As soon as 343 Industries started advertising Halo 5: Guardians many fans began to worry. There was this new character, Spartan Locke, and he seemed to be getting a lot of the attention that would normally go toward Master Chief. The fear was that the Chief would end up being a side character in his own game, that Spartan Locke would be the true hero of the story, and fans would have to watch as their favorite character sat on the sidelines. Despite multiple promises to the contrary, that fear became reality as I played through Halo 5: Guardians ending up much worse than I originally imagined.
While the Chief has been the main character in every numbered Halo title, he hasn’t always been alone. The Arbiter jumped in for Halo 2, surprising fans who thought that Halo was synonymous with Master Chief. That change saw a lot of controversy, as some felt it was a bad move. However, in the long run it feels like most fans accepted that it was a neat alternative, giving you a look at the Covenant from a different perspective.
With Spartan Locke we don’t get that interesting perspective, in fact we don’t get any real change at all. Both Locke and Chief are Spartans, with the same abilities and characteristics. Sure, they’re at odds for a bit in Halo 5: Guardians, but mostly they’re on the same side of the overall conflict. In the end, playing as Locke feels almost the exact same as playing as Master Chief. The difference is in the connection the player feels, which was a connection built over four games, and more than a decade.
Losing that connection was painful in Halo 2, but with Halo 5 it is downright disastrous.
Losing that connection was painful in Halo 2, but with Halo 5 it is downright disastrous. As the Locke missions continue to pile up, players will find themselves yearning to join the Chief on his side mission. Yet, they won’t do so for quite some time. Looking at the 15 missions contained in Halo 5, 12 of them have you playing as Spartan Locke, with only 3 featuring Master Chief (to be fair, a couple of Locke’s 12 missions are just walking around and talking to people). The Locke missions include the first and the last levels, making him the de facto star of the game.
This alone wouldn’t quite justify being upset at how Halo 5 turned out, but the story makes things so much worse. Without getting into spoiler territory, Chief’s story is just more interesting than Locke’s. Locke, for the most part, is chasing after the Chief, trying to find him and take him down, or help him as the situation calls for it. On this quest he will encounter interesting battles, but won’t actually touch on the main narrative all that much.
In contrast, Chief is off on the main planet of the story, dealing with his very personal connection to the events of Halo 5. You should already know that Cortana is involved, in a big way in fact, and the connection between Chief and Cortana is not only an important part of Halo 5, but is one of the main emotional components of the entire Halo series. To take players away from that, just as it is becoming a major factor in the game, is absurd design and really shouldn’t have happened at all.
Throughout the long stretch of Locke missions, players will find themselves wishing to be back with the Chief, finding out the secrets of the Forerunners, and what is going on with Cortana. Yet they’ll be with Locke, on his galactic goose chase to hunt down the Chief, wondering why this couldn’t have been explained in a cutscene that took you right to the action.
Halo 5: Guardians is not a bad game by any stretch (see our review), but the Halo series has always had something that most other shooters didn’t; a compelling narrative, and a fascinating main character. Halo 5 takes some of this away for very unknown reasons. Halo 6 will surely be another fantastic game, but hopefully 343 isn’t so enamored with their new creation that they make him the star once more.