, I wouldn't mind watching the cutscenes through again to take further notes, or even watch level-by-level play-throughs. I may notice some more things, maybe even some positive tid-bits.

That's funny, because even if Halo 4 had some iffy parts (I really didn't like the Didact's monologues, either), I still prefer its story over Halo 5's, especially the sub-plots involving Cortana's rampancy and the "Man or Machine?" question posed to the Master Chief.

Hah, I was never even going into it with any feminist or anti-feminist views, but it really struck me how the female characters of Osiris were routinely handled in the game. Don't know if me being a woman plays any part in my observations.

Thanks for being civil, by the way!
The campaign is worse if you play it, especially on Legendary. Not only do you have to have to deal with the god-awful writing and other things you mentione, but you have to deal with it while fighting bullet sponges every single time.
Oh I am on the fence about even owning it, after seeing the direction the story is going. I know people will claim that my opinions are pointless because I haven't played it, but I have read and watched many things about it and come to my own conclusions. I would probably find all of those Warden fights most annoying, if I played it. D:
The Warden fights are the most frustrating and repetitive thing in the game. Dealing with Soldiers comes right after.
I remember hearing people complain about the Warden fights, and at first I thought that the number of fights people mentioned was an over-exaggeration. Then I looked at the game myself and, my God, it was true! Wonder if people also consider the fight that's in the cut-scene in the last level, the one where Cortana reprimands the Warden like he's a child.
I give you huge points for observational skill and for knowing your own mind. And extra points for not merely being another "Brian Reed must die" malcontent. Boy, do I get sick of those. That said, you've brought some things to my attention that make me think it's time to play campaign through a second time. I doubt that my generally positive opinion is going to change much, but it might. You never know. I think of myself as hyper-sensitive to garbage dialogue and Halo 4 routinely set off my warning buzzer - I don't remember it ever going off in Halo 5. Maybe I'm just getting old and unexacting.

Oh, and I loved the feminist deconstruction. Good work.
As I don't own an XB1, and therefore don't own the game, I wouldn't mind watching the cutscenes through again to take further notes, or even watch level-by-level play-throughs. I may notice some more things, maybe even some positive tid-bits.

That's funny, because even if Halo 4 had some iffy parts (I really didn't like the Didact's monologues, either), I still prefer its story over Halo 5's, especially the sub-plots involving Cortana's rampancy and the "Man or Machine?" question posed to the Master Chief.

Hah, I was never even going into it with any feminist or anti-feminist views, but it really struck me how the female characters of Osiris were routinely handled in the game. Don't know if me being a woman plays any part in my observations.

Thanks for being civil, by the way!
Yeah they made the Halo 4 story great imo.

  1. One big thing I have noticed in the change of Spartan design is that the Mjolnir armor has gotten more and more form fitting in the 343i era. I understand that it can be explained in-universe by armor becoming perhaps lighter, but in the end it ends up showing off how impossibly skinny every single female Spartan is in Halo 5. Again, this may seem like a minor complaint, but I have seen plenty of very in-shape women who do not have waists as crazily narrow as the women in H5 do. It's as if the designers didn't bother adding variety to each character's physical build, and decided to just make all the women have voluptuous bodies. I just find it odd, a bit immersion-breaking.
  2. Another odd thing about the female characters (in Fireteam Osiris) is that they seem to be immune to any danger in the cutscenes. Buck and Locke, the men of the group, are the only ones who almost fall or die, with the other man being the one to rescue the other. Why didn't Vale or Tanaka find themselves barely making a jump, or needing the assistance of one of their teammates? Again, just a really odd thing I noticed in regards to the women of H5.
1. I don't really think you can apply like Olympic female athletes to that of a Spartan.
2. Yeah Buck and Locke are the only ones to nearly die but that is only cause one set up the other for a stupid one liner.
Cortana verbally breaking down Osiris was the best part of the game story-wise.
That had to have been the only time she was truly herself these last few games.
  1. One big thing I have noticed in the change of Spartan design is that the Mjolnir armor has gotten more and more form fitting in the 343i era. I understand that it can be explained in-universe by armor becoming perhaps lighter, but in the end it ends up showing off how impossibly skinny every single female Spartan is in Halo 5. Again, this may seem like a minor complaint, but I have seen plenty of very in-shape women who do not have waists as crazily narrow as the women in H5 do. It's as if the designers didn't bother adding variety to each character's physical build, and decided to just make all the women have voluptuous bodies. I just find it odd, a bit immersion-breaking.
  2. Another odd thing about the female characters (in Fireteam Osiris) is that they seem to be immune to any danger in the cutscenes. Buck and Locke, the men of the group, are the only ones who almost fall or die, with the other man being the one to rescue the other. Why didn't Vale or Tanaka find themselves barely making a jump, or needing the assistance of one of their teammates? Again, just a really odd thing I noticed in regards to the women of H5.
1. I don't really think you can apply like Olympic female athletes to that of a Spartan.
2. Yeah Buck and Locke are the only ones to nearly die but that is only cause one set up the other for a stupid one liner.
  1. But then that would bring up a lore question: Why would the people behind the Spartan programs feel the need to turn the women into muscular Barbies? It serves no practical/logical purpose beyond making their bodies look attractive to others. God forbid that a woman can have the same coverage and bulk of armor as the men, right? Look at women who serve in Western militaries, in combat situations they wear the same uniforms and the same gear as the men, and it bulks them up just the same because what they are wearing/carrying is what is needed. The only time appearances come into play is when the clothing needs to be camouflaged, or one needs to tidy themselves up for a review. And then I'd also argue that the only time a woman can become "sexualized" in the military is if their branch makes them wear a skirt for their formal uniform. But never in combat. Though, I'd say that out of all the women in Halo 5, Palmer is the least "sexualized"-looking (her armor is much bulkier than Vale's, as an example).
  2. Haha, true... Guess we got to blame the writers for that, huh? They went in knowing that Buck would always have the last word on anything. The fact that both of them get rescued by the other was probably also an attempt at creating a kind of "bromance" between the two (completely platonic, of course).
    Cortana verbally breaking down Osiris was the best part of the game story-wise.
    That had to have been the only time she was truly herself these last few games.
    I do think I have to agree with that. I have many issues with how Fireteam Osiris is presented and developed in the game, so many things that Cortana says to/about them almost ring with a bit of truth in my mind. Though I have nothing against Buck, personally. The rest were just tons of missed opportunities, writing-wise.
The campaign is worse if you play it, especially on Legendary. Not only do you have to have to deal with the god-awful writing and other things you mentione, but you have to deal with it while fighting bullet sponges every single time.
Not to mention A.I.s are not becoming smarter on the legendary difficulty, but gain excessive damage and health boost.
I give you huge points for observational skill and for knowing your own mind. And extra points for not merely being another "Brian Reed must die" malcontent. Boy, do I get sick of those. That said, you've brought some things to my attention that make me think it's time to play campaign through a second time. I doubt that my generally positive opinion is going to change much, but it might. You never know. I think of myself as hyper-sensitive to garbage dialogue and Halo 4 routinely set off my warning buzzer - I don't remember it ever going off in Halo 5. Maybe I'm just getting old and unexacting.

Oh, and I loved the feminist deconstruction. Good work.
Don't want to sound like I'm trying to start anything, but I was curious, which lines did you think were garbage? The ones I can remember include most of Del Rio's lines, most of Palmer's lines, and most of the lines from DeMarco and Madsen.
Cortana verbally breaking down Osiris was the best part of the game story-wise.
That had to have been the only time she was truly herself these last few games.
I don't know, her attacks towards Osiris felt childish at best and hypocritical at worst. Going after Locke for being an assassin? Funny coming from someone who likely just killed millions of people with the first few Guardians she activated remotely without any remorse whatsoever. Vale having daddy issues? Oh yes, because how she reacted to Halsey, effectively her "mother", shows she doesn't any any issue on that front. Buck's old? Cortana is old by AI standards. The one towards Tanaka gets me extra bad now that some people pointed out that she is effectively attacking Holly for having mental problems stemming from the trauma of her background and being "damaged" because of it. Yes, Cortana, you make fun of someone like that when you suffered from a condition inspired by dementia.
Points 9, 7, and 5 all have good explanations.

As for 5, simply refer to the VISR mode in ODST.

For point 7, this could be due to the difference in Forerunner culture or time period. It depends, I suppose, on what class of Forerunners was responsible for the construction of the Guardians.

Point 9 is not true, because, at least in a piece of Intel, Halsey addresses the Arbiter as "Thel" (and for some reason pronounces it "Tel").
For point 7, this could be due to the difference in Forerunner culture or time period. It depends, I suppose, on what class of Forerunners was responsible for the construction of the Guardians.
I'd assume Warrior-Servant since it kinda matches the same kind of general aesthetic of the Prometheans, right down to the sinister (but -Yoinking!- dopey) skull for a face. Why they went for that when the concept art for the Guardians have far better versions is beyond me.
For point 7, this could be due to the difference in Forerunner culture or time period. It depends, I suppose, on what class of Forerunners was responsible for the construction of the Guardians.
I'd assume Warrior-Servant since it kinda matches the same kind of general aesthetic of the Prometheans, right down to the sinister (but -Yoinking!- dopey) skull for a face. Why they went for that when the concept art for the Guardians have far better versions is beyond me.
So true. The Guardian's face in the MC Cloak trailer back in 2013 was so much cooler looking than what we got in the final game.
In answer to one of your question (too lazy to read if someone already answered), I'm pretty sure Roland was able to use the "song" of the guardian to know when the next one was going to reveal itself. Halsey and friends didn't activate the one on Sanghelios, they just tracked it as it was scheduled to be activated and they needed a ride to the domain. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I understood it on my couple playthroughs.
Points 9, 7, and 5 all have good explanations.

As for 5, simply refer to the VISR mode in ODST.

For point 7, this could be due to the difference in Forerunner culture or time period. It depends, I suppose, on what class of Forerunners was responsible for the construction of the Guardians.

Point 9 is not true, because, at least in a piece of Intel, Halsey addresses the Arbiter as "Thel" (and for some reason pronounces it "Tel").
The Guardians still look just very out of place for me, personally, in the Halo universe. I also have an issue with them due to not seeing any other mention of such a "peace keeping" monstrosity at the time of the Forerunners. If they were so important to imposing Forerunner will in the galaxy, wouldn't we have heard of it in EU materials? To me, the Guardians come off as a lame attempt by 343i to create a bigger/badder threat to the galaxy for the heroes to face. You'd think that a Guardian underneath Sanghelios that even the Sangheili knew of (based on Intel in those levels in H5) would have been known of before H5. It just smells of an out-of-the-blue addition to Halo.

Ok, so Halsey refers to Thel by his true name in a piece of Intel. My point was that even Vale and the other members of Osiris kept saying "Arbiter", even if he is his own "man" now, to coin a phrase (now a leader of the Swords of Sanghelios, forging his own destiny, no longer an Arbiter necessarily). Sure, older Halo fans like myself would more easily identify him by the title of "the Arbiter", but that wouldn't be a good enough reason to me for them to not have all characters refer to him by his real name in-game. *shrug*
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